Everyone Is Illuminated

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It was difficult to avoid the concept of crowdsourcing in 2009. Books were written, contests were held, agencies were formed and ultimately, sides were taken. But for me the jury is still very much …

It was difficult to avoid the concept of crowdsourcing in 2009. Books were written, contests were held, agencies were formed and ultimately, sides were taken. But for me the jury is still very much out on crowdsourcing. No, not in the ‘is it a fad, or here to stay’ sense, I think the answer there is clear. Crowdsourcing has actually been around for a while and it is here to stay. Rather, I’m still conflicted regarding its effectiveness and more specifically, how is it being used (and misused) and what new forms will it take as more people experiment with the concept.

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  • 1. Everyone Is Illuminated
    a primer on crowdsourcing - the creative, business and social implications of a controversial technique
    By Rick Liebling
  • 2. Peer production is about more than sitting down and having a nice conversation... It's about harnessing a new mode of production to take innovation and wealth creation to new levels.
    – Eric Schmidt, Google CEO talks crowdsourcing
    in Don Tapscott’sWikinomics, 2007
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  • 3. Table of Contents
    Foreward 4
    Introduction [John Winsor] 5
    Crowdsourcing a Discussion on Crowdsourcing 9
    Crowdsourcing + Curation = Metacuration [Maria Popova] 21
    A Classic Lose-Lose-Lose Situation [Spike Jones] 24
    A More Civilized Approach to Crowdsourcing 25
    Let’s Grab a Beer Together [Brian Flatow] 28
    Crowdsourcing Enables Marketing’s New Era [Wil Merritt] 30
    Crowdsourcing: Lessons From The World Series of Poker 33
    Understanding Motivations [Sam Ford] 36
    Serendipity and The Year of The Crowd [Mel Exon] 39
    America’s Most Wanted Painting 42
    Crowdsource / Open-source 45
    Afterword 49
    Acknowledgements 50
    Resources 51
    Photo Credits 52
    Contact Information 53
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  • 4. Foreward
    It was difficult to avoid the concept of crowdsourcing in 2009. Books were written, contests were held, agencies were formed and ultimately, sides were taken. But for me the jury is still very much out on crowdsourcing. No, not in the ‘is it a fad, or here to stay’ sense, I think the answer there is clear. Crowdsourcing has actually been around for a while and it is here to stay. Rather, I’m still conflicted regarding its effectiveness and more specifically, how is it being used (and misused) and what new forms will it take as more people experiment with the concept.
    I wrote several posts on the subject in late-2009 that were well received, but I thought the subject warranted further rumination. In this eBook, my first attempt at the medium, I’ve collected my blog posts on the subject, many of which benefitted from the insight and first-hand knowledge of people I both admire and respect. It also includes many original essays from a list of marketing and creative pros who, were they to form one super-agency, would put us all out of business. I’m grateful to them for their input and generosity.
    I hope this document will not only provide a primer to the current state of crowdsourcing, but also be a springboard for further discussion. For me, success will be measured in both the quality and quantity of responses this work generates. Ultimately crowdsourcing will live and die on its own merits. If the end product is of high enough quality we’ll see its use become prevalent. But if it is abused or misused, many people betting on its success will be left out in the cold.
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  • 5. Introduction
    John Winsor is the CEO of Victors & Spoils. He started Victors & Spoils because he knows the world of advertising as well as he knows the world of crowdsourcing.
    The business of marketing is in the midst of a massive cultural shift. While buzzwords like crowdsourcing are all the rage, there’s actually a much bigger change going on in the way work gets done that is changing marketing. Our world is moving from one of scarcity to a world of abundance. In the world of scarcity, marketing used to be easy. You could have a one-way conversation with your customers through a limited number of media channels. Agencies helped brands connect with their consumers in this world of scarcity. They offered access to the scarce resource of creativity, and strategic thinking. But, marketing that’s built in the world of scarcity will be challenged to work in the world of abundance. There is a new model of marketing emerging. It no longer tries to control the brand but recognizes that a brand exists in the collective consciousness of culture. In this new model guidance and inspiration go much further than command and control.
    Since starting Victors & Spoils to try and understand and help brands thrive in the world of abundance, we’ve had the opportunity to work on a lot of projects ranging from brand platform development to design projects to television scripts.
    How do you use the mass collaborative tools available to build more momentum for your brand? How do you manage the unruly and talent-rich crowd, while maintaining the speed, flexibility and cost savings of the new
    digital ecosystem? Here’s what we’ve been learning about doing marketing in the world of abundance:
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  • 6. Focus on exploring and experimenting.
    Engage the crowd in different ways.
    Develop strategies that can inspire great work from a crowd of creatives.
    Focus on getting more people involved.
    Focus on ideas.
    Get more, pay less.
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  • 7. Crowdsourcing isn’t about gathering a flock…
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  • 8. … it’s about leveraging a group of uniquely talented individuals.
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  • 9. Crowdsourcing a Discussion on CrowdsourcingOriginally published on Eyecube, Novemeber 5, 2009
    Occasionally a topic comes up that inspires a longer post with commentary and viewpoints beyond my own. With so much talk recently about crowdsourcing it seemed like a good time to really tackle the issue. I’m positively thrilled to have input from some of the top minds in advertising and marketing communications contribute to this post. I want to thank Johnny Vulkan, Cliff Lewis, Evan Fry & Aaron Bateman who provided thoughtful commentary to this post as well as those who I have linked to for adding their insight to the discussion. I encourage you to print it out, bookmark, and of course share it with others.
    A BRIEF HISTORY OF CROWDSOURCING
    If it seems like you’ve been hearing a lot about crowdsourcing lately, it’s because you have.  Crowdsourcing is one of those buzz words, like synergy or viral that people are throwing around now to cover just about anything.  According to Wikipedia, the term was coined in a June 2006 Wired magazine article by Jeff Howe. My first experience with the concept came when I participated in The Beast, the Alternate Reality Game tied to the Steven Spielberg movie, A.I., back in 2001.
    As a member of the 6,000+ strong Cloudmakers group, I joined fans from across the world to solve puzzles and interact within this fantastic fictional world. We worked together to create a ‘collective detective’ that competed against the puzzle makers, not against each other, and it was brilliant. And now crowdsourcing is very much in vogue. Howe took the concept and ran with it, turning it into a book, as did James Surowiecki with his tome, The Wisdom of Crowds.
    more
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  • 10. THE CREATIVE INDUSTRY EMBRACES CROWDSOURCING
    Crowdsourcing is gaining steam within the advertising agency community at the same time as another issue becomes more pressing - the broken agency business model. Shops big and small, from a variety of industries (ad, PR, digital) are all looking to do things differently. Earlier this year Agency Nil took a bold stand with their “Will work for all it’s worth” manifesto. That was followed by the recent launch of Victors & Spoils, which somewhat boldly bills itself as The world’s first creative (ad) agency built on crowdsourcing principles.
    PSFK has more on Agency Nil here, and George Parker sounds off on Victors & Spoils via PSFK here. Other great takes include Amadeo Plaza of Crayon on V&S and Contagious takes a look at V&S here. BBH Labs on Agency Nil here and here. You can read my interview with Alex Bogusky of CP+B and Hank Leber, founder of Agency Nil, here regarding agency business models. The Proffesional Artists League is taking a pretty strong stand against Work-for-Hire which can be interpreted as crowdsourcing. Take a look at their POV here.
    In a recent AdAge poll, 61% of respondents said crowdsourcing is a threat to agencies.BRANDS JOIN IN ON THE ACTION
