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Crowdsourcing: A Definition

  • I like to use two definitions for crowdsourcing:

    The White Paper Version: Crowdsourcing is the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.

    The Soundbyte Version: The application of Open Source principles to fields outside of software.

The Rise of Crowdsourcing

  • Read the original article about crowdsourcing, published in the June, 2006 issue of Wired Magazine.
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July 30, 2008

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Comments

Sean Gorman

Hi Jeff - thanks for the shout out.

You hit the nail on the head with releasing GIS data in the wild and also (soon) the ability to make simple GIS maps with the data. The concept being you should not have to be a professional with an expensive proprietary desktop system to do this. Anyone should be able to do it in a few minutes.

In regards to the ethics questions it is abusive traffic like scraper bots that I have concerns about. You get either bots of mechanical turks trying to grab content in mass then it runs the risk of seriously degrading the commons for everyone. Wikipedia has dealt with this pretty well but what happens when it is not just text/html, but large data and web services that are more computationally taxing.

The more we here buzzwords like putting everything in "the cloud" and combining that with crowdsourcing I think the potential for systematic abuse will be an issue to tackle.

best,
sean

Jeff Howe

Thanks for stopping by Sean. I'm intrigued by the idea of Turkers grabbing content en masse. I'm sure I'll sound hopelessly naive here, but what do they do with said content/data? Use it for splogs? And what does Mechanical Turk have to do with it? Are people using Amazon's service as a way to vacuum up content? Totally fascinating. Thanks again for poppping by.

Alan Booker

I found the link to what's really happening on the social Web less than convincing, “Tell me Jay, how does your wife feel when you tell her she's part of the crowd you were thinking of marrying.” As much as he might be making a point, the overall tone rings of sarcasm and, “it's not useful because it doesn't actually model what's going on” “In this century we're going the other way” an opinion that doesn’t reflect the diversity and reach of existing CS endeavors!

To answer your question, no I do not see a less naïve brand of CS. As stated above, the huge variety of CS ventures encompass such a variety of models; on a scale of completely opportunistic to where both the business end and the crowd have found a healthy balance in their working together.

I do believe the CS map is so new that it is difficult to summarize en-masse one way or the other.

CS as a term speaks differently, apparently, to each person because, as a concept, it has not yet been adequately defined within the bloggesphere, in the business world or our culture in general.

It will be very interesting to see if your book lays out a complete/clear enough overview so that any personal ambivalence has more to do with opinion rather than confusion about the concept. Or at the least one would hope that the content enables a process that works to clarify the terms usage a little!

Alan

John Furrier

great post. crowdsourcing powers the blogosphere and their is arbitrage going on.

Soon the signal will find its way through new filters.. hopefully soon.

great piece

Tony

Sounds like the crowd has turned Vigilante 2.0! So if thousands of batfans can stage an underground campaign and kick the Corleone Family out of the top spot on IMDB, imagine what could be done by someone like Anne Coulter or Rush Limbaugh if they went out and ordered their legions to stage an organized threadjacking of Obama's facebook page...until the system puts checks in place, I am sure we will see this kind of abuse more and more.

gregorylent

lowest common denominator? source a crowd. want an insane mob? source a crowd. content on tv? sourced from a crowd. political state of america? sourced from a crowd. youtube comments innanity? sourced from a crowd.

what this buzzword is really about is marketing, how to extract more money with less effort. nothing innately noble about it.

technology merely renders out ignorance more efficiently.

Paul Kinlan

Hmm, I don't know if the IMDB example is valid. The IMDB example shows an abuse of the system, maybe because it offers multiple questions, i.e a vote on each movie. If someone said what is your single favourite Movie would the result be any different or better? Would it get rid of the biased results (voting down shawshank or the godfather)?

Paul.

Jeff Howe

Good questions, Paul. I'm not sure if my proposed fix would work. Larger point is just that I believe we're going to see more constraints put in place to try to maximize the wisdom of the crowds while minimizing their tendency to game the system in favor of momentary fads or other forms of information cascades.
@Gregory: I think that's a bit extreme. The phenomenon of crowdsourcing has little, in a way, to do with the term itself. I won't duck the charge that crowdsourcing is a buzzword (it'd be futile to try), but the phenomenon itself is incontrovertibly real and in case after case has produces some stunning results (be it an ability to produce a work of art or revolutionize an entire industry). But neither are you completely wrong, cranky tone notwithstanding. The marketing community often grabs hold of little-understood and emerging social dynamics as a way to sell new clients on their services. Nothing new about that.

eassae

Ditto gregorylent.

Jeff I would like to see what you consider a crowsourced "work of art". I see the only revolution taking place is one of degradation.

kraloyun

Sounds like the crowd has turned Vigilante 2.0! So if thousands of batfans can stage an underground campaign and kick the Corleone Family out of the top spot on IMDB, imagine what could be done by someone like Anne Coulter or Rush Limbaugh if they went out and ordered their legions to stage an organized threadjacking of Obama's facebook page...until the system puts checks in place, I am sure we will see this kind of abuse more and more.

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