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Crowdsourcing is a neologism for the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people, in the form of an open call. For example, the public may be invited to develop a new technology, carry out a design task, refine an algorithm or help capture, systematize or analyze large amounts of data (see also citizen science).

The term has become popular with business authors and journalists as shorthand for the trend of leveraging the mass collaboration enabled by Web 2.0 technologies to achieve business goals. However, both the term and its underlying business models have attracted controversy and criticism.

* 1 History
* 2 Overview
* 3 Recent examples of crowdsourcing
* 4 Controversy
* 5 Historical examples of crowdsourcing
* 6 See also
* 7 References
* 8 External links

[edit] History

The word was first coined by Jeff Howe in a June 2006 Wired magazine article[1]. Though the term is new there are examples of projects being run on similar models for some time. In the 19th century, for example, the Oxford English Dictionary was written from volunteer contributions of millions of slips of paper. Recently, the Internet has been used to publicize and manage crowdsourcing projects.

[edit] Overview

In some cases the labor is well-compensated. In other cases the only rewards may be kudos or intellectual satisfaction. Crowdsourcing may produce solutions from amateurs or volunteers working in their spare time, or from small businesses which were unknown to the initiating organization. [2]

Perceived benefits of crowdsourcing include:

* Problems can be explored at comparatively little cost.
* Payment is by results.
* The organization can tap a wider range of talent than might be present in its own organisation.

The difference between crowdsourcing and ordinary outsourcing is that a task or problem is outsourced to the public, rather than another body. The difference between crowdsourcing and open source is that open source production is a cooperative activity initiated and voluntarily undertaken by members of the public. In crowdsourcing the activity is initiated by a client, and the work may be undertaken on an individual, as well as a group, basis.[3]

