FLIRT Model of Crowdsourcing

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Graphic and model to understand the Crowdsourcing process.

Graphic at

Explanation of the model at [1]


Explanation by Sami Viitamaki at [2]

The model views the phenomenon from the perspective of a company considering intensive collaboration with customer collectives and aims to identify the different actors on the field as well as their roles in the collective creation process. Furthermore, it suggests a set of elements (the FLIRT ring) that have to be considered and established in order to achieve desired action in the community.


Creators (core)

This is the group of people that is the most enthusiastic about the collaborative offer, and they go to great lengths in pursuit of creating something unique. They submit original content and remix each others’ material to produce solutions that will earn them respect, status, acceptance, reputation, as well as material rewards. In other words, they are the competing furiously to conceive the winning solution.

Critics (inner ring)

Critics are the people that do not produce original solutions, but are highly involved in the conversation around them. They criticize, offer development suggestions to creators and act as evangelists by actively spreading the word about the stuff they like (or alternatively, stuff they hate) by e.g. blogging. They are often driven by a personal attachment to either the creators, the collaborative company or the field of work, in which they perceive themselves to possess valuable expertise. Like the creators, they seek rewards in increased reputation and status, but in addition also gains in audience and authority. They seek less direct material benefit from the collaborative relationship, but are instead enthusiastic about the conversation itself and often seek to convert non-believers to their view.

Crowds (outer ring)

The larger crowd is participating but not conversing as intensively as the critics. They tag, recommend, rate, vote, send e-mail links to friends and sometimes write an occasional review. The interaction is therefore quite shallow compared to the previous level. There is however a great wisdom to be gathered from all this grassroots activity: their input elicited carefully, the crowds through their actions help organizing the alternative solutions and understanding their worth. They thus offer comprehension to the community confirm the relevance and value of the best material produced in the inner core. ([3])



Facilities have to be in place for the participants to have a place for meeting and interaction. However it doesn’t always mean that the company has to build a social network service from scratch. There are a lot of networks already in place just waiting for a suitable partner to join forces with.


The customers are not stupid. They have to be treated with respect. Although this is already a well-worn principle, it continuously tends to be forgotten, most notably by large corporations with the most resources to pour into the issue, such as these examples show. Fake bloggers and ‘user-generated content’ crafted by ad agencies are bound for a beating. The customers’ worldviews and values need to be understood and appreciated. Also the community’s potential social objects have to be recognized and utilized, and the participants have to be conversed with accordingly.


The blood, sweat & tears from your customers don’t come for free. The incentives required by the different groups vary, and some are willing to work for less than others, but the issue has to be given extra careful thought in engaging the community in an exchange meaningful to all participants. It is often not money alone that inspires the customer creators, but also, depending on the context, things such as fame and access to otherwise inaccessible channels or resources might prove as powerful incentives.

Most of the time, you will have to genuinely challenge your customers in order to stimulate them. Nobody is prepared to waste their free time to trivial, routine tasks with little or no ’show-off’ value.


Don’t expect to a swarm of creativity by creating an open environment where everybody is free to do whatever might occur to them. Naturally, you have to think about e.g. manufacturing constraints already for practical reasons (Threadless has strict rules for number of colors, resolution, size of design, etc), but also arbitrary constraints can be challenging, inspiring and produce unique and noteworthy results. Apart from standards for submitted content, also the rules of interaction need to be established for a fruitful conversation.


The people obviously need to have access to the tools necessary to create and participate. These tools can be provided by the company (like Lego’s Digital Designer, a piece of software that let’s you design your own lego models) or it may be assumed that people already have them (digital cameras / cameraphones in the developed world). Sometimes the distinction is not so clear cut (who will provide the empty cans for the artists in the art of the can competition), and thus the question is always worth a thought." ([4])