Friday, July 25, 2014

crowdsourcingCrowdsourcing has become a buzzword online, and every week dozens of new crowdsourcing website see the light. So what is crowdsourcing and what are some of its more typical uses?

  • Crowdsourcing is the practice of acquiring services, ideas or funding from the public at large. You list your requirements on a crowdsourcing website, and wait for people to contribute. Another way to think about it is the old practice of outsourcing services, but instead of outsourcing to a business, you outsource to the whole world population. Unlike usual outsourcing, the result of crowdsourcing is usually shared with the public from whom the individual parts were obtained.

  • You can advertise a problem or question and ask the general population to come up with solutions or answers. Yahoo Answers is probably the best known example. InnoCentive publishes research and development problems on behalf of corporates and reward those members of the population who manage to come up with solutions. It can also border on the silly, such as a Canadian couple that recently crowdsourced a name for their new baby girl. They rejected the crowd's number one choice, Cthulhu.

  • You can publish a project and ask people to contribute ideas or practical skills. Wikipedia embodies this approach, and so do many open source software projects.

  • All of us could use crowdvoting services as a guide to our own behaviour. For example, if you want to know whether to travel to a city, you visit TripAdviser, or if you want to know whether to download a mobile app, you consider the ratings on the iStore or on Google Play. 

  • Crowdfunding allows some fundraisers to make millions of dollars by asking for small contributions from each visitor. Kickstarter, for example, collects money for creative projects. Crowdfunding was propelled into public awareness in 2012 when internet users around the world donated small amounts of money on the Indiegogo site to send an American bus monitor on holiday after she had been abused by some school boys.

  • Implicit crowdsourcing is where a population does not know it is contributing, but its contributions are used anyway. Captcha, for example, is an anti-spam check whereby websites require visitors to type the characters in an image to prove that they are human. Their inputs are then collected and used by, for example Google Books, to decipher the parts of old books that computers find difficult to convert to text. Some GPS providers also collect our driving times between locations to provide more accurate data to their other users.

Next time you have a problem, or question, try it.