Back in September, after millionaire Steve Fossett went missing in the Nevada backwoods, legions of web surfers enlisted to help in the search through Amazon's Mechanical Turk. The 50,000 volunteers looked through hundreds of thousands of satellite images of the area for any clues of Steve Fossett's plane. The whereabouts of Steve Fossett are still unknown, and now some are starting to question whether or not Mechanical Turk was a help or a hindrance during the search. Members of the search party, when fed search hints from the online volunteers, complained that the leads were false and ended up wasting their time. Sure, some poor leads may have been passed to search teams, but many important lessons were learned during this process that can be applied to future uses of this tool. So, hopefully search professionals will not be quick to attribute the outcome of the search to the use of Mechanical Turk -- after all, traditional methods to find Fossett were also unsuccessful. So, by understanding these tools better, a success surely lies in the future.
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