One of the trends I've noticed over the course of this year is that just as the mainstream begins to adopt crowdsourcing, a chorus of critical voices has emerged to question how it's being practiced, if it accurately describes what's really happening on the social Web or simply whether a business model based on crowdsourcing can succeed at all.
As longtime readers of this blog know, I'm a big fan of such dissenting views. First, they're often—if not always—right. More importantly, the scrutiny makes everyone work smarter and harder. In this vein, I'm dedicating today's round up to the wisdom of the few to mitigate foolishness of the many.
FortiusOne makes "the World’s geographic data accessible to everyone for learning, decision making and problem solving." (I think this means they collect GIS and release it in the wild, a la open source, though if anyone from the company is reading this, feel free to correct me in the comments). Open source GIS has an extensive history, and I've long predicted that crowdsourcing map data will eventually be adopted by all Geo-data providers. That's quickly becoming the case, as a new initiative from GPS data giant TomTom makes clear.
But Sean Gorman, the founder of FortiusOne, is hardly pursuing his own crowdsourcing strategy willy nilly. In fact, he's just put up a thoughtful post that asks "what constitutes an abuse of the commons" in the context of crowdsourcing? His concern centers primarily on whether wholesale data downloading will slow the site down for everyone else. I'd call that a technical concern more than an ethical one, but I like the spirit of his inquiry: What impact will all this user-generated data have on everyone else's experience? (Thanks to Crowdsourcing Directory for the tip on TomTom.)
When Good Crowdsourcing Goes Bad
IMDB.com generally makes an excellent case study in crowdsourcing. Amateurs come together to create the most comprehensive cinematic database of all time. But as Harrison Hoffman of CNET pointed out yesterday, the IMDB system also highlights the need for restraints on the crowd's zealous contributions. Seems that this summer's box office smash, Dark Knight, has driven The Godfather and The Shawshank Redemption off the Top 250 List. And in order to maintain its position, Batmanatics have been voting down the Coppala classic. Ewww. Wisdom of the Crowds indeed. My call? Require voters to be registered users and restrict them from voting more than once per week, and then only when sober.
Question of the Day: Are we seeing the emergence of a wiser, less naive brand of crowdsourcing, in which experts and the crowd work together to leverage their respective strengths?