    I’m excited to see really smart people like the ones at AN and V&S make bold moves like this. Creative industries need this sort of thinking to keep them from stagnating. But here’s where it gets interesting. If you’re going to crowdsource, why does the client even need a middle man like V&S? Mountain Dew seems to have asked that question and come up with the answer: They don’t.
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  • 11. As part of their Dewmocracy campaign, the fizzy beverage is crowdsourcing their new TV ad. From the website:
    Mountain Dew asked their biggest fans to band together and create the next DEW, from the flavors to the TV ads. Now’s your chance to get involved.
    Create A DEW Spot
Direct, shoot and edit a 12-second DEW spot that shows off your skills.
    Upload it
Your 12-second video must be submitted here by 11.30.09
    Cross Your Fingers
Approved videos will be added to the gallery to be voted on by DEW fans. When voting closes, the six leading submissions will be revealed. In the end, three finalists will be selected to receive funding for a:15 TV DEW spot.
    Once again the indispensible PSFK has more here.From the PSFK piece: The brand insists this initiative will not impact its relationship with agency of record BBDO Worldwide, who has been involved with Dewmocracy from the start and will continue to play an important role in the process.
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  • 12. I don’t think this is a threat to BBDO, but is it a threat to V&S?
    Apparently this whole crowdsource thing is a big hit with the junk food crowd as Snickers is in on the action as well. [Disclosure, my agency, Taylor, does some work with Mars, but is not involved with this project]. Another crowdsource effort comes from Genesis Today, who will award $10,000 for a good Social Media idea.
    Here’s what Cliff Lewis, Executive Producer and Creative Resource Director at Agency Nil, had to say about crowdsourcing:“Crowdsourcing” is the new creative mantra, the “curator,” the new CD. The Agency Nil mantra is that the crowd will give you the answer at a fraction of the cost. That may well turn out to be the case – occasionally and for the right task. I don’t believe the crowd will always get it right but I do think the crowd has an important role when used correctly. It forces agencies into a new era of real collaboration and to re-evaluate their process and their value.
    INSIGHT FROM INDUSTRY LEADERS
    Established agencies have to come to terms with giving up some territory and realise that actually, the crowd is an extremely attractive resource. Shops like Agency Nil are well positioned with fluidity and access to quality talent. With clients attracted to their low overhead value proposition, they may find themselves affordable brand “curators”.
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  • 13. Agency Nil is looking to utilize crowdsourcing themselves with a call to action for an agency manifesto video.
    Evan Fry, CCO of Victors & Spoils, shared his thoughts as well:
    Question: How does crowdsourcing directly by brands affect established agencies, and how does it affect shops like V&S? 
    Evan Fry: A brand going straight to the crowd with a given marketing assignment is exciting for everyone. It’s exciting for established ad shops because it’s interesting and fascinating to see what the community is going to come up with. Ideally it’s not a threat to established shops because they realize that their strengths lie in strategy and holistic brand handling and product solutions, the whole thing.But if what the crowd is coming up with is satisfying for the brand and it’s costing less, then it could probably be stressful for established agencies if a given brand decides to crowdsource everything and pull an account. As far as V&S is concerned, brands going straight to the crowd fascinates us too. If they do it to a point where they feel 100% satisfied with their crowd’s output, they wouldn’t need us just like they wouldn’t need an established shop.Because we too have strengths in strategy and complete brand/company guidance. But for us right now it’s testament to just how compelling it is. The more brands that do it, the more we think crowdsourcing’s current pluses and minuses will be exposed. We believe we can minimize the minuses while plussing the pluses.
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  • 14. Eyecube: What role can a shop like V&S play in collaborating with consumers on behalf of brands?
    EF: We offer the role of feeling just like a regular ad agency for their relationship and points of contact. We feel like an ad agency. But we work with the crowd, guide the crowd, keep them on strategy and on brand for the client. And deliver to the client a shaped crowd solution. So we play the role of the familiar trusted agency partner for the brand. While using the power of the people and the magic that can bring to deliver the most relevant solutions where their customer base and culture at large feels ownership and love because they helped make it.Eyecube: Does crowdsourcing directly with the public work better for some aspects rather than others? For instance, are you more likely to get better copy or art from consumers?
    EF: I think it’s too early to tell. And as we adapt and evolve the early interpretations of how crowdsourcing currently works we can build in ways for anything to work really smoothly. Right now, the existing models seem to work best when you carve up tasks so that they are fairly straightforward. Those kinds of things can work pretty well. If it gets to multiple levels with a complex task, you have to have someone with the vision for the project and the brand wrangling it all and making sure each piece fits seamlessly.So right now, things like logos work pretty well. Or really pointed tasks such as name a car color or code a simple website can work great. Putting together an entire product launch or something like a pitch or helping a
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  • 15. company “get into social media” requires shaping and direction. But we’re figuring this all out as we go just like everybody else. We hope to help it all evolve and help the whole thing be better understood, better used and better leveraged.
    Johnny Vulkan of groundbreaking agency Anomaly is no stranger to unique business models. Here he shares his thoughts on crowdsourcing as an agency model:
    I think it’s an exciting experiment and the calibre of the people involved is great so I expect good things. As a company who launched with a desire to test new ways of working, creating and making a business from that I obviously instinctively commend any group of people who do the same.[Eyecube: Can crowdsourcing work as a business model?]…the very honest answer is I don’t know. I think crowdsourcing as a behavior is a wonderful by-product of what technology has enabled us to do. As a continuous feedback loop ‘the crowd’ provides insight, data, and a vocal audience for any company to be accountable to. It’s raising the bar on everything and that’s a good thing. Smart businesses and their brands are already harnessing that by conversing in an open way, modifying their take on customer service and feeding that back into the products and services they make. There have also been examples where crowdsourcing has been used to create communications back to the crowd – Doritos being the most written about. I don’t think it works for everything though and curation, editing and definitive personal opinion are vital. I
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  • 16. think the recent ‘elect the jury’ concept is a case in point. Jimmy Wales and Clay Shirkywere languishing in the lower leagues while the top few names on the list were Global Creative Directors of large networks the last time I checked. Is this the wisdom of crowds or a response to company all staff email that creates that effect? Things get gamed and in the process some bits of genius may get overlooked. The future of the communications industry may be a more interesting one if people like Jimmy and Clay got to voice their opinions in that forum but that will take an individual decision to elevate them if they are unwilling to use the front page of Wikipedia or the NYU database to help them.
    There have been experiments with co-written books, co-written films and co-written experiences that have sourced widely but they are yet to beat the creative vision of ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Shawshank Redemption’ or even ‘CSI’. We will see something soon I’m sure but it will be a rarity rather than a normality.
    I realize this isn’t the ‘crowd sourced’ agency model but I think it is a watch out. Volume doesn’t always equate to quality and you are frequently faced with the overwhelming paradox of choice. There are also legal mine fields to navigate. For example at Chiat if someone sent in an Absolut ad idea it was immediately returned as if a concept ran that was similar there was a chance of legal action. You can say that is not ‘open’ and short sighted – but while the communications industry has embraced open source the legal industry is still a little way further behind.
    It’s also hard to do with clients who require NDAs. We have several in place covering everything from new