[edit] Recent examples of crowdsourcing
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* InnoCentive, started in 2002, crowdsources research and development for biomedical and pharmaceutical companies, among other companies in other industries. InnoCentive, one of the largest commercial examples of crowdsourcing, provides connection and relationship management services between "Seekers" and "Solvers." Seekers are the companies conducting R&D, searching for solutions to critical challenges. Solvers are the 125,000 registered members of the InnoCentive crowd who volunteer their solutions to the Seekers. Anyone, anywhere, with interest and Internet access can become an InnoCentive Solver member. Solvers whose solutions are selected by the Seekers are compensated for their ideas by InnoCentive, which acts as broker of the process. InnoCentive recently partnered with the Rockefeller Foundation to target solutions from InnoCentive's Solver crowd for orphan diseases and other philanthropic social initiatives.[4]
* Innovation Exchange is an open innovation vendor which emphasizes community diversity; it sources solutions to business problems from both experts as well as novices. Companies sponsor challenges which are responded to by individuals, people working in ad-hoc teams, or by small and midsize businesses. In contrast to sites focused primarily on innovation in the physical sciences, Innovation Exchange fosters product, service, process, and business model innovation.
* Emporis, a provider of building data, has run the Emporis Community (a website where members can submit building information) since May 2000. Today, more than 1,000 members contribute building data throughout the world.
* Since 2004, has applied crowdsourcing to a variety of challenges related to organizing a political movement including phonebanking, field organizing via house parties, and the creation of ads against opponents.
* In 2005, launched the Amazon Mechanical Turk, a platform on which crowdsourcing tasks called "HITs" (Human Intelligence Tasks") can be created and publicized and people can execute the tasks and be paid for doing so. Dubbed "Artificial Artificial Intelligence", it was named after The Turk, an 18th century chess-playing "machine".
* Stardust@Home is an ongoing citizen science project, begun in 2006, utilizing internet volunteer "clickworkers" to find interstellar dust samples by inspecting 3D images from the Stardust spacecraft.
* In 2006, the American online DVD rental company Netflix announced that they were offering a $1,000,000 prize for anybody who could improve their existing DVD rating system by at least 10%. Contest participants can download vast amounts of anonymised data from Netflix to test their proposals. In addition to the big prize Netflix is offering annual progress prizes of $50,000. So far 17,000 attempts have been submitted; the best showing an improvement of 8.26% over Netflix’s current system.
* The Democratic National Committee launched FlipperTV in November 2007 and McCainpedia in May 2008 to crowdsource video gathered by Democratic trackers and research compiled by DNC staff in the hands of the public to do with as they choose — whether for a blog post, to create a YouTube video, etc. [5]
* Cambrian House applies a crowdsourcing model to identify and develop software and web-based businesses. Using a simple voting model, they attempt to find sticky software ideas that can be developed using a combination of internal and crowdsourced skills and effort.
* Threadless, an Internet-based clothing retailer that sells t-shirts which have been designed by and rated by members of the public.
* Galaxy Zoo, a citizen science project that lets members of the public classify a million galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.
* reCAPTCHA, used for deciphering ancient texts, by providing the ancient text (that can't be "read" properly by OCR software) to be read by end users of Captcha spam filter.
* The British trust MyFootballClub announced on 17 November, 2007, that it had reached an agreement in principle, pending a due diligence investigation and members vote, to purchase Ebbsfleet United F.C. of the Blue Square Premier. The group will let its members vote on the composition of the team, the starting lineup, player transfers, and other matters.[6]
* The Canadian gold mining group Goldcorp made 400 megabytes of geological survey data on its Red Lake, Ontario, property available to the public over the Internet. They offered a $575,000 prize to anyone who could analyse the data and suggest places where gold could be found. The company claims that the contest produced 110 targets, over 80% of which proved productive; yielding 8 million ounces of gold, worth more than $3 billion. The prize was won by a small consultancy in Perth, Western Australia, called Fractal Graphics.
* Barrick Gold has offered a $10 million prize for improvements to its silver extraction process.
* In June 2007, Chicago Public Radio launched, which generates its content from contributions by an online community.
* In January 2008, the State of Texas announced it would install 200 mobile cameras along the Texas-Mexico border, to enable anyone with an Internet connection to watch the border and report sightings of alleged illegal immigrants to border patrol agents.[7]
* Zeros 2 Heroes Media, a Canadian crowdsourcing site, allows unpublished comic book writers and their pitch to be selected for production. Crowdsourcing on the site also led to the relaunch of the ReBoot animated TV series in comic form. 16 projects from various writers have been successfully pitched and selected as of June 2008 based on user votes.
* Wikipedia is often cited as a successful example of crowdsourcing,[8] despite objections by co-founder Jimmy Wales to the term.[9]
* The search for aviator Steve Fossett, whose plane went missing in Nevada in 2007, in which up to 50,000 people examined high-resolution satellite imagery from DigitalGlobe that was made available via Amazon Mechanical Turk. The search was ultimately unsuccessful.[10][11]
* RYZ is a crowdsourcing footwear company launched in June 2008. The company allows any member to submit designs and critique and vote on other members designs. Top vote-getters are produced as actual shoes.[12]

[edit] Controversy

The ethical, social, and economic implications of crowdsourcing are subject to wide debate. For example, author and media critic Douglas Rushkoff, in an interview published in Wired News, expressed ambivalence about the term and its implications.[13] Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is also a vocal critic of the term.[14]

Some reports have focused on the negative effects of crowdsourcing on business owners, particularly in regard to how a crowdsourced project can sometimes end up costing a business more than a traditionally outsourced project. [15]

Some of the pitfalls of crowdsourcing include:

* Added costs post-completion of a project to bring a project to an acceptable conclusion.
* Increased likelihood that a crowdsourced project will suffer failure due to lack of monetary motivation, too few participants, lower quality of work, lack of personal interest in the project, global language barriers, or difficulty managing a large-scale crowdsourced project.
* Below-market wages[16], or no wages at all. Barter agreements are often associated with crowdsourcing.
* No written contracts, non-disclosure agreements, or employee agreements or agreeable terms with crowdsourced employees.
* Difficulties maintaining a working relationship with crowdsourced workers throughout the duration of a project.
* Susceptibility to faulty results caused by targeted, malicious work efforts.

