Setting Up an Amazon Mechanical Turk Account

psiTurk can interface with Amazon Mechanical Turk (although it doesn’t have to!). To do so, you need to create an account on Amazon’s website in order to use it. There are a number of steps involved here which have to do with signing up with Amazon and creating several accounts. Luckily they are a one-time process for a given AWS account.

Accounts Creation and Linking

Carefully follow AWS’s guide for setting up the necessary accounts for using Amazon Mechanical Turk. Before doing so, note the following:

  • Step 5 discusses setting up the Developer Sandbox. Carefully follow all steps in this section, including the steps in the note for linking your aws account specifically to the sandbox.
  • Step 6 in the guide is “Set up an AWS SDK”. You may skip this step – psiTurk uses the Python/Boto (Boto3) SDK under the hood.
  • Step 7 in the guide suggests the option of enabling AWS Billing for your account. However, at least one psiTurk user has reported difficulties doing so, needing to contact AWS customer support before being able to post hits.

AWS Credentials

psiTurk uses the Python/Boto (Boto3) SDK to communicate with the AWS API. In order to do so, boto must have access to the user’s AWS credentials, generated in section Setting Up an Amazon Mechanical Turk Account.

There are two approaches for setting the keys: (1) in a file called .psiturkconfig located in the user’s home directory, and (2) in any of the ways that Boto expects.

.psiturkconfig approach

If set here, the keys should be lowercased, and under an ‘AWS Access’ section key, as follows:

[AWS Access]
aws_access_key_id = foo
aws_secret_access_key = bar

Boto approach

If AWS credentials are not found via the .psiturkconfig approach, then Boto will search for them via its typical methods. That is, psiTurk users can store AWS credentials in any way that Boto expects. Specifically, the credentials variables AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID and AWS_SECRET_ACCESSS_KEY can be set via one of the following methods, listed in order of Boto-preference:

  1. Environment variables (can optionally be set in .env)
  2. Shared credential file (~/.aws/credentials)
  3. AWS config file (~/.aws/config)
  4. Boto2 config file (/etc/boto.cfg and ~/.boto)


psiTurk sets the AWS_DEFAULT_REGION to ‘us-east-1’, and this cannot be overridden.

For example, if a user’s AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID were ‘foo’, their AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY were ‘bar’, they might set the following in their ~/.aws/credentials file:


Note that Boto3 respects certain environment variables that alter which files are searched for credentials and configuration settings. See here for more information.