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  • 17. beverages to new technology… we can’t even tell everyone in our own office, let alone take the conversation broader.
    But, it is going to be right for some people and for some occasions and if there are enough of them it is going to be a great business. We’ll use it, as will others, but it won’t become a default option. The future is not about absolutes. There are going to be many models, many paths and many businesses. There is no one size fits all but I do think the latest ventures are fascinating ones and they have the talent and will to succeed so I suspect they will.
    Andrew, the CEO of Agency Nil, sees things through the lens of his time at P&G:
    People seem to be wowed about what Mountain Dew are doing….but isn’t this process what marketers have always done?
    Consider this….P&G poll consumers in huge numbers, have focus groups, have fictitious products in baskets of goods, show different ads to would-be consumers, use data in multiple ways in an effort to get into the purchasing intent and likely demand of would-be consumers…and to create the best product, packaging, commercials, smells, flavors…you name it….they plug into consumers throughout the process….it starts at the concept stage and rolls all the way through from packaging to consumption….they have ALWAYS done this….
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  • 18. What is Mountain Dew doing that it hasn’t done before? There seem to be three key differences – 1) they are using more consumers than usual while calling it ‘crowdsourcing’ instead of marketing….2) they are making the process public….and 3) they are paying an agency to produce the creative for the crowdsourcingDewmocracy angle instead of the creative work for the new product itself….is there a difference?
    Aaron Bateman runs the Agency Future blog and works for Advance. He’s a student of agency business models and is an astute observer of the changes taking place in the industry. Here’s what he had to say regarding crowdsourcing and agency models:
    Eyecube: Should we judge V&S and Agency Nil based on their success, or should we simply applaud them for having the courage to try something new?
    Aaron Bateman: Both, I say. It takes guts to do what they’re doing. Not to mention complete conviction. But the litmus test is if they’re still around in a year, two years, etc. My personal feeling is that they are agencies for the here and now.
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  • 19. I have reservations about the longevity of the model, but if they get the business basics right they’ll probably be able to stick around.
    Ultimately the best agencies – the ones that endure societal and economic fluctuations – are those that can adapt to their environment (to paraphrase someone a lot smarter than me). The closing of Cliff Freeman perhaps demonstrates what happens to agencies that capture the zeitgeist but then maybe don’t evolve.
    Eyecube: What’s the one problem with crowdsourcing that people aren’t addressing?
    AB: I have a very personal opinion on this that is at odds with most of the people I’ve talked to about the subject. Essentially, I wonder where genuine visionaries fit in in a crowdsourced future. I think there’s a danger that an over-reliance on the crowd can be detrimental to the careers of genuinely truly creative souls. When faced with thirty creative solutions that riff around the same idea, how many ad buyers would be brave enough to pick the one that’s completely off the wall? I guess I’m saying there’s a risk of some kind of collective groupthink that marginalises the real talent.
    Eyecube: What do you think about Mtn Dew and Snickers going straight to consumers to crowdsource commercials, skipping agencies altogether?
    AB: A great way of generating one-off ads/campaigns that cut through and generate buzz. My question is what happens next. Do brands crowdsource strategic partners too? I wonder if there’s a danger of a brand losing a sense of direction in some kind of constant quest to be flavour of the month. Of course, the idea presents a
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  • 20. challenge to agencies already under pressure to justify their fees. If it helps sort the wheat from the chaff, then great.
    Here’s a great little piece over at Gizmodo which illustrates the benefits of a strong client-agency realtionship. Steve Jobs thought the name iMac was horrendous, and in fact had come up with his own idea for a name that apparently was so bad, the entire universe would have collapsed in on itself had it been used. But ultimately Jobs trusted TBWA/Chiat/Day and went with iMac. I just don’t think crowdsourcing is going to achieve that level of trust.
    For my money, crowdsourcing is an exciting development, but as noted above by some of the contributors, it’s not a magic bullet. I think it can be used to engage consumers effectively and if costs are an issue it can help there. But I think it will be very difficult to crowdsource brilliance. And of course the flip side of that is that brilliance may be run over by the ‘wisdom’ of crowds as genius is rarely seen as such by the majority when they are first exposed to it.
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    “Who would wish to be among the commonplace crowd of the little famous - who are each individually lost in a throng made up of themselves?” - John Keats
  • 21. Crowdsourcing + Curation = Meta-curationby Maria Popova
    Maria Popovais the editor of Brain Pickings (brainpickings.org), a curated inventory of eclectic interestingness, and a planner at TBWAChiatDay, Los Angeles. She writes for Wired U.K. and GOOD Magazine, and spends a shameful amount of time on Twitter.
    Information only continues to proliferate and overwhelm, and we keep struggling to find models of discovering the best and most relevant in the most efficient manner possible. Recently, we've seen two particularly potent but seemingly opposite such models emerge. With crowdsourcing, a large number of people contribute to construct a picture of information authority – from a Wikipedia article on a certain topic to Digg-style voting to determine the weight of a piece of content. With the curatory model, we turn to individual curators, or influencers, who become the trusted filters sifting the signal from the noise and delivering a subjectively distilled version of the information landscape – examples range from The New York Times to an authoritative blogger in a particular niche to someone with a large number of Twitter followers.
    But there's a third model that marries the two, preserving the strengths of each and mitigating its weaknesses. It's what I callmeta-curation. (In research, a meta-analysis is a survey of existing studies on a certain subject, wherein the researcher curates the studies to source for the overview.) It is an exercise in controlled serendipity, where each information consumer curates a list of curators whose opinions to trust and whose content to consume, but happily relinquishes control over the specific content items. This way, our information consumption becomes a semi-automated stream of curated interestingness coming from a variety of sources we have chosen ourselves, still constructing a diverse and eclectic big picture – from the Twitter stream of content from people you've carefully chosen to follow, to your RSS reader's slew of carefully selected
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  • 22. publishers. As content curators became the new cultural gate-keepers in 2009 and crowdsourcing was crowned the PR-encrusted method of choice for anything from designing corporate logos to generating product ideas, it would be interesting to see how these two phenomena evolve and intertwine as we embark upon a new decade − perhaps meta-curatorial networks, rather than individual content curators or the crowd, would be the filter for what we deem interesting and noteworthy, allowing authority and credibility to trickle down controlled degrees of separation.
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    “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.” – Yogi Berra
  • 23. AT&T’s early attempts at crowdsourcing were deemed a failure internally.
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  • 24. A Classic Lose-Lose-Lose Situation
    By Spike Jones
    Spike Jonespractices and preaches the Brains on Fire way. Brains on Fire? They’re the company that ignites powerful, sustainable, word of mouth movements. www.brainsonfire.com
    “A person is smart. People are stupid.” -- Agent K from the movie Men in Black
    Seriously. So you REALLY want to base your entire brand – your livelihood, your future, your bank account – on creative that is pinned to a two-sentence description of what you’re looking for? By a bunch of people that want to make a quick buck? That don’t know who you are and what you stand for? That have no clue to your hopes and dreams and what makes you tick? And these folks are really just competing against each other, aren’t they? Now do you really think that you are going to get anything of value?
     
