2009 Obama Inaugural Crowd
2009 Obama Inaugural Crowd

Crowdsourcing /kraʊd ˈsɔrsɪŋ/ – the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people or community in the form of an open call.

The phrase was coined by Jeff Howe, a contributor for Wired magazine. Though not necessarily a money-saving venture, crowdsourcing enables the community (a target demographic of a particular entity) to participate in the creative process of a good, product, service, and even information. When the outcome is driven by the consumer, better products are made (and potentially, more revenue).

I love the idea behind crowdsourcing. It places the consumer in the driver’s seat and enables producers with more resources at their disposal to create products that are already what public actually demands. Perhaps one of the best examples of crowdsourcing is iStockPhoto.com.

iStockPhoto

iStockPhoto.com

At iStockPhoto, amateur or professional photographers may post their work and an asking price (or leave the photo for free). Photos are open for viewing by the public, and the public is able to vote on which photos they like best. Individual photographers gain credits by posting popular images which give them permission to review others’ work. In the end, the public decides which pictures are the best, and those photographers are able to make a living without ever having to meet face to face with the end user.

Can Anything be Crowdsourced?

Perhaps this is too much of a stretch, but similar models can be used to produce any desired outcome, be it financial (current economic crisis), political (what should the country’s position on certain issues be), or scientific, etc. The greatest benefit of this and other “open” projects is that no one is an expert, no one is stupid, everyone has a chance to participate. Those whose opinions are heeded typically have real talent and experience in the area of interest; the whole is benefitted much more.

Should Everything be Crowdsourced?

Yes.  crowdsourcing/open-sourcing allows for the maximum potential of any project to be achieved.  Crowdsourcers who become natural leaders transcend traditional bureaucratic hierarchies. This is especially important as the world becomes a more level playing field. Sure, we will need safeguards and those will evolve as the concept evolves. Nevertheless, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Perhaps the ultimate in “open sourced” is the ability of small, often grassroots efforts to shape and steer national and even global events (see also the 2008 Presidential campaign). This is the “American Dream” in its fullest (current) realization.  Perhaps you feel differently – feel free to comment.

-RS

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