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:
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
- Ornithology (the study of birds) was one of the first academic fields to be transformed by crowdsourcing via the eBirds bird sightings project which brought the data gathered by recreational & professional bird watchers together
- These days “Dilettante” is a derogatory/pejorative word meaning “Superficial or amateurish”, however in the 1600’s a Dilettante was a respected person who engaged in learning/enlightened dabbling in many fields purely as an amateur out of interest
Open Source Code Movement
- The open source software movement is a classic example of crowdsourcing.
- A conference presentation in the late 1990’s The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric S Raymond was highly influential in kickstarting the Open Source software movement
- From November 2000 to September 2001, NASA ran an experiment called Clickworkers which proved showed that public volunteers, many working for a few minutes here and there and others choosing to work longer, can do some routine science analysis that would normally be done by a scientist or graduate student working for months or years on end.
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
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
Kiva.org 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.