    On the flipside, for the creative community, it’s further perpetuating the idea that working for FREE is okay, since you don’t get paid unless your design gets picked. Are you kidding me? Would a hotel let you stay in a room for free for a couple of nights and then you could pay them if you liked it? How about the grocery store? Fill your shopping cart and come back if you liked the food and pay us. Yeah, right. On top of that, as a creative person, you just gave away the only thing you possibly had a chance to actually charge money for. So you just wasted valuable time – time you could use, oh I don’t know, building your own brand or working on relationships with potential clients. This is bad all the way around. Bad for you. Bad for the creative industry. Bad for the client. And that’s what we call a lose/lose/lose kids.
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  • 25. A More CivilisedApproach to CrowdsourcingOriginally published on Eyecube, December 9, 2009
    Crowdsourcing seems to be a bit of a free-for-all, doesn’t it? A brand or agency puts out a call to action and the teeming hordes descend to fight over the prize. Nothing particularly distinguished about that enterprise, is there? Those issuing the challenge look a bit desperate and those answering the call, well they look a bit more desperate. Ah yes, but the ends justify the means, don’t they? Let’s take a look at two recent examples – Victors & Spoils and Pepperami:
    Victors & Spoils opened their doors back in the early fall, touting a new agency model (strapline: The world’s first creative (ad) agency built on crowdsourcing principles), and one of their first actions was to crowdsource themselves a new logo. They got themselves one (reactions here, here and here), courtesy of Andrea Bigiarini, a talented Italian graphic designer (Great analysis and interview here).
    Peperami recently ran a contest for new advertising creative. More than 1,000 entries were received via IdeaBounty and the winners were Kevin Baldwin and Rowland Davies, two ordinary Joes who between them have something in the neighborhood of 30+ years in the advertising business.
    So, for V&S and Peperami, this whole crowdsourcing thing is looking pretty good. Quality results for pennies on the dollar. And right now there is a glut of talent on the market so this is going to work well. But at some point down the road this is all going to go pear-shaped.  Consumers who wanted to genuinely participate are going to be frustrated as they can’t compete with the professionals like Bigiarini, Baldwin & Davies. Creatives are going to feel resentful as their training, skills and expertise is being grossly devalued.
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  • 26. A solution? How about forming something similar to an old fashioned Guild. What if brands and agencies, rather than shout into a megaphone for a ‘come one, come all’ cattle call, created a professional pool of talent that they had access to and who in turn had exclusive access to new opportunities? It would look something like this:
    A creative would pay a yearly fee to be part of the V&S creative Guild. For this fee (say, $5000) the creative would be on a shortlist of talent that would receive briefs from V&S. Now here’s where it gets interesting: When a member of the V&S Guild submits an response to the brief, they get some cash back. The amount to be determined based on number of total entries and some sort of quality criteria established by the CD and V&S. Proactive participation in the Guild is thus rewarded and potentially a creative could make his $5000 back. 
    Now V&S has a pool of qualified, talented and motivated creatives to choose from who don’t feel like they are being treated like a lowest common denominator commodity. Is this an ideal situation for creatives? No, but I think it beats the current alternative.
    Brands and agencies may still want to hold ‘open casting calls’ for consumers to participate, but that could be a separate sort of contest in which ‘professionals’ would be prohibited from participating.
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  • 27. P&G now incorporates into our innovation a much greater desire to collaborate with people outside Procter and Gamble…. We want to keep growing at the rate that we have historically been growing. When you get to be the size that we are, continuing to do that on an internal basis really makes no sense.
    – Mike Addison, Procter and Gamble, New Business Development
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  • 28. Let’s Grab A Beer Togetherby Brian Flatow
    Brian Flatow is President of The Ad Store. Go buy a beer company with him.
    The idea for buyabeercompany.com started with a tweet by Michael Migliozzi about a news item in the New York Post claiming that the Pabst Brewing Company was looking for a buyer at around $300,000,000.  Jokingly, I tweeted back that I was in if he was.  But, while it seemed funny and unattainable for the two of us to pool our resources to buy the Pabst Brewing Company, what if there were other people out there like us who also would want a piece of an iconic American beer brand? The company actually owns over 25 brands, including Lone Star, Schaefer, Colt 45, Old Milwaukee and more, but I think most people have reacted to the idea of owning a piece of Pabst.
    We thought this would be a great opportunity to experiment with crowdsourcing (or crowdfunding, as some people have called it) to harness the power of the crowd to try and buy the company.  We pooled the resources of our two ad agencies, The Ad Store and ForzaMigliozzi to create this, but we are not affiliated with the Pabst Brewing Company in any way and this was not done to pitch their business. As many people have pointed out to us, Pabst is very proud of the fact that they do no advertising for the Pabst Blue Ribbon brand.
    Here’s what we did.  We set up a very simple website with a counter to count down from $300,000,000. The premise was simple; pledge whatever you’d like towards the ownership of the Pabst Brewing Company and if we’re successful with our fundraising effort we’ll come back to ask you to make good on that pledge. If we’re successful in our bid for the company, you’ll get a certificate of ownership in the company and enough beer to  
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  • 29. match your pledge. A bottle for a $5.00 pledge, a six pack for $25 and so on. (I know it seems pricey for PBR, but hey, we’re in NY and LA.)
    We sent out a couple press releases to the ad trades (who didn’t really seem to care) and some mainstream press.  Bloggers picked up the story all over the world and we heard from and received pledges from as far away as Australia, Italy, Japan and The Netherlands. We set up a Facebook Fan Page and a Twitter account and Tweeted about the idea from our own personal and agency accounts.
     
