The challenge was how to get the numbers in these charts into a database. Several members of a computer-assisted reporting listserv I belong to suggested an optical-character recognition approach. But OCR is buggy and prone to errors I couldn’t afford with this data.
reporteronline engagement intern Srinivas Rao at the public-interest news agencynon-profit investigative news organization ProPublica emailed me with an offer. He’d help run our task through an Amazon service called Mechanical Turk that bills itself as “Artificial Artificial Intelligence.”
(The name derives from an 18th Century chess-playing machine that moved the pieces with a mechanical arm and reportedly beat good players. The Turk, alas, was a hoax. A real chess master hid inside the wooden cabinet and operated the arm.)
from A Few Tasteful Snaps by Glen McGregor, Ottawa Citizen reporter covering government, politics