Crowdsourcing: an innovative solution

Image by DesignContest

Image by DesignContest

Jeff Howe writes a very interesting article about the rise of crowdsourcing with the advent of the internet. From the very beginning, Howe contrasts crowdsourcing with outsourcing, to remove any confusion regarding the two terms. Although both terms refer to employment of an alternate source of people at reduced cost, crowdsourcing is the evolved form of outsourcing. Advances in transportation allowed for access to resources across the nations. Jobs that were once performed in America could be performed by workers in India or China, where wages are lesser and restriction to businesses fewer. Businesses flourished as profit margins increased as a result of outsourcing.

Crowdsourcing is the modern day evolution of outsourcing. Howe defines the term as the employment of a crowd to perform work that could instead be performed by employees. Moreover, businesses need not actively shift work designated for employees to the crowd. They can assign tasks directly to the crowd at lower costs, while presenting alternative forms of work for current employees, such as data management. Labor for the crowd may be performed collectively or individually. The crucial requirement for crowdsourcing is that businesses must delegate tasks via an open call format, such that a large network of laborers may perform tasks for companies in exchange for monetary compensation. Such a method of work performance is extremely effective and indicates that hobbyists may be as capable as traditional employees. In fact, Howe presents various examples of tasks completed by the crowd, which company employees could not achieve.

This notion of crowdsourcing has only come to existence as a result of the internet. The author notes that the internet has made it possible for businesses to hire laborers regardless of location, as long as they have access to the web. For years, companies sought cheap labor overseas. With advances in technology, laborers may be hired for work practically anywhere because jobs are increasingly reliant on the internet (i.e. software development, drug formulas, etc.). For example, research and development sectors of corporations (R &D) are increasingly relying on the external intelligence of the crowd to solve problems that have stumped corporate employees. InnoCentive is a pharmaceutical company that pays solvers $10,000 to $100,000 to find new solutions for drug development.

iStockphoto is another specialized company that relies on crowdsourcing to offer affordable images to the public. These photos are often taken by amateur hobbyists who demand far lower prices for their products than professional photographers. Other companies offer crowdsourcing for the masses. Amazon’s Mechanical Turk helps companies to search for individuals who can perform tasks computers are less effective at. These human intelligence tasks (HITs) offer small compensation for tasks requiring little time, such as transcribing podcasts or writing product descriptions.

The blogosphere represents an effective element of crowdsourcing. Bloggers are essentially the “crowd” companies often seek to complete tasks. For instance, a journalism company may be seeking writers for an editorial piece on a specific topic. After consulting a writer’s blog, the company might decide to hire the individual based on his/ her work on the blog. Thus, blogs often supplement a candidate’s resume, especially when that individual is considered for employment. In short, the rise of crowdsourcing is evident in today’s society, and bloggers stand at the forefront of this movement.

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13 comments

  1. Very well written! I think I have a problem with crowdsourcing cheapening jobs and setting a low standard of money making. We live in a time when the price of goods is continually rising. Eliminating jobs that actually pay enough to survive on is crucial to our lives and economy. Paying less over a wider area creates a whole class of people that make little money and are unable to afford the high prices goods. Just a thought I had.

  2. I love how you outline the benefits on crowdsourcing because it is so important to move away from outsourcing everything. Having a bunch of minds come together to try to solve one thing is a great way to collaborate and provide a really full solution.

  3. Great Response! This is the first time I am hearing about “crowdsourcing.” Of course I have heard of outsourcing and I think they definitely go hand in hand. I think crowdsourcing is a very smart move in the business world. Why pay someone for something when you can get someone else to do it for free? Then again the people who are getting paid may work harder on the project since they have incentive. Although there can be other incentives other than money and if a hobbyist is the one writing, then you can probably trust they are going to give full effort!

  4. I had never heard of crowd sourcing before reading this article either and I think I agree with Mike about my trepidation on crowdsourcing cheapening jobs. I can understand the appeal of it for those seeking the images/ect. to be sourced because it will require them to shell out less money. Though it gives the opportunity to other people who wouldn’t normally have the chance to have their work seen, but I don’t necessarily know how I feel about it.

  5. I’ve never heard of crowdsourcing but I think you’re absolutely right when you say that it’s the evolved form of outsourcing; this can be both a bad thing and a good thing. I like that you bring it back to blogging; blogs definitely do provide a form of crowdsourcing but I think it is important to differentiate between appropriate times/places to use crowdsourcing. I don’t think it should be used at the expense of others but it can definitely be helpful/useful. In blogging, everyone is coming together for a common interest and for the most part, no one is going to be exploited. But when we talk about companies getting services for free instead of providing people with jobs, that’s when it becomes problematic.

  6. This is a very well thought out response to the reading! Crowd sourcing I believe is convenient and allows a diverse group of people to work on something together. However, I’m not sure if the cheap labor it has created is a good thing. It might take away important jobs that people are looking for, especially in the US.

  7. Great job highlighting our relevancy at the end of your summary, as you concluded with the statement that bloggers are at the forefront of the movement. This was a very optimistic view of crowd sourcing and did well by establishing the capitalistic benefits that result because of it. Though they may be getting paid less, crowd sourcing provides access to people and their talents in a way that was never heard of or imagined a few decades ago, and that is something that is irrefutable.

  8. Nice thought out response on the given article. I believe that crowd sourcing is a great use of diversity by having a wide range of people work on any project. There are huge cost benefits because you can outsource this work to another country for a low wage or have people who are really interested in the subject to do it for free.

  9. I never really knew what crowdsourcing was before reading this article. Even then, I was a bit confused. Thanks to your analysis, I was able to get a better grip as to what constitutes as crowdsourcing. It amazes me that something like this is even a thing. I like how you showed the benefits of crowdsourcing as well. It was your last example about blogging that really helped me understand the full extent of crowdsourcing. Thanks for that!

  10. This was extremely informative because I never knew what crowd sourcing was until reading this. I really liked your response and your overall explanation.

  11. We could probably argue the pros and cons of crowd sourcing for hours on end, but ultimately I think it’s a good thing. There is a lot of evidence of things that have been created, or companies that have been founded thanks to crowd sourcing. I am always intrigued though by the fact that companies save so much money with crowd sourcing, because rather than have a full time employee always on staff to do things when they come up, companies can just outsource when they specifically need something. Great job!

  12. I think you explained the readings and crowdsourcing in a very clear and detailed way! You also provided great examples, well done!

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