Crowdsourcing is great way to take advantage of the power of numbers. It is act of outsourcing a job to a large, undefined number of people. When a large number of people get together to do a simple task that’s repetitive, the act takes a tiny fraction of time for each person. The same project would normally take a single person many man-hours to finish.
For example, imagine that you have database of 100,000 photographs featuring celebrities which need to be tagged according to the personalities who appear in the photos. To do so, you might employ 10 employees to scan 1,000 photographs every day, and then tag and categorize them. They could take 10 days or longer to complete the project. Crowdsourcing this project to a large crowd of people interested in celebrity-spotting on a website visited by millions, will get the job done in just a few hours.
So what are the different types of crowdsourcing?
- Crowdfunding – If you have an interesting idea and want to implement it, but don’t have the money to back it, then you can use crowdfunding to request money from people interested in backing it. If a thousand people are interested in your project and contribute just $50 dollars apiece, you get $50,000 to get started. This is known as crowdfunding. Indie movies, gadget manufacture and other innovative projects have launched with such funding.
- Wisdom Of the crowds-Yahoo Answers, AnsAfers.com and Wikihow are some examples of crowd wisdom. Here, every day problems, doubts and complex questions are answered by crowds. Even though some of the answers are downright ridiculous, there are many people who willingly share their wisdom and give genuine answers to people who need them. The rationale in this approach is that in any large group, there will probably be a few who have the right answers to every question.
- Problem Solving – Complex problems or questions which might be difficult to tackle by one person, or even a small group of people, are presented to the world at large to solve. Rewards are also offered to those who successfully solve them. Designs, ideas and many complex projects have been crowdsourced successfully with the help of the masses.
The beauty of crowdsourcing is that the project can either be outsourced to a small group of one or two people, or to a larger audience of thousands of people. You can choose technical specialists or just casual website visitors for a crowdsourced project. The greatest advantage of crowdsourcing is the ability to employ the intelligence of the masses to solve difficult problems at a really low cost.
Sometimes crowdsourcing doesn’t work for certain types of highly complex or technical work. There are certain tasks that are better suited to be outsourced to crowds, while there are others which are not. Intelligent project managers should be able to differentiate between the two groups in order to get the best results.
When you need to tag photographs of millions of products and sort them into categories crowdsourcing is the way to go. Where can you find people who work on such projects? Amazon Turk has a large base of users who work for micro payments of just one cent or more. It takes less than second to complete certain tasks, and anyone can get paid for it. Using this resource, it is possible to complete voluminous and repetitive projects in a short period of time.
As an example, crowdsourcing the testing of a new video game, software or a website design can help you find flaws in the project when a sizable audience visits and uses it. Software developers and web designers can get quick feedback from users and fix any bugs reported before the final roll out of the product.
Translation of books, website content and other information can also be crowdsourced. Digitizing older books is another such crowdsourcing project where thousands of people submit one typed page per book and thousands check for mistakes in these submitted pages. Within a short time, millions of books have been digitized. Wikipedia is another example of the wisdom of the masses.
Crowdsourcing is not something new. It has been in use for a longtime, in a variety of ways. The Internet has made it much more easier for a large number people from all over the world to participate in crowdsourcing projects and get paid for it. Crowdsourcing has made large projects affordable and easy to implement within a short period of time.