Spamgirl speaks! An interview (part 2 of 3)

continued from part 1.

You have the unique position as being a sort of mythical figure able to cross the customer-service moat and pass the automated banning dragons and actually speak with a human being at Amazon. How'd you get that gig?
I'm a loudmouth, so I was one of a few picked to do some surveys (I think, this is from memory and my memory is poor)... like focus groups. From there I struck up a conversation with the person at Amazon running the groups, and it went from there.

You've commented that a lot of the people you help through the TurkerNation forum deserved their blocks? Can you explain that. Has that changed recently?
Yes, it has changed, but only because I've made it blatantly clear that I'm not going to suffer fools. The same number of LEGITIMATE people are coming to me with bans, and the same number are being reinstated. I'd rather mTurk do something and screw up sometimes than do nothing and we all get screwed.

Specifically, and this is really the main issue: What must Amazon do to make its human resources management fair?
They can't. They don't have an applications process - they certainly can't afford to go through each worker and determine if they're good or bad, and even if they tried it wouldn't be accurate - so they're going to get more bad than good, it's natural. The only thing I'd recommend is some sort of appeals process as I can't imagine it's that hard to look at someone's work history and determine if their ban was a mistake or not (HIRE ME, AMAZON! I'LL DO IT! ;)

Are you paid for your work with Amazon? What do you know that we don't? What kinds of things aren't you allowed to tell us?
ROFL *kisses*

On a scale of one to ten, how aware is Amazon of the issues that people raise on this forum (ten being more aware)?
100. They have spies, you know, who read this forum all the time. Plus I'm a bug in their ear about all this stuff... I'm the Hoffa of the Turkers! Trying to help the people :) (at least, the ones worth helping. Screw the scammers!)

On a scale of one to ten, how legitimate do you think those issues are, one being 'Turker Nation is a bunch of whiners' and ten being 'There are families starving because of poor user interface design'?
6ish. I think people tend to forget that Amazon and mTurk are separate. mTurk doesn't have a bottomless spending account, and the more we push on certain costly issues, the more likely mTurk will be shut down for not being profitable. We have to weigh the issues on a personal basis - what is intolerable? Where can I bend? Is it worth it for me to turk on eggshells or should I just walk? If it's truly causing upset, then it's best to just move on. That said, there is nothing wrong with a little protest, but we have to know that what we say and do has to be constructive and written professionally for mTurk to truly take us seriously. Whining, bitching, cussing (yeah, I know I cuss a lot LOL), flaming, and attacking don't get mTurk's attention. Petitions don't work, either, because (in my experience) Amazon employees don't like being told what to do (this isn't a personal thing, but seems like a general company policy.) The only "protest" that WOULD work would be the bulk of GOOD Turkers walking away from it, but that will *never* happen. If you have a complaint, post it - if there isn't already a thread for it, make a new one with a very clear title. They'll read it, and if you post a valid, intelligent argument, they WILL take it under advisement.

I know they're working hard on making it better for us, but I have a feeling that the infrastructure they have in place is ... uhm... not built well. I think it's probably hard for them to make major changes without crashing the entire system, I doubt it was built for expansion.

How would you describe the position that Mechanical Turk occupies in the universe? Do you think that Amazon ignores Mechanical Turk, and if so, do they do it intentionally? If they do it intentionally, why? Do they treat the site like a technological experiment, or is it just not that profitable, or is the profit sufficient but not worth further investment, or are they just waiting to blow our minds with MTurk 2.0 some time next year.
I honestly have no idea how the two connect... Amazon seems to know nothing about mTurk, and mTurk is it's own little planet to itself. I personally think Bezos must have some sort of stake in it for it to still be open (I felt the same way about Askville, but now I see it's just an SEO tool.)

Have you spoken to Jeff Bezos? Seriously.
LOL No, never :) I don't know if he knows what mTurk is!

What's your HIT approval rate? Have you ever been blocked? This is a little zen, but bear with me: Is there such a thing as a Mechanical Turk ban that even Spamgirl cannot unblock?
My HIT approval rate is 97.6%, further proof that a high approval rate doesn't mean anything. I had a HUGE number of HITs rejected back in the days of Enrovia, and everyone but mine were fixed (I was very vocal about my feelings about Enrovia.) So out of the 5000 rejections I have, I'd guess 4000 were from that situation. So I really have a 99.5% rejection rate, but what can I do? :)

I've never received an email saying I was blocked, but I don't dabble in unknown waters. I only do HITs for people with a smiley and many comments in the Hall of Shame/Fame.

There are bans I can't get unbanned, but they're the ones that were deserved and I wouldn't try to get them unbanned anyway. So I suppose no, never have I vouched for someone who didn't get their account back. I only vouch for people I know to be good workers, though. I submit an appeal for everyone else :)

How much contact do you have with other crowdsourcing operations, like CrowdFlower's Dolores Labs or the transcription service Casting words?
None. When I did Castingwords HITs I talked to them a smidge, but typically only about problems. I've never spoken with the people at Turkopticon, or Dolores Labs, or any requesters I'm not complaining to. Requesters ask me questions here, of course, but it tends not to go deeper. The only relationships I have are with Amazon Requester/mTurk, and even then it's only for certain HITs.

read on to part 3 (of 3)