Jayadeva de Silva.M.Sc, MBIM, FIPM, FITD
What is crowdsourcing?
Crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an
employee or contractor, to a large group of people or community (a crowd),
through an open call.
For example, the public may be invited to develop a new technology, carry out
a design task (also known as community-based design and distributed
participatory design), refine or carry out the steps of an algorithm), or help
capture, systematize or analyze large amounts of data.
The crowdsourcing process in eight steps.
The term has become popular with businesses, 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 criticisms.
How the term was derived
The term "crowdsourcing" is a combination of "crowd" and "outsourcing,"
first coined by Jeff Howe in a June 2006 Wired magazine article "The Rise of
Crowdsourcing".Howe explained that because technological advances have
allowed for cheap consumer electronics, the gap between professionals and
amateurs has been diminished. Companies are then able to take advantage of
the talent of the public, and Howe states that "It’s not outsourcing; it’s
Problem solving using Crowdsourcing
Crowdsourcing is a distributed problem-solving and production model.
Problems are broadcast to an unknown group of solvers in the form of an
open call for solutions. Users—also known as the crowd—typically form into
online communities, such as humantalents International eLearning Group and
the crowd submits solutions. The crowd also sorts through the solutions,
finding the best ones. These best solutions are then owned by the entity that
broadcast the problem in the first place—the crowdsourcer—and the winning
individuals in the crowd are sometimes rewarded. In some cases, this labor is
well compensated, either monetarily, with prizes, or with recognition. In other
cases, the only rewards may be intellectual satisfaction.
Crowdsourcing may produce solutions from amateurs or volunteers working
in their spare time, or from experts or small businesses which were unknown to
the initiating organization. Jeff Howe has differentiated four types of
o Crowd wisdom
Perceived benefits of crowdsourcing include the following:
Problems can be explored at comparatively little cost, and often very quickly.
The organization can tap a wider range of talent than might be present in its
own organization. By listening to the crowd, organizations gain first-hand
insight on their customers' desires.
The community may feel a brand-building kinship with the crowdsourcing
organization, which is the result of an earned sense of ownership through
contribution and collaboration.
In his article, "Power of Crowdsourcing", Matt H. Evans contends that
"Crowdsourcing taps into the global world of ideas, helping companies work
through a rapid design process." This is usually available at relatively no cost, as
people are always willing to share their ideas on a global scale.
In the light of above HRDGateway which has over 50,000 members from all
over the world can play a more meaningful role in problem solving in the field
of Human resource Development.
Difference between crowdsourcing and outsourcing
The difference between crowdsourcing and ordinary outsourcing is that a task
or problem is outsourced to an undefined public rather than a specific other
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. Other differences between open source and crowdsourced production
relate to the motivations of individuals to participate.
Crowdsourcing also has the potential to be a problem-solving mechanism for
government and nonprofit use. Urban and transit planning are prime areas for
crowdsourcing. One project to test crowdsourcing was the public participation
process for transit planning in Salt Lake City .This project has been underway
from 2008 to 2009, and was funded by a U.S. Federal Transit Administration
grant. Another notable application of crowdsourcing to government problem
solving is the Peer to Patent Community Patent Review project for the U.S.
Patent and Trademark Office.
Web-based collaborative projects tend to be different from face-to-face
projects. On the web individuals tend to be more open because they are not
being physically judged or scrutinized. This ultimately allows for well-designed
artistic projects because individuals are less conscious, or maybe even less
aware, of scrutiny towards their work. In an online atmosphere there is more
attention being given to the project rather than communication with other
An important example of web-based crowdsourcing, mentioned also in Howe's
original book, is social bookmaking (also called collaborative tagging). In social
bookmarking systems, users assign tags to resources shared with other users,
which given rise to a type of information organization that emerges from this
crowdsourcing process. Other important examples are web-based idea
Recent research has shown that consensus around stable distributions and a
simple form of shared vocabularies does indeed emerge in such systems, even
in the absence of a central controlled vocabulary.
"Collaborapetition" is a neologism to describe a type of crowdsourcing used for
problems that require a collaborative or cooperative effort to be successful, but
use competition as a motivator for participation or performance. A good
example of collaboration is the 2009 experiment in crowdsourcing. DARPA
placed 10 balloon markers across the United States and challenged teams to
compete to be the first to report the location of all the balloons. Collaboration
of efforts was required to complete the challenge quickly and in addition to the
competitive motivation of the contest as a whole, the winning team (MIT, in
less than seven hours) established its own "collaborapetitive" environment to
generate participation in their team.
Another form of collaboration can be found in the term of crowdfunding,
inspired from crowdsourcing. Crowdfunding collaboration takes on a different
role, describes the collective cooperation, attention and trust by people who
network pooling their money together, usually via the Internet, in order to
support efforts initiated by other people or organizations. Crowdfunding
occurs for any variety of purposes, from disaster relief to citizen journalism to
artists seeking support from fans, to political campaigns.
• Author is the founder of Humantalents International eGroup which celebrates
its 10th anniversary this year
• Humantalents International is a part of HRDGateway which has a membership
of over 50,000 members worldwide
• Readers are invited to obtain free membership by just sending a blank e mail to
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