Crowdsourcing by Jeff Howe (Book Review)

I just read “Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business” by Jeff Howe

“Crowdsourcing” describes the process by which the power of the many can be leveraged to accomplish feats that were once the province of the specialized few … during the last few years people from around the world have exhibited a new social behaviour: they are coming together to perform tasks, usually for little or no money, that were once the sole province of employees…

I could continue on in the traditional style of a book review telling you why I thought it was very insightful but instead I’m going to list interesting ideas and quotes from the book below in bullet point form with links to further information, so here goes:

Crowdsourcing by Jeff Howe (Book Review)

Dawn of the Human Network

  • The rapidly falling cost of the tools needed to produce entertainment-from editing software to digital video cameras-combined with free distribution networks over the Web – has produced a subculture unlike anything previously encountered: a country within a country quite capable of entertaining itself eg: Threadless
  • Connectivity of the internet reveals that human labour can often be organised more efficiently in the context of community than in a corporation. The best person to do a job is the one who most wants to do it and the best people to evaluate them are their peers. Crowdsourcing analysis of images from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey is a great example.
  • Innocentive is often used as an example of an innovative win-win crowdsourcing project
  • It is the rise of the network that allows us to exploit a fact of human labor that long predates the internet: the ability to divvy up an overwhelming task – such as the SETI@HOME project – into small enough chunks that completing it becomes not only feasible, but fun.
  • Crowdsourcing uses the network to harness individual people’s “spare CPU cycles” – the time and energy left over after we’ve fulfilled our obligation to employers and family
  • When setup well, a Crowdsourcing project can be the perfect meritocracy where people are judged purely by their achievements, not by their parentage, wealth or academic qualifications
  • Amount of knowledge & talent dispersed amongst people has always outstripped the societies capacity to harness these invaluable qualities. Crowdsourcing can be a mechanism to match these latent talents/cognitive surplus to tasks where they can be used in a fulfilling manner

Rise of the Amateur

Open Source Code Movement


Rise of the Amateur

  • Once upon a time there were producers and consumers. Their roles were static and well defined. But now thanks to the internet and cheap, powerful and easy to use computing technology the line between them has become blurred.
  • Technology moves in a simple direction: cheaper, faster, smaller, easier. In the early 1990’s a professional digital camera cost $13000. Now it costs $500. This puts huge visual creative/publishing production power within the grasp of many people
  • “You never change the existing reality by fighting it. Instead, create a new model that makes the old one obsolete” – R. Buckminster Fuller

Rise and Fall of the Firm

  • Despite its unchallenged reign throughout the 20th century, the traditional corporate structure is an artifact of the industrial revolution. But this is changing and the average size of companies is falling due to forces like outsourcing and the decentralisation of decision-making.
  • Communities of people interested in an idea/topic are better at finding innovators, allocating tasks based on ability and evaluating results than corporations

What the Crowd Knows

  • Given the right conditions, a randomly selected diverse collection of people will outperform a collection of the best individual problem solvers who are more homogeneous in their thinking and experiences.
  • The usefulness of being in a large network with weak ties to many people is often underestimated: The majority of people find jobs through distant acquaintances, friends of friends who are quite different from them rather than their closest buddies whom they share many common personal and professional interests with.
  • Prediction markets like the Hollywood Exchange harnessing the power of collective intelligence can be surprisingly good at accurately predicting the outcome of events
  • What the Crowd Knows

    • The crowd will give away their time – their excess capacity – enthusiastically, but not for free. It has to be a meaningful exchange. A website/project’s profits have to come second, or they won’t come at all.
    • Don’t try and control community discussions, you cant issue directives to a community, you can only offer suggestions.

    Crowdsourcing Success Story is the perfect example of a successful croudsourcing project. Kiva uses the internet to crowdfund small loans from philanthropically minded people in the West to give entrepreneurs in developing countries a hand up rather than a handout. Kiva often faces a problem rare amongst charitable non-profits,: too many donors! its popularity means there are often more people who want to lend money than there are possible recipients for a loan.

    You Can Buy Crowdsourcing by Jeff Howe at


    6 responses to “Crowdsourcing by Jeff Howe (Book Review)”

    1. A good example of crowdsourcing is the use of thousands of personal computers for parallel processing of data for astronomical research.

    2. I will read this book first and then make my view on crowdsourcing.

    3. this book was fantastic and it really is the future. The whole idea of self entertaining, sustaining community is a huge advancement for mankind

      Neerav do you think this will be the downfall of marketing and reviews? no longer will we need to depend on what “non experts” (or people who are not really in the community) tell us about a product or service, rather the community will be providing it’s own useful reviews and coming up with their own products and providing their own services.

    4. […] If they had been brave and far sighted enough to let their quality content stay free within the publicly available Internet and allowed crowd sourced updates to their encyclopedia entries than they could have possibly become the defacto source of information Wikipedia is today. […]

    5. […] Not bad for half an hour feedback on a question.  New ways of researching, storing and sharing information being changed by the needs of many, or as Jeff Howe might say ‘Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future of Business’, next on my list of things to read. […]

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Related Articles