Wednesday, February 9, 2011

To the People of the World: A Crowdsourcing Blog

I'm going to crowdsource this blog. Please write an article pertaining to crowdsourcing. Go, go, go! Now, to wait for my blog to explode with content.

Clipart Illustration of an Obsessed Computer Gamer With Spinning Eyeballs, Using A Computer

I can't help but notice my blog isn't completed yet! Well, maybe this actually isn't quite how crowdsourcing works. But what is crowdsourcing, then?

Crowdsourcing, a term first developed by Jeff Howe, is a term that refers to outsourcing some sort of project to a large, anonymous group of people. For example, an example of crowdsourcing would be a blog requesting that computer programmers of the internet band together to create a free virus protection software for the good of everybody who uses the internet. In an ideal case of crowdsourcing, people from all across the web would then band together and develop this software for others to use and benefit from.

The advantages of crowdsourcing are fairly plentiful. Nobody has to be paid, often times only people passionate about a given task will assist with it (resulting in high quality output), and if the crowdsourced task goes viral, the number of people willing to help will be endless. However, what are some of the negative consequences of crowdsourcing?

One issue with crowdsourcing is that, more or less, the majority rules. Marshall Poe's article on Wikipedia, "The Hive" (, mentions how his article about himself on Wikipedia had been flagged for deletion because it was not important enough. A moderator flagged it as "being considered for deletion", where I'm assuming other moderators looked at it and gave their input, and eventually deleted it. Of course after checking, I realized it was not (or at least is no longer) deleted, and in fact his Wiki page has more information on it, such as information about his article.

But what if all information was simply voted on to decide whether it was worthwhile or not? When Einstein developed his Theory of Relativity, there was a paper released called "100 Scientists Against Einstein", denouncing his theory. If Einstein's work was part of crowdsourcing, he would have been silenced and his work would have gone unnoticed. When hearing about this paper against his theory, Einstein cleverly responded, "Why 100 authors? If I were wrong, then one would have been enough!" This statement is directly correlated to the problem with crowdsourcing: just because the majority of the crowd support a given idea, for example, does not mean that idea is correct.

Dan Woods also hit on this topic in his article, "The Myth of Crowdsourcing" ( As he put it, "crowds don't innovate, people do." Again, this refers to mob mentality not being the best place to foster and grow new ideas. However, Woods does not argue the success of some crowdsourced projects, such as coding projects. Rather, he argues (quite persuasively) that it really wasn't crowdsourcing at all! In many cases, what appears to be a crowd is really one or two driven individuals, with possible minor input from outliers.

Crowdsourcing is growing along with the internet and it is nigh impossible to throw any blanket statements over the theory behind it and its results to date. However, it is clear that this method of work definitely has not only advantages, but disadvantages as well. I'm looking forward to see the development of future crowdsourcing projects and see just how far crowdsourcing can take us.

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