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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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August 05, 2008

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Angeline

Hi Jeff -
First off, I appreciate your article's title! However, the business model that you mention -is- quite different from crowdSPRING's approach. There is no bidding involved in our model. We offer an even, level creative marketplace for Buyers and Creatives to connect. On crowdSPRING, a Buyer posts a project and a brief, names his/her price, and Creatives submit their design ideas. On average, buyers post logo projects at $300+ because we stress the worth of our Creatives and their hard work.

Our site is fairly new (only 3 months old), and already, we have almost 4,000 creatives at work and 440+ projects. crowdSPRING's goal isn't to take business away from graphic design firms or established designers. They have their place and are necessary. There are many designers on our site who are well-qualified, hold graphic design degrees, and choose to submit entries. We just want to give opportunities to anyone talented who is looking to create, regardless of where a person lives, how old he/she is, or formal training.

People sign up for our site and choose to submit entries with the risk of not being awarded. However, we also offer creatives opportunities to showcase their work to many potential clients and to interact with fellow Creatives. Many Buyers award a Creative and continue to work outside of our site with them. We are happy to connect these people, as it helps continue to keep our community thriving.

Thanks for mentioning us on your blog. We're looking forward to hearing others' input.

Best,
Angeline
crowdSPRING's Community Manager
www.crowdspring.com

Tony

Jeff-

Nice topic. Crowdspring seems to be sparking a lot of controversy in the graphic design industry for its "spec work" type model. Here are a couple of blog posts/ comment threads that I followed over the last couple of months related to crowdspring:

http://www.springwise.com/style_design/more_crowdsourced_graphic_desi/

http://andrewhyde.net/spec-work-is-evil-why-i-hate-crowdspring/

Should be interesting to see what your readers think.

Ross Kimbarovsky

Hi Jeff,

Angeline mentioned your post today and I wanted to leave a personal note of thanks and make a couple of other points. I wonder if you expected in 2006 that your instrumental Wired article would seed and motivate the founding of so many new and innovative businesses, industries, and approaches to commercial and non-commercial activities. We're all in great debt to you for starting the discussion (and keeping it going!)

People, religions, laws, tastes, and even languages evolve. Industries do too. And evolution (or sometimes, revolution) often begets resistance. This is as true today (the recent backlash to Radiohead's innovative music distribution model - we recently wrote about this in our blog: http://blog.crowdspring.com/2008/06/30/industry-revolution-music/) as it was hundreds of years ago (the resistance to the Industrial Revolution in England).

Although many thought after iStockPhoto launched that Getty Images might acquire iStockPhoto, few predicted the recent licensing deal with Flickr. The stock photo industry has evolved and this evolution was fueld by both buyers and the millions of photographers around the world who sell stock photography.

The same is happening in the graphic design industry. There are hundreds of thousands (if not more) talented professional graphics designers around the world. But tens of millions of businesses find themselves starved for great designs because their budgets simply don't allow access to those professionals. There are millions upon millions of very talented creatives around the world - including many professionals - who want to show their creativity and help such businesses. In our first 75 days in business (we launched May 2008), we've had buyers from 30 countries and nearly 4,000 creatives (including many professionals) from 125+ countries have chosen to work on crowdSPRING.

And we respect that innovation is not simply about change for the sake of change. The crowdSPRING model is innovative not only because it differs in remarkable ways from the traditional model to buying and selling creative services, but also because we've approached it with a very fresh perspective - example: customized legal agreements to protect the purchase and sale of intellectual property accompany every project on crowdSPRING.

You ask whether professional graphic designers will see their revenues erode as a result of crowdsourcing. That's a fair question - but it begets a broader question - will the millions of buyers and the millions of creatives around the world collectively benefit as a result of crowdsourcing. Buyers and sellers of stock photography from iStockPhoto and other stock sites have unequivocally said YES. Music fans who purchased Radiohead's groundbreaking album have unequivocally said YES. Buyers of computers and mobile phones from Apple have unequivocally said YES. And we strongly believe that the millions of buyers and creatives around the world looking to buy and sell graphic design services are unequivocally saying YES.

