Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Success of Crowdsourcing

Interestingly enough, the term crowdsourcing was invented by a journalist and not someone from IT or business. Of course, a must-read in that context (and a great overview, too) is Jeff Howe's Wired article form 2006 entitled The Rise of Crowdsourcing.

While outsourcing means delegating a task to a defined workforce outside one's own company, the workforce to deal with a crowdsourced task is not defined a priori - it could in theory be anyone connected to the Internet. Most delegated tasks involve either the creativity or the intelligence of the masses - where this, of course, does not mean the average factor of a given population, but the selection of those who can best fulfill the task, but with a substantially reduced budget. For companies involved in crowdsourcing, it's all about saving money and milking the masses for inspiration, but for non-profit ventures, it's about participating to get some benefit in return - perhaps not immediately, but in the long run. That's why Wikipedia works so well, but WikiaSearch doesn't.

All in all, three factors play a major role in crowdsourcing: money, reputation and fun. But this in itself is no guarantee that a crowdsourcing activity will actually work. Most importantly, define the task you would like to delegate and formulate it in the form of an open call, then decide who should be the participants in it (contributors and / or voters) as well as the success factors so you will be able to evaluate your success (read more about designing and evaluating crowdsourcing).

To sum up, crowdsourcing is, first of all, a buzzword. But applied wisely, relative to your business and after a careful design, you may very well benefit from it if you succeed to gain the participation of your potential (or actual) customers. Good luck!

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