What Exactly Is Crowdsourcing?

From Buzzword to Byword

There’s a new taxonomy of Crowdsourcing just been published here. Any way of helping crowdsourcing to become more than a buzzword has got to be welcomed. This taxonomy is a great step in that direction. However the practice of grouping a diverse group of web-based activities into neat boxes is not so easy.

For crowdsourcing to work, crowds themselves have to understand what it’s for. As a form of collaborative endeavour crowdsourcing can be seen as an extension of the brave new we-world of Youtube, Wikipedia and Twitter. Youtube is for fun, Wikpedia is for knowledge and Twitter is for showing off. Crowdsourcing is for constructive collaboration of all types.
Maybe the only really meaningful description of a tool is what it’s for. We know what saws and hammers are for. They’re for sawing and hammering stuff. So what is crowdsourcing for? What are we sourcing?

Crowds produce five sorts of things when enabled by a platform:

1. Innovation (from ideas to new suppliers)
2. Work (paid or voluntary)
3. Money (for start-ups, projects and charity)
4. Entertainment (consumer content sites)
5. Knowledge (Encompasses all the crowd wisdom you can find by simply typing in ‘how can I…’ into a browser)

Can Crowdsourcing ever be more than a buzzword? I have been in new business meetings where potential clients have rolled up their eyes at the mere mention of crowdsourcing as if we were trying to sell snake-oil. We weren’t. I feel that adding more buzzwords such as macrotasking, microtasking and crowdfunding just makes things more obscure for the outside world, our clients and crowd members. We need a taxonomy that is useful from the crowd’s point of view. In defining a new industry, we need to be mindful of our key audiences of clients and crowd members if we don’t want to end up talking to ourselves.


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