Over on Techcrunch they have a message about using Amazon Mechanical Turk to help a person raise their influence, followers, or general popularity. Unfortunately most of the conversation centers on Quora, which is an awesome question answer system (until it exploded in popularity) that gave people an indirect link to people who were actually doing jobs. People from many companies like Dell were in there, and gave an opportunity for people to simply ask a question, and get information from people who were actually knowledgeable in what the person was asking.
Unfortunately, Quora is now in the process of trying to work out real people from non-real spammer people who are not interested in good answers, merely providing answers of dubious value. Honestly, it is not realistic to push out a system today without addressing spammers and the damage they will do to a system overnight. Even on a new social comic book site that was launched in Beta over the long holiday season (ComicsForge), there are some 1300 spam accounts, most showed up very quickly upon the start of the system. We are already averaging some 18 spam messages a day, and there are just a couple of people who are actually in the system and using it.
Long before real people discover something, spammers and influence peddlers will find your system. That is just a fact of the internet as we know it, everything and anything is allowed when it comes to spamming Google with crud results (much like this discussion right here).
The Techcrunch article links to Amazon Mechanical Turk to show that this is actually happening, following or liking a particular product. But you can dive deeper into some of these to see what is really happening.
From this you can see that a real person or an alias, it does not really matter who the person really is, this is the name they are using for Amazon Mechanical Turk, named Edward Tripp has requested that people on Mechanical Turk start clicking on twitter follow buttons to create artificial increases in twitter followers.
From there you can open it up to see what the actual job is all about.
The link takes you to a twitter page for Taptivate, where they were giving stuff away as prizes, and otherwise trying to raise awareness of their product. This looks like an Iphone application that allows you to all in one roll your friends up and comments up for posting on the internet.
Given the pressure on the ITunes application store, and with no judgments or evaluations as to if Tapivate is a good application or a bad application (I don’t have an Iphone, I would not know), the question of raising influence or even purchasers of an application through Mechanical Turk to influence sales seems to be an interesting one to have tried. While there is nothing wrong with trying, it is not just this particular application that is doing this, there are going to be others. Not just for Quora, but for Twitter, Facebook, and other places where many people congregate.
Quora though makes a special target because before the system went viral last week it was a bastion of influencers with awesome viewpoints. I really liked Quora because the people involved gave me awesome advice and I have taken that advice without any noticeable adverse effects to my company.
The real question is can you actually purchase influence?
For me, no, you can’t purchase influence, much like you can’t purchase friends, once the money runs out all your purchased friends go someplace else leaving you out of the loop and alone.
We really need to work on authentic relationships where both parties get something out of it rather than a few pennies to follow someone on the networks. For now spamming these systems works, using Mechanical Turk works, flooding forums, social networks, bulletin boards, and some powerfully awesome SEO works, and it all works brilliantly if you get the right people doing this. We are already having problems separating good results from bad results, and the incessant pounding of knowledge systems is not going to help separate good from bad information.
That is probably our next big thing, in an internet filled with tricks and processes like Mechanical Turk, developing skills that will separate good data from bad data is our next big thing.