April 24th, 2012

Mechanical Turk Adventures: Favorite Mobile Apps

I have been obsessed with Mechanical Turk since hearing about Aaron Koblin’s Sheep Market project. While these days crowdfunding might be hotter than crowdsourcing, the idea of a massive mob of remote workers to me will always be fascinating.

Mechanical Turk is part of Amazon and launched in 2005 and represents one of Amazon’s “inside out” businesses where they took a tool they used internally and turned it into a monetizable, publicly-accessible product. Amazon Web Services is perhaps the best example, though MTurk is a close second.

So today’s post is going to be an MTurk experiment. I posted a simple question: “What is your favorite mobile phone app and why?” hoping to collect a tiny, anecdotal sample of global thoughts around mobile phone applications. MTurk workers are all over the world, so I also asked the workers to list their handset.

You should know that the reward for each of these answers was $0.10 and I collected approximately 125 replies, ultimately rejecting around 10% because they were nonsense or didn’t answer the question. This study is *in no way* scientific. I was mostly looking for knee-jerk replies, and think I achieved that. Here are my 10 favorites verbatim and then some more general thoughts.

Answers have not been edited except for spelling.

1. I love my flashlight app, It is convenient and quick to function. The illumination is bright as well. (droid X)

2. My favorite mobile phone application is Bluetooth. I like this application because it is the best cordless data transfer technology between mobile phones irrespective of network connectivity. (Nokia 3500 Classic)

[note: Bluetooth? Really?]

3. I like the Pinterest App because I can use it when I’m waiting in line to keep me from getting bored and agitated from waiting. (Apple iPhone).

4. Tiny Tower is my favorite app, because it takes awhile to build up your income and if you want to max faster without cheating you have to setup a system to profit. I also like it because I don’t have to spend too much time on it, just check it once or twice a day after my building is high enough, one of my all time favorite game. (Apple iPhone)

5. My favorite mobile phone app is calculator as it help me to calculate when and where if it is necessary (Nokia c2).

6. My favorite app is ‘Draw Something’. It is my favorite app because it is simple, fun, and free. (HTC EVO)

7. My favorite mobile app is The Creeps. The simplistic Tower Defense game is intuitively controlled and pretty fun for a free price point. (Apple iPhone)

8. I enjoy the app Dismount on my phone. I can aim and throw my ragdoll character off of/into things one handed, it’s a nice little mindless game to pass the time while I’m feeding my kid with the other arm.

9. My favorite mobile phone app is Reddit is Fun. It allows me to browse Reddit, which has huge amounts of content and can keep me busy for hours on end (LG Optimus V).

10. My favorite mobile phone app is Star Walk. I love being able to pull up the sky anywhere in the world at that moment and see what is up there, especially at night. (Apple iPhone)

Lessons learned:

1. People LOVE Reddit. Approximately 10% of the replies listed some sort of Reddit app as the favorite. Perhaps this is related to the types of people that hang out on Mechanical Turk all day, though who knows.

2. Games were often listed as a favorite app. There were many replies that listed something like “…I use it when I am bored, for a few minutes at a time”. This came up over and over. To me, this spoke to the idea that the best mobile apps should require very little commitment time-wise.

3. Handsets were really, really mixed – no dominant brand.

4. Some respondents believed their handset WAS an app. I received around 10 responses that said “my favorite app is Samsung Galaxy” or “my favorite app is Android”. I re-worded the question to say “the brand of your phone is not an app” and that helped significantly.

There are probably more lessons to be learned here, and likely another post or two.

Hit me up on Twitter if you’d like to peep the data set.

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