Afterword

ThimphuTech was the first technology blog in Bhutan. We started writing it in 2009, just as broadband and mobile internet started to take off. (Although internet in Bhutan was launched in 1999, it was either super-slow or super-expensive, and was only used by a selected few).

In the blog, we wrote about technology and food, but also about plenty of other stuff. The blog became popular and influential in Bhutan. A companion bi-weekly column -- Ask Boaz -- was published for many years in the Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper. (The complete Kuensel columns are available as an ebook, Blogging with Dragons).

We stopped updating the blog when we left Bhutan in 2014, but the information within the posts can still prove useful, and thus we decided to keep it online.

We thank all our readers.
Tashi Delek,
Boaz & Galit.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Work and earn online (K2 #43)

Question of the Week
A friend in India told me that anyone with Internet can earn money by working for Amazon. Is that true also in Bhutan?

-- M. B., Samste

Answer
Dear M.B,

Seven years ago, Amazon.com - the world’s largest online retailer - launched a website called Amazon Mechanical Turk. Also known as MTurk, the website (www.mturk.com) is an online marketplace which connects companies and workers. At one side are the companies who need human intelligence to perform an online task which is impossible or very expensive for a computer to do. On the other side are individuals looking to make some money by performing these tasks.

For example, finding out whether a face in a photo belongs to a man or to a woman is difficult for computers to do. However, most people can perform the task easily and with great accuracy. Thus, a company that needs to tag thousands of photos by sex may upload them to MTurk, along with a task description, and offer a small payment (say, $0.05 or $0.10) for each photo. Other examples are audio transcriptions, writing short essays, summarizing content, finding the category of a product based on a photo, and more. Payments can range from a few cents up to around $20 per task, depending on its complexity.

The Mechanical Turk
If you are wondering about the name “Mechanical Turk”, here is where it comes from: The original Turk was an 18th century hoax! Its inventor claimed that his machine played professional chess automatically, while in fact there was a human being - a chess master - hidden inside. In the same way, while humans perform the tasks on MTurk, for the companies the tasks appear to be done automatically.

Anyone can open a worker account on MTurk, but currently only citizens of the USA and India can be paid in cash. All others are paid with Amazon gift certificates, which can be redeemed on Amazon to buy almost anything you can imagine. However, note that only books, CDs, DVDs and the Kindle ebook reader can be shipped to Bhutan.

MTurk is one of a growing number of similar websites. Other websites include odesk.com, eLance.com and MobileWorks.com. The different websites and tasks require different skill levels and skill types. These websites create virtual workforces. This new global marketplace cuts through borders and middlemen and empowers individuals, equipped with just a computer and fast Internet, to find work and earn money independent of their location.

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to boaz@thimphutech.com