For those studying Turkers (Journalists, researchers, etc.)

Do not experiment with forum relationships for research

Forums only work because of delicate relationships of trust and mutual aid among participants. Sociological experiments such as breaching experiments can sow discord and destroy relationships. Positivist research that attempts to control and measure a forums effects can confuse workers, create anxieties in the community, and drain community energy as members try to make sense of the unusual intervention. To learn how a forum works, talk to administrators about your project, goals, and a plan for creating mutually beneficial research with workers.

Example: One academic experiment simulated requesters with varying ratings in Turkopticon to measure the effects of ratings on worker behavior and outcomes. Turkers found some of the requesters and smelled something fishy but did not know if it was a scam, academic research, vandalism, or something else; through what amounted to at least 50 hours of sleuthing over two days, Turkers across reddit and turkopticon-discuss hypothesized that this was a research project. The researcher wanted to make positivist knowledge claims about ratings, workers, and the economics of Turking, but neither he nor the IRB understood that:

  • simulating fabricated requesters and reviews broke the fragile trust that makes Turkopticon ratings meaningful to workers

  • that worker harm includes not only unpaid wages in AMT, but also the time they spent anxiously trying to track down these mysterious apparitions

Links to other resources on AMT and online research ethics