[edit] Historical examples of crowdsourcing

* The Alkali Prize
* The Longitude Prize
* Fourneyron's Turbine
* Montyon Prizes
* Nicolas François Appert and food preservation
* Loebner Prize
* Millennium Prize Problems

[edit] See also

* Buzzwords
* Citizen science
* Clickworkers
* Collective intelligence
* Configuration system
* Crowdcasting
* Distributed Computing
* The Long Tail
* Mass Collaboration
* Mass Customization
* Social commerce
* Toolkits for User Innovation
* Tuangou
* Wikinomics
* Wisdom of Crowds

[edit] References

1. ^ David Whitford (2007-03-22). "Hired Guns on the Cheap". Fortune Small Business.
2. ^ Jeff Howe (June 2006). "The Rise of Crowdsourcing". Wired.
3. ^ Daren C. Brabham. (2008). "Crowdsourcing as a Model for Problem Solving: An Introduction and Cases", Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 14(1), pp. 75-90.
4. ^ "The Rockefeller-InnoCentive Partnership" (2007). The Rockefeller Foundation-InnoCentive partnership brings the benefits of InnoCentive model to those working on innovation challenges faced by poor or vulnerable people. The Rockefeller Foundation will pay access, posting and service fees on behalf of these new class of “seekers” to InnoCentive, as well as funding the awards to "problem solvers."
5. ^ DNC. "McCainPedia". DNC.
6. ^ Perry, Alex and Sinnott, John (2007-11-13). "Website agrees Ebbsfleet takeover". BBC Sport. Retrieved on 2007-11-13.
7. ^ "Texas Governor finds $3 million for border cameras" (2007).
8. ^ Libert, Barry; Jon Spector (2008). We are Smarter than Me. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Wharton School Publishing, 3. ISBN 978-0-13-24479-4.
9. ^ Lee, Ellen (2007-11-30). "As Wikipedia moves to S.F., founder discusses planned changes", San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved on 2008-02-19. "One of my rants is against the term "crowdsourcing," which I think is a vile, vile way of looking at that world. This idea that a good business model is to get the public to do your work for free - that's just crazy. It disrespects the people. It's like you're trying to trick them into doing work for free."
10. ^ Steve Friess, 50,000 Volunteers Join Distributed Search For Steve Fossett, Wired News, 2007-09-11
11. ^ Steve Friess, Online Fossett Searchers Ask, Was It Worth It?,, 2007-11-06
12. ^ Raine, George (2008-07-20). "More businesses considering 'wisdom of crowds'". San Francisco Chronicle. Hearst Communications. Retrieved on 2008-07-29.
13. ^ Cove, Sarah (2007-07-12). "What Does Crowdsourcing Really Mean?", Wired News, Assignment Zero. Retrieved on 2008-02-19.
14. ^ McNichol, Tom (2007-07-02). "The Wales Rules for Web 2.0", Business 2.0. Retrieved on 2008-02-19. "I find the term 'crowdsourcing' incredibly irritating," Wales says. "Any company that thinks it's going to build a site by outsourcing all the work to its users not only disrespects the users but completely misunderstands what it should be doing. Your job is to provide a structure for your users to collaborate, and that takes a lot of work."
15. ^ Mike McDonald (July 2007). "Lost in the Crowd: How Crowdsourcing can Backfire on a Business". RoboticBlue.
16. ^ Sherwood Stranieri (October 2006). "Beer Money: Mechanical Turk on Campus". Paylancers.

[edit] External links

* Crowdsourcing: tracking the rise of the amateur, Crowdsourcing blog by Jeff Howe, who coined the term "crowdsourcing" and wrote one of the first articles documenting the trend.
* Moving the Crowd at iStockphoto: The Composition of the Crowd and Motivations for Participation in a Crowdsourcing Application, by Daren C. Brabham, First Monday, presents data on crowdsourcing at, June 2, 2008.
* Crowdsourcing: consumers as creators, by Paul Boutin, Business Week, July 13, 2006.
* Innovation in the Age of Mass Collaboration, by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, Business Week, February 1, 2007.
* Randy Burge: Internet allows us to resource the crowd, Albuquerque Tribune, April 9, 2007.
* Assignment Zero First Take: Wiki Innovators Rethink Openness: Citizendium, by Michael Ho for Assignment Zero and Wired, May 3, 2007.
* InnoCentive: Crowdsourcing Diversity: What starts with the crowd ends in research and development, Randy Burge interviews Alph Bingham, cofounder of InnoCentive, for Assignment Zero and Wired (magazine), May 18, 2007.

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