Crowdsourcing - Discussion

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This page is in addtion to the main page on Crowdsourcing

Discussion 0

Summary of Findings Regarding Crowdsourcing

Katarina Stanoevska-Slabeva:

"Crowdsourcing is becoming an established process with established value chains, platforms and procedures (Gassmann et. al. 2010). In the participatory society in which we live today, crowdsourcing has the potential to become the usual way of communicating with customers and users. In its basic form, crowdsourcing is initiated by companies. It requires a well defined task or activity that is outsourced to the crowd. Crowdsourcing is enabled by platforms on which the contributions by the crowd can be collected, classified and evaluated. The crowd provides ideas and evaluates them and can also creatively participate in the implementation of the ideas. The main steps in a crowdsourcing process are to define the problem and structure it, to publish the problem and acquire the crowd, to collect contributions, to quality check, classify and evaluate the contribution, to select the winners and to remunerate the contributors. The critical success factors for crowdsourcing as it is currently applied are the following: careful selection and clear definition of the task that needs to be crowdsourced, acquiring the right crowd, defining a motivational and remuneration strategy for users and an open innovation culture in the company (see also Howe 2006 and Gassmann et. al. 2010)." (

Discussion 1

What are the major limitations of crowdsourcing?

Katarina Stanoevska-Slabeva:

"What are the major limitations of crowdsourcing as it is defined right now? First of all, the biggest limitation comes from the way how crowdsourcing happens today. It is applied to already well identified and defined innovation problems and requirements from within the companies. This means that the specific problems that is crowdsourced stems from the company and is shaped from the internal cognizance of the company. Many examples show that crowdsourcing for pre-defined problems can provide very interesting and innovative results, which companies might not have developed on their own without the contributions from the crowd (see for example Dubach et. al. 2011 or Bjelland and Wood 2008). However, because these solutions are oriented already to a pre-defined problem, crowdsourcing will hardly result into disruptive, i.e. ground breaking and radical innovation ideas that go beyond the existing imagination of the companies. It will remain within the cognitive limits of the internal cognizance and innovation processes. Given this, the question is how can companies overcome this limitation? Is bottom-up crowdsourcing, without a precisely defined problem or task possible? Furthermore, will the companies remain the only initiators of crowdsourcing in the future?" (

A Critique of the Crowdsourcing meme

Hugh McGuire how it differs from community production:

"Apart from the unfortunate outsourcing connotation, crowdsouring completely misses this point (which is something I have thought a lot about at LibriVox):

that what goes *in* is more important than what comes *out*.

crowdsourcing sounds like it is about extracting resources from a crowd (like a strip mine, exploiting resources)… when in fact the real power (and beauty) is in creating a community that wants to contribute *into* something.

I think you will find common elements that crowdsourcing doesn’t catch:

  1. people want to contribute to the public sphere (with idealist motivations)
  2. participating in the project becomes a highly social, almost family-like activity

in short, the opposite of crowd, and the opposite of sourcing" (

Citation from Jeff Howe

Jeff Howe: "Just as distributed computing projects like UC Berkeley’s SETI@home have tapped the unused processing power of millions of individual computers, so distributed labor networks are using the Internet to exploit the spare processing power of millions of human brains.

For the last decade or so, companies have been looking overseas, to India or China, for cheap labor. But now it doesn’t matter where the laborers are – they might be down the block, they might be in Indonesia – as long as they are connected to the network.

Technological advances in everything from product design software to digital video cameras are breaking down the cost barriers that once separated amateurs from professionals. Hobbyists, part-timers, and dabblers suddenly have a market for their efforts, as smart companies in industries as disparate as pharmaceuticals and television discover ways to tap the latent talent of the crowd. The labor isn’t always free, but it costs a lot less than paying traditional employees. It’s not outsourcing; it’s crowdsourcing."

Read the article at

How to pay for crowdsourcing

Andy Oram asks:

How can you set up crowdsourcing where most people work for free but some are paid, and present it to participants in a way that makes it seem fair?