    People didn't get behind this idea because a couple jerks in advertising tweeted about it all day. It grew because people had an affinity for the PBR brand.  This is a simple, no-risk way to express that affinity.  It doesn't take a big prize or a fancy website to engage people, it takes an idea that like-minded people can get behind and be a part of. I realize this isn't rocket science, but a lot of us forget this when we're working for our clients.
     
    As of today (February 10, 2010), we have received over $129,000,000 in pledges. But what’s more impressive than the dollar amount is that it has come from about 3,000,000 people at about $27 a pledge. It’s a lot of people out there with their $5, $15, $25 pledges that are driving this thing. The response has blown us away. Now that we’re closing in on a big chunk of the $300MM we’re exploring next steps to actually bring a bid to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which is handling the sale. Tell your friends and let’s grab a beer together.
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  • 30. Crowdsourcing Enables Marketing’s New Eraby Wil Merritt
    Wil Merritt is the CEO of Zooppa, the world’s leading source of user-generated marketing. You can find excellent examples of work for clients like Nike, Google, Microsoft & Nestle on the Zooppa website.
    Crowdsourcing great works has been a successful approach for literally thousands of years. The Acropolis, the dome of the Florence Cathedral in 1419, the Sydney Opera House and the soon to be constructed 1 World Trade Center in New York are all products of design competitions.
     
    Despite such monumental successes much of the current dialogue about crowdsourced advertising is focused on how it affects the traditional ad agency model. No doubt competitions can produce great work, other important aspects of crowdsourced advertising are the high levels of consumer brand engagement and the insights crowdsourcing brand communications generates.
     
    Today CMOs like to claim that the true owners of their brands are customers. If they truly believe this what could be better than to allow customers to create their own messaging about the brands they own and love, and to enable them to share enthusiastically these messages with their friends and family.
     
    Technological innovation allows consumers the opportunity to be involved in brand communication on every level. Content creation in video or print used to be a hugely expensive and highly technical process requiring professionals. Today’s teenagers can produce creative works that would have been technically impossible a few years ago, practically for free. Online social media provide word of mouth distribution of content by individuals
     
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  • 31. with a degree of credibility and targeting never achieved by traditional media, and it will continue to grow to become our primary channel of marketing communication.
    We really are on the threshold of a fabulous new era in marketing. Combining the classic process of the wisdom of the crowds with advances in technology and social media offers brands unprecedented opportunities for customer relationships.
     
    The PR profession has already experienced these changes. Remember just a few years ago when open blogs were seen as dangerous, subversive force that agencies initially fought against? Today blogs are a vital part of the marketing mix. User-generated advertising is the next step in the evolution of marketing.
     
    I believe ad agencies can play an even more important role in the future of marketing if they embrace these changes. Corporations will always need objective outside partners to determine brand strategies and marketing tactics. The sourcing of brand communication content will be increasingly by customers for customers with the authenticity and messaging the brand’s users know best. The agencies of the future will understand how to harness this positive, passionate brand mass-energy.
     
