Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Rent a mob!

Heard of Crowdsourcing? No… then read on, it might just provide you with the solutions you’re looking for.

‘Crowdsourcing - the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call’
Jeff Howe, June 2006, Wired Magazine.

Crowdsourcing refers to the process of a company outsourcing a problem or question to a varied online community or a more targeted group of individuals or experts, in the form of an ‘open call’.

Originally pioneered by the computing sector, the problem solving capabilities of Crowdsourcing are now much more diverse. Tasks range from new product development, software and design solutions to data capture, opinion creation and analysis.

Jeff Howe outlined four distinct groups:

1. The Professionals
Who provide websites that contain resource and assets for use by specific sectors. An example is istockphoto.

2. The Packagers
Who take existing content and re-package in a different formats for new markets or with the aim of bringing it to a wider audience.

3. The Tinkerers
Who help change the face of corporate R&D by solving problems in their spare time that have stumped the best people companies have in house.

4. The Masses
Who are a large group of individuals willing to perform simple and sometimes repetitive tasks for a small fee.

One such company, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, ‘gives businesses and developers access to an on-demand, scalable workforce’, who are asked to complete HIT’s – Human Intelligence Tasks. We ‘help companies find people to perform tasks computers are generally lousy at.’

The advantage of outsourcing these tasks is two fold. Firstly the huge number of people and opinions reached and secondly, the ability of these willing participants to complete the tasks in a short timeframe. This often greatly reduces the cost in comparison to the tasks being completed in-house.

So how does the future look for Crowdsourcing? Public opinion is essential and companies, corporations and the government, ignore it at their peril! Chancellor George Osborne is now reaching out to ‘every man in the street’ asking them to submit, via an online portal, their ideas to reduce the huge budget deficit.

But should we trust ‘the wisdom of crowds?’

Tom de Castella discusses whether a ‘problem shared is a problem halved’ in his BBC article http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8788780.stm What happens if you share your problem with millions of people? Do you get the gem solution you are seeking or ‘just lots of rubbish suggestions.’

Tell us what you think.

Related links:
The Rise of Crowdsourcing. Jeff Howe, June 2006, Wired Magazine.

Amazon Mechanical Turk.

HM Treasury Budget representation

Top 10 Crowdsourcing companies.

Posted by Anna Ecuyer

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