Since Jeff Howe, a contributing editor at Wired magazine ran the first definition of Crowdsourcing companies have been exploring new trends in innovation and ways to engage users to create and edit content, solicit ideas or solve problems. In fact, crowdsourcing can be applied to a wide range of activities and has taken on several other spin-offs such as crowdvoting, crowdplanning and crowdfunding.
The best known example of crowdsourcing is Wikipedia where the entire world has the opportunity to build new content and expand or correct existing data.
What exactly is Crowdsource?
Coined by Steve Jurvetson in 2006 on Flickr, Steve used the term to describe a collective effort in managing an online discussion forum. In the classic use of the term today, it’s an open call for group innovation and solutions.
Companies broadcast problems to a community and those users, commonly referred to as crowds, then present solutions which remain the property of the entity. In some cases, companies issue prizes, or mere recognition becomes a motivating factor. In many other cases, the only rewards may be praise for innovation or individual intellectual fulfillment.
The Benefits of Crowdsourcing
Crowdsourcing is by far one of the most rewarding trends in innovation since companies have the ability to gather a large number of solutions and information at little to no cost.
There are a number of incentives to embrace crowdsourcing;
- the ability to download a high demand for access to cheap labor and information
- generate and choose from the best results
- access a broader range of talent than may be present in an organization
- find solutions to problems too complex to solve internally
Crowdsourcing has become so popular that more and more companies strive to incorporate ideas in its traditional business models as a way to evolve into a collaborative economy. Here are some examples:
1. Amazon: Besides being one of the first companies to introduce group innovation using crowdsourcing via their "Mechanical Turk" platform, Amazon uses the valuable data it receives from its huge database of consumers to create original content collectively. Since 2012, Amazon has uploaded screenplays and TV series to for screening in a community, producing TV content based on the review of the original film. So far, the company has produced films like "Zombies vs. Gladiators" and the TV series Kids "Magic Monkey Billionaire." In April 2013, Amazon announced the launch of 14 new pilot TV episodes available to watch online.
2. Google: Google , one of the first companies to notice the potential of the data generated collectively, uses crowdsourcing in everything from optimizing your search results to translating material into other language. In fact, Google deployed elements of crowdsourcing in Google Maps.
3. Crowdspring was launched in 2008 and is one of the largest marketplaces in the world for crowdsourced creative services. Implemented to provide creative services to entrepreneurs, small business owners, and startups has quickly transformed into a powerhouse, with over 100,000 designers and writers assisting small companies, big brands and commercial agencies all over the world. Buyers needing a wide range of graphic and website designs create a post detailing what’s required, deadlines and maximum amounts they'll pay. Once the post goes live, crowds can begin to submit their work.
4. Microsoft: Unlike their more active and profiled competitors, Microsoft was late to the scene of crowdsourcing, however, the company launched its first crowdsourced service called ChipIn. The idea behind ChipIn was to find a way to fund computers for high school and college students. Users are asked to choose among 15 different Windows devices, that include laptops, tablets and some hybrids and then they invite the user to subscribe to Facebook and complete a profile with personal details.
5. Cisco: Like many companies, Cisco has implemented elements of crowdsourcing in the process of their research and development program in the form of I-Prize. I-Prize is an initiative that encourages employers worldwide to submit innovative ideas in technology and business for Cisco to finance its development. The I-Prize program is now 5+ years old and Germany, Russia and Mexico are among the winners. The latest Cisco I-Prize was awarded to a Russian foundation to promote entrepreneurship.
6. The Democratic National Committee saw the benefits of group innovation and used 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
7. Family Search Indexing is a volunteer project which aims to create searchable digital indexes for scanned images of historical documents. The documents are drawn primarily from a collection of 2.4 million microfilms made of historical documents from 110 countries and principalities. Volunteers install free software on their home computers, download images from the site, type the data they read from the image into the software, and submit their work back to the site. The data is eventually made publicly and freely available at familysearch.org (the world's largest nonprofit genealogical organization) for use in genealogical research. Over one billion historical records have been transcribed to date.
8. Netflix sponsored an open source competition for the best collaborative algorithm that predicts user ratings for films, based on previous ratings. The competition was held by the online DVD-rental service Netflix, and was completed in September 2009. The grand prize of $1,000,000 was reserved for the entry which best showed Netflix's own algorithm for predicting ratings. Netflix provided a training data set of over 100 million ratings that more than 480,000 users gave to nearly 18,000 movies, which is one of the largest real real-life data sets available for research.
9. The Chicago History Museum on October 14, 2013, announced a project asking the public to furnish ideas for a future exhibition and reducing the most-often-submitted ideas to one assignment through a series of public votes. According to the American Alliance of Museums, this is the first crowdsourcing project allowing the public to give an exhibition assignment to an American museum.
The Power of Collaboration
Crowdsourcing ceased to be an online trend and has become a model of production and opportunity. Sure, there are those that will exploit the means of collective knowledge, yet there is no denying the power to creative intelligence now lies within the use of the internet.