     
     
     
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  • 32. This is really the biggest paradigm shift in innovation since the Industrial Revolution.
    – MIT professor Eric von Hippel, specialist in innovation management
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  • 33. Crowdsourcing: Lesssons from the World Series of PokerOriginaly published on Eyecube, December 14, 2009
    I think it’s safe to say that crowdsourcing will continue to be a hot topic as we head into 2010. In fact, I think we’ll see brands and agencies continue to tweak this concept to come up with a variety of possibilities. Some will work, others will flop – that’s the way evolution works.
    I was thinking about the World Series of Poker recently and it occurred to me that there may be some learnings here for the professional creative. The WSOP started off far different from the massive event it is today. The first event was held in 1970 and ‘the field’ consisted of six professional poker players. That’s nothing more than a house game and not terribly dissimilar from an agency with a couple of creative teams all ‘playing’ for the winning idea. The field stayed under 100 for the first 12 years -  still a ‘closed’ competition that was really only for the professional.
    The number of entries for the Main Event steadily increased over the next 20 years, until everything changed in 2003. That year a non-pro, Chris Moneymaker, beat a field of 838 competitors, feeding the dreams of amateur card players everywhere. The result? The next year saw an incredible 2,576 entrants and that number kept growing, peaking in 2006 with 8,773 entrants.
    WSOP entries: 1971 – 2003 combined: 6,802
    WSOP entries: 2006: 8,773
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  • 34. What has this meant for the pro poker player? Strictly speaking it hasn’t been good. Moneymaker opened the floodgates for thousands of talented amateurs who, in their sheer volume and through both skill and the draw of the cards have managed to keep the established pros from winning the coveted Main Event bracelet and the massive cash payout for the winner (2009 winner Joe Cada pocketed $8.5 million). Of course the news isn’t all bad for the established poker pros. There have been two significant side benefits to the influx of amateurs:
    The overall pot has grown geometrically and placing ‘in the money’ can take care of you for a long time. You don’t have to win to go away happy (at least financially)
    Those pros who get knocked out early now have thousands of easy marks roaming Vegas looking for a side game, many with more money than skill.
    So, overall, the established pros may not be winning the Main Event bracelet as frequently, but they are potentially making more money.
    And right now the pros are still going to win (see: Peperami) but the ‘amateurs’ will catch up as they participate more, become savvier and have access to greater tools.  But here’s the main difference – I don’t see the potential ancillary opportunities and advantages for professional creatives that I see for pro poker players. It’s much more of a zero sum game. I don’t think crowdsourcing creative content is going to raise the value, and therefore fees, of creative work. Nor do I see how pro creatives can make supplementary dollars directly from the amateur creatives as the pro poker counterparts do.
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  • 35. At some point, probably next summer, you’ll see a crowdsourcing backlash as some unwitting brand will declare some plagiarized effort a ‘winner’ of some contest or perhaps a few too many crowdsourced programs will fail to inspire a decent response and marketers will sour. But there will be success stories as well and if there are enough of them then crowdsourcing, like Reality Television, will gain a foothold. Agencies that can figure out a viable business model that incorporates crowdsourcing may have first mover advantage, which makes shops like Agency Niland Victors & Spoils intriguing.
    Whoever knows he is deep, strives for clarity; whoever would like to appear deep to the crowd, strives for obscurity. For the crowd considers anything deep if only it cannot see to the bottom: the crowd is so timid and afraid of going into the water,” - Friedrich Nietzsche
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  • 36. Understanding MotivationsBy Sam Ford
    Sam Ford is the Director of Digital Strategy at Peppercom and is a research affiliate with MIT's Convergence Culture Consortium
    Over the years, I've overcome my initial reluctance to embrace buzzwords and realize that "hot" concepts provide the marketing industry with a lexicon for paradigm shifts and a new ethos. Today, with words such as "authenticity," "transparency," and "crowdsourcing" on the lips of many marketing professionals, I see this as an indication that our industry's priorities are shifting in helpful directions. That said, this enthusiasm brings with it great responsibility (channelling my best "Uncle Ben" of Spider-Man fame).
    For instance, crowdsourcing cannot be a replacement for creativity or thought. Take, for instance, television fandom. Soap opera fans are notorious for excoriating TPTB ("the powers that be"), who they as often call TIIC ("the idiots in charge"), because they do not listen to their fan base. On the other hand, those fans are the first to likewise admit they want to be surprised, challenged, and "wowed" by creators. Getting creators to listen to them does not mean they want to see their ideas simply regurgitated on screen. The reason they come to a brand, an entertainment property, or a thought leader is precisely because they want to see something they couldn't come up with themselves, even as they want it to be responsive to them.
    Likewise, a danger with crowdsourcing is a lack of thought and understanding about the motivations audiences have for collaborating on an issue and likewise about the labor audiences put forth when collaborating with one another and with a brand.
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  • 37. A variety of academics are increasingly doing research on these questions. For instance, a project that I am collaborating on--on the subject of "spreadable media"--examines the gift economy that governs collaboration within online communities and how that intersects (or doesn't) with the commercial culture that governs marketing. Marketers must be careful to be sensitive about what motivates audiences to create and collaborate.
    In short, tapping into, feeding, and collaborating with the collective intelligence of target audiences makes brands more responsive to the audiences they want to reach and our culture at large. A corporation that breathes cultural content in and releases culture out is of great benefit to our economy and our culture itself (a concept borrowed from Grant McCracken's Chief Culture Officer). But, to do that, companies have to respect the audiences they are "crowdsourcing" to/with and be sure to generate appropriate value back to the audience you are asking for creativity from.
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  • 38. No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else.
    – Bill Joy, Cofounder Sun Microsystems
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  • 39. Serendipity and the Year of the Crowd
    By Mel Exon
    Mel Exon is Managing Partner and co-founder at BBH Labs, BBH’s global innovation unit.
    Mankind likes surprises. Or certainly, we pay attention when we experience something new. Accordingly, the guts of most strong creative agencies - their cultural inner workings - tend to be orientated around attracting and encouraging talent with the ability to do just this: harness their imaginations on behalf of a product or service.  It's a kind of orchestrated serendipity. During renaissance periods like the one we're in now, there is no science to achieving surprise (although it appears it can be mathematically defined): the old rules simply don't apply. Instead we metaphorically blunder around the forest, semi-naked, trying to see the wood for the trees. To avoid going mad, we hack new pathways to see if they lead somewhere fruitful.
    In terms of new paths, 2009 was, for some, the Year of the Crowd. The year when the hype around crowdsourcing crossed over from niche projects like our own at BBH Labs to early, mainstream practice.  When, under pressure to cut costs and innovate at the same time, big advertisers chose the crowd over the expert agent. When the agents themselves spotted an opportunity.
    Once the accompanying consternation, debate and hype dies down, my personal opinion is that we'll be left with a legitimate and soon-to-be-well-beaten path to creativity.  Partially this is down to sheer scope. It strikes me there are infinite variations in how we source from the crowd, which itself suggests it's interesting. Most famously, and at opposite ends of the spectrum, we have Aaron Koblin's Ten Thousand Cents (where the crowd were a virtual assembly line, needing little skill and motivated by payment) and Netflix (where the crowd was
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  • 40. made up of skilled programmers competing for a cash prize, not to mention fame & achievement).  
    Somewhere in between sit brand projects like 42 Entertainment's I Love Bees for Halo 2 (fan-based crowd as collaborators, the definitive 'hive mind') or much more recently Undercurrent / JWT / Team Detroit's Fiesta Movement platform for Ford (creative advertising and promotional output 'handed over' to selected fans).
    Wherever your project sits on that skill-engagement spectrum, time and time again, crowd sourcing proves it can provide the serendipity we seek, plain and simple. It can also reduce cost, although I suspect if you enter into crowdsourcing with that as your sole goal, it may be all you achieve. All forms of crowdsourcing need careful curation and leadership, which takes time and money. The most effective and efficient have at their epicentre a decision maker, someone who shoulders responsibility for the project, is capable of managing a community to a positive outcome, who may well be an unashamedly opinionated expert. That role - often performed by a team - is crucial to ensuring the crowd's experience of taking part (often itself a primary purpose of the project) and the quality of the output itself are both optimized.
    My own experience, personal and professional (how we use our blog and Twitter at Labs - like many others, I am sure - is to some degree an exercise in curating broader opinion in order to refine our own), is that this is time-consuming, exhilarating, exhausting stuff. Anyone who thinks crowdsourcing is a cop-out, needs to give it a try. Truthfully, it's quicker just to do it yourself. And sometimes that is exactly what you should do.  Very complex tasks are often best left to a small group or person with a deep understanding of the challenge or opportunity. However, it's simply not the case that all tasks are like this. Some benefit from broader input at one point or another. 
     
