New service TagCow caused a bit of a stir over the weekend. The product seemingly solves the problem of auto-categorization and tagging of photos, something that seems to still be beyond the processing power and software skills of most startups.
Users upload photos – thousands of them if they like – and within a few minutes the photos are returned with stunningly accurate descriptive keywords that facilitate searching and browsing later on. The product worked so well, and the site had so little description of the technology behind it, that I speculated that humans were doing the work in the background.
And….I was right. A reader sent in a tip that they saw the service on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service, which is a web service that gets people to do things that are fairly hard for computers to do. TagCow is actually a perfect fit for Mechanical Turk.
Users are paid 4 cents to properly tag a group of five photos. I tagged a few photos with “TechCrunch” twenty times each, collected my 4 cents, and moved on. My guess is it would take about two minutes to properly tag the five photos. That means if you work steady and without breaks, you can make $1.20/hour. More if you are speedier.