HIT stands for Human Intelligence Task and it's the term for a small job at Mechanical Turk, Amazon's AI task management service. According to Wikipedia's definition, "Mturk enables computer programs to co-ordinate the use of human intelligence to perform tasks which computers are unable to do." The payments are micro, but the idea is that they are tasks which groups of people would do for fun or to ease boredom.

Since its launch on 2 November 2005, Mechanical Turk has gradually built up a following - there is a forum for "Turkers" called Turker Nation, which appears to have light-to-medium level patronage.

However it's fair to say that Mturk isn't being used as much as the initial hype period in Nov-Dec 05. There are 259 current HITs, but even Turk fans seem to lament the lack of quality HITs. Says Turk Lurker:

"Personally, I've been scanning the available hits every few weeks myself and there's just doesn't seem like there's much worth doing out there right now. Still no "killer apps," which has plagued the project since the beginning."

OpenGeoData writes about an interesting HIT currently available, from a company called Geospatial Vision - which is micro-paying people to do image recognition on sequential video stills. Notes OpenGeoData:

"You are paid 5 cents to tag 50 images with yellow lines, manholes, drains, bollards and pedestrian crossings. They are also, from looking at the videos, using these locations to then magically classify the sign type (one way, no entry, speed limit etc). Most images have only one feature if at all, there were about 2,000 HITs last night and at 25 frames a second that puts it at about an hour of footage for $100. That is insane."

The assignment itself states that "you will be given 50 images and asked to go through each image clicking on specific objects if you see them."

I'm not sure what would motivate a person to do a task like this, to be honest. It would probably take you half an hour or so to scroll through 50 images and click on specific objects (including mucking around getting set up). And for that you get 5c.

So it looks like Mechanical Turk is struggling to get any real traction, which makes me wonder if all the initial hype about it was overblown?