The Mob Rules: Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is a term used to describe the process of appealing to a wider community or group for assistance in solving a problem or issue. It’s a means of tapping into the intellectual resources of the public without having to create a separate entity within any one organisation. The main advantage of crowdsourcing is the access to a wider or better selection of skills that the organisation may not possess. The practice is not unlike tendering except that the bidders are undefined and a reward is given to the contributor who comes up with the best solution . It has been gaining rather a lot of attention lately as Nick Clegg appealed to the British public for suggestions regarding the government’s budget cut decisions which on reflection wasn’t one of his wisest moves. The most popular choice was shown to be a reduction in overseas aid which the government was not prepared to do.

One of the most well known examples of crowdsourcing can be seen with the web site Wikipedia which allows members of the public to write and edit their own material and put it online. In fact Wikipedia was the first internet based crowd sourcing project and was inspired by the founder’s childhood. Wikipedia has gone on to become one of the most popular sites on the internet with a wealth of information from volunteers worldwide.

Prominent corporations have been using crowdsourcing techniques more and more over the past few years. These have been evident in high profile incidents such as the BP oil spillage in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The company requested advice from the wider community of experts and non experts to assist in remedying one of the worst environmental disasters in modern times.

We can also see crowdsourcing used in the world of smartphone technology, the Android platform is well known as an operating system whose applications are created by the public. Unlike the iTunes format, Android allows anyone with the requisite programming skills to add to their content on a regular basis.A great example of how this process can work wonders came about with the experience of ‘Goldcorp’, which is one of Canada’s biggest mining companies. The company could not locate any gold on its vast area of land so decided to consult the public for help. Volunteers sent in an array of suggestions and in the end someone found the gold which turned out to be worth over $3 billion.

Organisations such as Lego Cuusoo actively invite members of the public to submit ideas for new products. Consumers also get the chance to vote for their favourite ideas. The winning consumer will have their idea sold in Lego stores, retail and online as well as receiving 1% of the net sales of the product.

Kickstarter also encourages crowdsourcing as a means for individuals to raise cash for a project or idea they want to bring to life. Rather than ideas and suggestions coming from the wider community, the public make small donations or micro invest in order to help make it happen. Sites such as IndieGoGo can and have taken things a step further. This was the case with Jessica Healey from Florida, who after years of trying to get pregnant without success, managed to secure $8050 to pay for her IVF treatment. This clearly is an example of how amazing crowdsourcing can be. Further, a kickstarter project for “Wasteland 2” gained over $2 million in excess of the $900,000 funding required to get the project off the ground.

You can even participate in the crowdsourcing generation by just sitting in your car in a traffic queue. The app ‘Waze’ allows drivers to provide information on traffic jams to other users of the app providing an effective means of planning and time management.Of course crowd sourcing is not an entirely new phenomenon as we have all heard of the employee suggestion box in many organisations. Some employee suggestions will be used and others thrown in the bin depending on how feasible they are.Critics of crowdsourcing point towards the ethical issue whereby contributors are not generally compensated financially for their skills and creativity, or cases such as mTurk, renumerated very little for the tasks they perform. Others have questioned the reliability of the information which if left unmonitored can cause more harm than good.

The hard truth of the matter is, it’s a way of life which is here to stay!

This look at a decidedly digital phenomena was written by Legoland Holidays Hotels, who hope you submit your own ideas for awesome new Lego sets.