Crowdsourcing: a volunteer collective mind.

Crowdsourcing (from the English crowd  - "crowd" and  sourcing  - "use of resources") is the process of achieving common goods by attracting a group of people on a voluntary basis. How crowdsourcing works on the Internet and how it can be useful, we will tell you in this article.

Crowdsourcing is not outsourcing

Very often crowdsourcing is confused with outsourcing. Both terms are based on a common root, only outsourcing means the transfer of part of the project's tasks to one third-party contractor on the terms of a cooperation agreement, and crowdsourcing is always the involvement of an indefinite number of people from outside in a joint process.

When crowdsourcing wasn't yet crowdsourcing

It is generally accepted that crowdsourcing is a new phenomenon. In reality, this is not so: the phenomenon itself existed even in those days when there was no such word. For example, one of the first mentions of a situation that fully corresponds to the principles of involving people from outside in a joint process dates back to the beginning of the 18th century. The British authorities were faced with the task of finding a method that would allow the most accurate determination of longitude at sea. The government could pay for scientific research of certain specialists, but instead invited everyone to participate in solving the problem for an impressive reward.

The task posed was quite dragging on the puzzle of the century, because at that time the location of a ship on the high seas could only be determined by the stars, and the lack of accurate knowledge about the movement of celestial bodies hindered the development of shipping. Therefore, it was not only tempting because of the prize, but also prestigious to become the first who can find an unmistakable way to determine longitude at sea.

Looking ahead half a century, it is worth saying that the solution was found by the carpenter and self-taught watchmaker John Garrison.

Who needs crowdsourcing?

It is clear that crowdsourcing is convenient for the customer, but what do the performers get? The aforementioned John Garrison was able to receive the prize due to him, although the conditions of the problem had already been changed by that time, and it took him another sixteen years for the solution to correspond to the new conditions - not just to find longitude, but to do it in the most compact way.

Modern crowdsourcing most often does not imply payment or it is very symbolic. At the same time, there are an abundance of specialists for solving such problems. People are really willing to spend their free time creating, researching, developing and solving a problem. Simply because they are interested in seeing their ideas come true.

How to help science using unused computer resources?

One type of crowdsourcing is voluntary computing. Such crowdsourcing involves the use of ordinary people's computers to organize labor-intensive computational tasks, but what do customers expect from volunteers in classical crowdsourcing?

What are expected from volunteers?

John Garrison was self-taught, but he was able to solve the problem. Crowdsourcing participants are not expected to be professional, but customers rely on their opinion and are ready to take into account their suggestions, and, if the circumstances are right, to bring them to life.

It is clear that there are a number of practical areas where you should not expect help from the collective mind. But you can easily rely on people's opinion when developing a design, listen to suggestions on budget allocation, ask them to come up with a slogan for a brand or solve a logical problem. Crowdsourcing also includes polls and voting, exchange of views in the form of ideas and suggestions, data sharing projects, competitive platforms, help resources, and content collaboration.

Jeff Howie, author of The Rise of Crowdsourcing, argues that amateurs can deliver better results just because they are driven by enthusiasm and lack of prejudice. A similar opinion is shared by the author of the book "The Wisdom of the Crowd", James Shurovieski, arguing that the combined knowledge of many people can be much more effective than the knowledge of one specialist. Needless to say, it was the internet that made crowdsourcing truly affordable?

Crowdsourcing by example

As network volunteers are driven by enthusiasm, it’s not surprising that the largest examples of crowdsourcing are non-profit projects. Let's talk about the most remarkable of them.

Wikipedia . Perhaps the most famous crowdsourcing project. The public encyclopedia is predominantly created by volunteers.

Nasa Clickworkers . This separate NASA project is funded by the efforts of amateur astronomers, whose task is to analyze images of the Martian surface.

Library of Congress . She also turned to the help of volunteers, asking to identify the people in the pictures. Volunteers completed the task in just a few days.

Sberbank, idea! Domestic companies also did not stand aside. For the first time, they started talking about a crowdsourcing project in the largest bank in the country back in 2011, and the head of the bank, German Gref, said that in the 21st century crowdsourcing would revolutionize management methods.

Mass media . Online publications are increasingly turning to their readers in order to improve the quality of information posted.

It takes a long time to give good examples of crowdsourcing, and at the same time to find out what unites them all ... the question of price. Marketing research and expert consultations cost money; asking for help from users can be much cheaper or even free. There is also a question of image in this - the company does not ask for help, but listens to the opinion of customers.

The downside of crowdsourcing

Coming back to the question of price, one can find out that crowdsourcing puts businesses at risk. For example, services that previously made money on the sale of photographs may be out of work only because non-professional photographers are ready to provide their work for a nominal fee, mention of a name, or even free of charge.

Price dumping also affects the quality of the final product. For example, users on a volunteer basis are more likely to offer an already surface version of a task, or flood the discussion. The obvious downside to crowdsourcing is that it is more likely that brainstorming is not generating ideas, but "useless noise." Simply put, an information slag is created. The point is the lack of motivation of volunteers or the banal lack of the necessary competencies and skills - a topic for a separate study. But a solution was found for this problem as well.

Synthetic crowdsourcing

Conventional crowdsourcing is a process, while intellectual crowdsourcing is a technology.Synthetic crowdsourcing divides the usual process into three stages, and volunteers, respectively, into three groups. At the same time, at each stage and in each group, an additional ranking of ideas occurs due to their open discussion by supporters and opponents, as well as the rating of the participants themselves.

Participants . The largest group is engaged in surveys and discussions on the topic of the project.

Co-authors . This group collects and analyzes the ideas proposed at the previous stage.

Experts . The smallest, but highly specialized group of synthetic crowdsourcing is busy selecting and finalizing the best ideas.

Synthetic crowdsourcing technology is successfully applied in business, for example, on the Sberbank crowdsourcing platform. It is not excluded that tomorrow, syntetic crowdsourcing will turn out to be an outdated technology, and it will be replaced by a new way of working with the collective mind.



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