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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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« Chapter 5: The Rise and Fall of the Firm: Turning Community Into Commerce | Main | Chapter 6: The Most Universal Quality—Why Diversity Trumps Ability »

May 01, 2008

Comments

Venkat

I think this chapter could use a more careful historical take on the evolution of concerns in economics. Too many authors have mentioned Coase in passing, and not enough have dived deeper. Some starter thoughts I had about how to tell the story right (and related relevant comments by my readers):

http://www.ribbonfarm.com/2008/04/23/ronald-coase-and-salvation-from-anthropological-economics/

Another general critique I have of all books that touch on this stuff, from Surowiecki on, is that they don't take on the most robust models of why crowdsourcing type approaches work, and how things like quality control fit in. This is the line of mathematical thinking that started with Monte Carlo simulations and evolved today to what are known as randomized algorithms, probably-approximately-correct (PAC) models and certain classes of genetic algorithms. There is also particle swarm optimization (PSO) and the swarm intelligence work of Eric Bonabeau. The material is pretty highly mathematical and not easy to process or condense to a pop-sci level, but it does help ground folk doctrine in solid probabilistic models, so somebody writing in this space should take a brave stab :)

Probably out-of-scope for you, given your intents as revealed in the excerpts, but maybe a little boxed note at least, to acknowledge that the deep theory exists, that it is not all hush-puppy-fad analysis a la Gladwell...

Venkat

MiaProudstarauco

I think this chapter could use a more careful historical take on the evolution of concerns in economics.

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Alan

Yet another fascinating excerpt Jeff.

The examples that you use appear to focus mostly upon the element of labor and output. This might be because this is where there is a coalescing point of a new impulse and it’s the easiest point to read. In my mind CS, as a new phenomena has much more to do, at its root cause, with a changing society and culture.

It might be much more difficult to define the elements that originate the many emerging symptoms that are recognizable in part as intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is a clue that arises and is birthed by the intersection of a new generation, recent technology, changing work roles and the many elements that shape and form a particular generations attitudes and behaviors.

It appears that a segment of this new generation is shifting away from a willingness to take the path that ends at a treadmill experience and the economic security that comes with it.

“They may have between two and six billion spare hours among them, every day.” The onus, then, isn’t on the crowd; it’s on companies, entrepreneurs and anyone else with a good idea to figure out how to put them to work.”

I would venture to suggest that there might be an anti-materialistic impulse afoot and that, paradoxically, it might indeed prove to be the greater temptation to look at harnessing it for economic gain. The real point of interest should be the new forms that are going to arise to accommodate this impulse from the inside out!

Rather than attempting to apply business forms “to” the emerging new market, I believe that it will be the organically created forms, like YouTube, that will rock the world and ultimately provide the economic and societal shifts to meet a future generations needs.

Much of available commentary seems to be rationalization rather than an in-depth look at the root causes.

Where are the social anthropologists, sociologists and psychologists?

Cheers, Alan

Gregory

I'm intrigued by your suggestion that the advent of crowdsourcing could signal the decline of the corporation -- at least as the main organizing unit for mass dissemination of news and information. Oh, the implications.

Reminds me of something Ambrose Bierce wrote In his Devil's Dictionary, defining "corporation" as "an ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility."

Frankly, I worry that -- if taken to a decentralized extreme -- the journalism of the future will be neither profitable nor responsible. Whatever the faults of corporate journalism, there is a sort of collective responsibility in a newspaper or television network. There are checks and balances, reporters and editors, labor and management. Certainly, those built-in safeguards haven't always worked. But I can't imagine that a fully amateurized press would bring about more responsible journalism.

But I don't think that will happen. My hope is that there will always be a role for professional journalists to report, write, synthesize and package the news. And, most importantly, edit. I'm overwhelmed by the amount of content online. Ninety percent of my time in the Internet is spent looking for something worth reading. With The New Yorker, 90 percent of my time is spent reading something worthwhile. As Pliney the Elder wrote, "True glory consists in doing what deserves to be written; in writing what deserves to be read." *

Even in the media, there are still transaction costs that are difficult for amateurs to overcome: Travel, training and even access to sources.

C. Trent Rosecrans, a former Cincinnati Post Reds beat writer, makes a this point in a blog post this week about the recent initiative by Ohio newspapers to share content, especially sports coverage. (http://snurl.com/27i99)

Sure, there are bloggers galore who write about sports. But only the professional journalists have the time, the travel budges and the access to interview players, managers, and front office people about what's going on.


* I suppose I should fess up and admit that both of these quotes (Bierce and Pliney) entered my consciousness through playing way too many hours of Sid Meier's Civilization IV.

Alan

Ditto on the New Yorker Gregory, if only one had more leisure time to get lost in the articles. I will push back on the general thrust of your comments though.

“Frankly, I worry that -- if taken to a decentralized extreme -- the journalism of the future will be neither profitable nor responsible.”

One could hardly say the overall quality, in truth and unbiased reporting is even close to acceptable standards. I would say that the big picture, those news stories that form and shape general attitudes and consciousness’, particularly political reporting, is shockingly controlled and edited according to multiple and deep reaching interests.

Regards, Alan

Alan

Ditto on the New Yorker Gregory, if only one had more leisure time to get lost in the articles. I will push back on the general thrust of your comments though.

“Frankly, I worry that -- if taken to a decentralized extreme -- the journalism of the future will be neither profitable nor responsible.”

One could hardly say the overall quality, in truth and unbiased reporting is even close to acceptable standards. I would say that the big picture, those news stories that form and shape general attitudes and consciousness’, particularly political reporting, is shockingly controlled and edited according to multiple and deep reaching interests.

Regards, Alan

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