Best,

Ross Kimbarovsky
co-Founder
http://www.crowdspring.com

alanbooker

I am not sure about the answer to your question Jeff and likely it’s not going to matter in the long run.

The mix of traditional and now crowdsourced up-starts that are changing the status quo in the mentioned markets shouldn’t be a shock to anyone. The inevitable outcome of new technologies unfolding and resulting changes regarding traditional business model is . . . . . . .a surprise?

It sounds to me like the clamor for justice and role back is nothing more than a head in the sand attitude and a cry out from stalwarts who are being forced to change gears.

In a culture whence the separation between those who can charge for or afford high end services and those who can’t these apparent upsets might be likened to a three year olds tantrum, terrible to deal with but shouldn’t, and in this case will not, force the course of events.

The resulting outcomes can only be a force for better quality at more reasonable prices. A shift towards business models that provide access and opportunity to almost everyone regardless of their station in life or physical whereabouts; that’s the future!

The, “they are effectively dipping straight into that seemingly bottomless well of our visual collective conscious,” manifold treasures at the bottom of the well are going to provide an endless array of consternation whilst continuing to bring benefit to the greater whole!

Regards, Alan

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Jeff Howe

Thanks all.
@Angeline: My apologies. See correction.
@Tony: The links are an excellent addition to the conversation.
@Ross: Thanks for the kind words
@Ross, Angeline, Alan: I'm not convinced yet that the r/evolution is a foregone conclusion. These are early days yet. As a writer my business model is remarkably similar to a graphic designers, so I'm perhaps constitutionally sympathetic to their plight. If someone wants to hire me, they pay my fee. While writers do sometimes work on spec, we consider it a major drag to be avoided at all costs. Crowdsourcing creates a meritocracy that strips away the privileges of the professional. It becomes all about the work. It's noteworthy (for writers, anyway) that the spec model has already taken hold on Mechanical Turk, on which more than a few tasks involve writing short articles--on spec. High-end clients will continue to use high-end professionals, and it could be that the rest of the market adapts to a spec model. Ross, you could well be right that this serves both creatives and their clients. But it's hard to see how the disruption won't also wreak considerable havoc amongst a broad swath of professionals, especially those that for whatever reason don't work well in an on-spec environment. At any rate, time will tell. Thanks all for great comments.

Peter Organisciak

"I'm perhaps constitutionally sympathetic to their plight." -I'm in the same boat, Jeff. While I never complained about iStockPhoto, it's been taking a bit of adjusting to accept CrowdSpring and 99Designs, seeing that design is my primary source of income. Yet, licensed work is inherently much more speculative than on-demand work.

As I think of similar historical examples, I can't name even one example where I sympathize with the old rather than the progressive, and it would be foolish to think that this time would be any different. The professional exists as a gatekeeper of exclusive knowledge and skills, and if there emerges a class that has access to those skills, there's absolutely no right you can invoke from to keep them away.

Ultimately, though, these sites are important to society because they fill a void. They provide a lower barrier for both designers and clients. I whole-heartedly agree with Ross that the collective benefit to the world is positive. As has been mentioned, the overlap is probably much smaller than it seems. It's not as much stealing clients from professionals as attracted low-budget clients that would never have otherwise existed in the space. There will always be need for professional designers just as there will always be need for professional writers (as I've done in the past, I point to NowPublic as an example of this). However, we simply can't control the entire environment.

Once point to mull over though, originally mentioned in my Million Monkeys post (which David previously linked to at http://crowdstorming.wordpress.com/2008/07/13/strategies-for-harnessing-group-potential/). The problem with such "skill auction" sites is all the discarded work hours. We may see a designer get paid a fair low-end price, but alongside them, there's many more whose work simply dissipates into thin air. In a time of incredibly efficient collaborative possibilities, such lotteries simply seem arcane in their return.

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The question I have about photography and the "Golden Mean" is this...Do photographers conciously look for these patterns, or are they just taking pretty shots?

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