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  • 41. Which brings me back to serendipity. The marketing industry palpably does not have all the answers right now. I do believe we need to keep our minds and ears open to solutions discovered along different paths. Crowd- sourcing is just one route. Mashing up thinking from different industries is another. Even if the ideas that emerge start out as failures, they nonetheless can help shape a project owner's thinking, ultimately leading somewhere more commercially and emotionally rewarding. 
    If you are still unsure, I leave you with the encouraging words of Umberto Eco:
    "I wanted to show how... false beliefs and discoveries totally without credibility could then lead to the discovery of something true (or at least something we consider true today). In the field of the sciences, this mechanism is known as serendipity."  Umberto Eco, in his preface to 'Serendipities'
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  • 42. AMERICA’S MOST WANTED PAINTING
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  • 43. America’s Most Wanted PaintingOriginally written for this eBook
    As I mentioned in the Introduction, crowdsourcing, as a concept, isn’t new. There are certainly plenty of examples before Social Media made it so easy. Back in early / mid-90s people were using the Internet 1.0 to experiment with harnessing the collective intellect of crowds. The following comes from the website of the Russian emigrant artist team Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid:
    The Most Wanted paintings, as well as the Least Wanted paintings, reflect the artists' interpretation of a professional market research survey about aesthetic preferences and taste in painting. Intending to discover what a true "people's art" would look like, the artists, with the support of the Nation Institute, hired Marttila & Kiley, Inc. to conduct the first poll. In 1994, they began the process which resulted in America's Most Wanted and America's Least Wanted paintings, which were exhibited in New York at the Alternative Museum under the title "People's Choice.”
    The result is the painting on the previous page. More on the survey results here. Paint by committee, not unlike paint by numbers, will produce a result, but the result is unlikely to be a masterpiece, and on some level that is one of the leading criticisms of crowdsourcing. When used to gain consensus, you often end up with a Frankenstein’s monster of features, or a whole that is less than the sum of its parts. Truly great art – or great creative – is usually the result of a lone figure, or perhaps a team of two (Steve Hayden & Lee Clow at Chiat-Day, Morrissey & Marr of The Smiths), whose successfull collaboration is the result of time spent working closely together. By its very nature, gathering strangers together simply will not produce something of the same quality.
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  • 44. Crowdsourcing of this nature can be effective – if your ultimate goal is merely to engage a large number of people. There are plenty of examples of this, and we’ve highlighted several of them throughout this book. But I fear that many brands are using crowdsourcing not as the means, but as the ends. If a brand wants to create two endings for their multi-million dollar Super Bowl ad and let fans pick it live via text during the game, that’s a pretty phenomenal use of crowdsourcing. But to solicit full ads from consumers and then run one of them as your ad? Dubious. It reminds me of the great quote from David Ogilvy regarding marketing executives and statistics (paraphrased here):
    “They use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post for support, rather than for illumination.“
    By all means use the wisdom of the crowd to inform your decisions, but not to control your decisions.
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  • 45. Crowdsource / Open sourceOriginally published on Eyecube, December 16, 2009
    As part of my continuing look at crowdsourcing as a creative strategy, I’d like to explore how brands could benefit by taking a slightly different perspective and focus on the deeper, longer terms benefits of open source in lieu of or in conjunction with crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing in some ways is a mere tactic. It’s something that a campaign is built around. This can work well as a one-off, but as a long-term, sustainable creative model I think brands will find it lacking. Open source on the other hand, sets the stage for ongoing, longer term engagement with a much broader audience. Open source gives us things like Tweetdeck, Facebook apps and the iTunes App store.
    Open source is an ongoing engagement with a community that has a passion for your brand. Part of the contract for this engagement is that you are giving people a certain amount of license. You are providing a platform, tools or other brand assets and in return these people are extending your brand, making it more useful to a larger audience.
    When it comes to matters such as these, I like to get other opinions, and no one is better at parsing the distinctions and exploring the nuances than Mike Arauz of Undercurrent. When I brought up the notion of open source and crowdsource, here’s what he had to say:
    “Crowdsourcing and Open Sourcing have an interesting relationship. I would hesitate, however, to put them at opposite ends of the same spectrum. The first thing that comes to mind is Linux. Arguably the first significant open source effort, which then became a success story in crowdsourcing the production of a competitive
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  • 46. operating system. In this case, open sourcing enabled crowdsourcing. Rather than two different tools or options, I see open sourcing and crowdsourcing as two complimentary techniques for producing creative and innovative solutions, ideas, products, services, software, etc.