"This situation arises all the time, with paid participants such as application developers and community managers, but there's a lot of scary literature about "crowding out" and other dangers. One basic challenge is choosing what work to reward monetarily. I can think of several dividing lines, each with potential problems:

  • Pay for professional skills and ask for amateur contributions on a volunteer basis.

The problem with that approach is that so-called amateurs are invading the turf of professionals all the time, and their deft ability to do so has been proven over and over at crowdsourcing sites such as InnoCentive for inventors and SpringLeap or 99 Designs for designers. Still, most people can understand the need to pay credentialed professionals such as lawyers and accountants.

  • Pay for extraordinary skill and accept more modest contributions on a volunteer basis.

This principle usually reduces to the previous one, because there's no bright line dividing the extraordinary from the ordinary. Companies adopting this strategy could be embarrassed when a volunteer turns in work whose quality matches the professional hires, and MySQL AB in particular was known for hiring such volunteers. But if it turns out that a large number of volunteers have professional skills, the whole principle comes into doubt.

  • Pay for tasks that aren't fun.

The problem is that it's amazing what some people consider fun. On the other hand, at any particular moment when you need some input, you might be unable to find people who find it fun enough to do it for you. This principle still holds some water; for instance, I heard Linus Torvalds say that proprietary software was a reasonable solution for programming tasks that nobody would want to do for personal satisfaction.

  • Pay for critical tasks that need attention on an ongoing basis.

This can justify paying people to monitor sites for spam and obscenity, keep computer servers from going down, etc. The problem with this is that no human being can be on call constantly. If you're going to divide a task among multiple people, you'll find that a healthy community tends to be more vigilant and responsive than designated individuals." (

Discussion 2: Some Necessary Differentiations

How Crowdsourcing differs from Collaboration

See the video: Gabriella Coleman and Karim Lakhani on How People Work Together Online [1]

How Citizen Science Differs from Crowdsourcing

"the distinction made between crowdsourcing and citizen science, by Yale-based astrophysicist and Galaxy Zoo founder Kevin Schawinski:

“We prefer to call this [Galaxy Zoo] citizen science because it’s a better description of what you’re doing; you’re a regular citizen but you’re doing science. Crowd sourcing sounds a bit like, well, you’re just a member of the crowd and you’re not; you’re our collaborator. You’re pro-actively involved in the process of science by participating.”

On comparisons between Galaxy Zoo and seti@home, stardust@home, etc., etc., etc.:

“Galaxy Zoo volunteers do real work. They’re not just passively running something on their computer and hoping that they’ll be the first person to find aliens. They have a stake in science that comes out of it, which means that they are now interested in what we do with it, and what we find.” (

How Crowdsourcing differs from Peer Production

Peer production is defined by:

- voluntary engagement

- a participatory process

- universal access property regimes

- there is no direct link between input and output (non-reciprocal character of peer production)

Most corporate-driven crowdsourcing will only apply the very first principle, i.e. voluntary engagement; they will aim to drive the production process; and the results will be proprietary. Finally, they will introduce payment or Revenue Sharing schemes. In terms of the hierarchy of engagement, crowdsourcing is more akin to swarming than to the collective intelligence of an intentional community.

How Crowdsourcing differs from Community

Cam Balzer, the Threadless VP of Marketing:

"Crowdsourcing is antithetical to what we're doing. That's because crowdsourcing involves random sets of people who suddenly have a say in how the business works, but that's not how Threadless operates. We've got a close-knit group of loyal customers and have worked hard to build that. The people who submit ideas to us, vote and buy our products aren't random people, and they aren't producing random work. We work closely with our consumers and give them a place on our site, the Threadless forum, where they can exchange ideas with one another--ideas that go beyond designing T-shirts. We have consumers who have voted on 150,000 designs, which means they've spent hours interacting on our site. People who do that aren't jumping into a random crowd. They're part of the community we've cultivated." (

How Crowdsourcing differs from Open Source

Chris Grams:

"1. Typical projects run the open source way have many contributors and many beneficiaries.

2. Typical projects run the crowdsourcing way have many contributors and few beneficiaries"

More detail and graph at

More Information

See the main entry on Crowdsourcing