    That said, I completely agree with you that brands would be well served by paying more attention to the opportunities that open sourcing offers. I think that it aligns with my general approach to branding for digital culture which I wrote about in this post. Brands need to empower and enable people to do things with the brand that the brand never imagined. And this is different than inviting the public to work on a specific goal or project. If you’ve got something that people care about, that people are passionate about, and feel invested in, then they can be trusted to create new branded experiences on your behalf that are suited to their own personal desires and needs.”
    A couple recent examples from the world of apparel jump out at me as great examples of crowdsourcing. Earlier this year, Champion gave fans of the brand an opportunity to create their own hoodies via the Hoodie Remix site. Champion gave people the opportunity to design their own styles and the winning design is now being sold online and in select retail outlets. You can see the evolution: First Nike let’s you create your own personal gear for you to buy for yourself with Nike iD, then Champion let’s you create for others. Now Keds has taken it one step further with Keds Collective, letting all sorts of would-be shoe designers create custom shoes for sale.
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  • 47. Great article by Christina Binkley in the Wall Street Journal touches on all three of these examples.
    In addition to savvy marketing, brands can also reap the benefits of this open source approach from an R&D perspective. Champion received 189,000 designs for their program. From that I’m sure they’ve learned what patterns and colors were hot, emerging or passing from the collective interest. They plan further Hoodie Remixes and will no doubt continue to glean more insights about the people who buy their products and care about their brand.
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  • 48. ...the world is becoming too fast, too complex and too networked for any company to have all the answers inside.
    – YochaiBenkler. Yale University from The Wealth of Networks
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  • 49. Afterword
    So, what conclusions can we reach, if any, regarding crowdsourcing? I think a few things are quite clear:
    Like it or not, crowdsourcing is a creative option that brands and agencies will need to understand and be ready, willing and able to leverage.
    Technologies, especially Social Media, allow for powerful crowdsourcing opportunities.
    There will still be a vital need for talented agency people who understand the brand and can harness the crowd, curate the results and add something extra to the process.
    There are multiple ways of using crowds, and multiple purposes for doing so.
    The barriers to entry for producing commercial-quality print and video is within the reach of most consumers.
    A global, highly competitive job market means that any crowd of “amateurs” is likely to be filled with experienced “pros.”
    My prediction for 2010 is that more than one brand will end up bitterly disappointed / embarrassed by a failed crowdsource attempt. This will be the result of a misuse of crowdsourcing, not a failure of crowdsourcing itself.
    I’ve learned a lot in writing these essays, and learned even more by reading the ones written by the great contributors to this eBook. I hope you found this a worthwhile read and would welcome any comments. Please feel free to email me at rickliebling@gmail.com. Thanks very much for your time and consideration.
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  • 50. Acknowledgements
    A special thank you to everyone who contributed / I stole from for the posts and original content contained in this eBook:
    Brian Flatow – The Ad Store
    Aaron Bateman - Agency Future blog
    Andrew, Hank Leber & Cliff Lewis - Agency Nil
    Johnnie Vulkan - Anomaly
    Mel Exon – BBH Labs
    Spike Jones – Brains on Fire
    Amadeo Plaza – Crayon
    Alex Bogusky – Crispin, Porter + Bogusky
    Sam Ford – Peppercom Digital
    Mike Arauz – Undercurrent
    John Winsor & Evan Fry – Victors & Spoils
    Wil Merritt – Zooppa
    Maria Popova– TBWA/Chiat/Day
    All quote page entries courtesy of Chaordix
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  • 51. Resources
    If you are interested in finding out more about crowdsourcing, I recommend the following:
    Books –
    The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki
    Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd is driving the Future of Business, Jeff Howe
    Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations, Clay Shirky
    We Are Smarter Than Me: How to Unleash the Power of Crowds in Your Business, Barry Libert
    Articles –
    Crowdsourcing, Wikipedia
    The Crowd is Wise (When it is Focused), Steve Lohr, New York Times, July 18, 2009
    Crowdsourcing, What It Means for Innovation, John Winsor, BusinessWeek, June 15, 2009
    Crowdsourcing: Now With a Real Business Model!, Jeff Howe, Wired, December 2, 2008
    Websites –
    Cambrian House - Launched in 2006, Cambrian House began as a crowdsourcing community to discover new businesses and technology ideas.
    NO!SPEC - Serves as a vehicle to unite those who support the notion that spec work devalues the potential of design and ultimately does a disservice to the client.
    IdeaBounty - Website that allows clients to ask the world for creative ideas in exchange for a reward.
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  • 52. Photo Credits
    Cover: Goldberg
    Page 11: Texas A&M’s Cushing Memorial Library and Archives
    Page 12: Joe Shlabotnik
    Page 28: Albany Tim
    Page 52: Whoohoo120
    Page 57: Hartford Courant Blog
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  • 53. Contact Information
    I hope you enjoyed this look at crowdsourcing. I’d love to hear your thoughts, whichever side of the fence you land on. Here’s where you can find me:
    Blog: Eyecube
    Twitter: @eyecube
    LinkedIn: Rick Liebling
    Facebook: Rick Liebling
    FourSquare: Eyecube
    FriendFeed: Rick Liebling
    YouTube: Eyecube A&Q
    I also write regularly for:
    Radian6
    ContentDecoded
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  • 54. “Every crowd has a silver lining.” – P. T. Barnum
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