The Crowdsourcing Phenomenon (Article 3 of 3)

This article is the third of a series of three, in which I will provide some examples of how businesses, individuals and government can ask “the Crowd” to help find a solution to a problem. Checkout the first article of this series with examples on how businesses use crowdsourcing to grow their organisation, and the second article with information on how people can use crowdsourcing to support their causes.

Businesses, people and government can ask the crowd to help find a solution to a problem.

Wikipedia-logoIn the online world, one of the most commonly known cases of crowdsourcing is the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Wikipedia is created and maintained by volunteers alone and thousands of articles are added and edited weekly by a global community of professors, students and everyday experts around the world. It offers more than three million articles in the English language. Wikipedia is not just an example of a crowd creating a pool of information, but also a community taking ownership of a project by ensuring information is accurate and within the code of conduct required.

Other popular initiatives also happen in the medical field, and can for instance go as far as trying to diagnose diseases and malaria infections: a great example of this sort of common efforts is how researchers at the University of California and Los Angeles (UCLA) have created an online crowdsourcing game designed to let players help doctors in key areas of the world speed the lengthy process of distinguishing malaria-infected red blood cells from healthy ones.

Taking it further, crowdsourcing platforms also contribute to the field of medical research, where individuals or organisations ask for private contributions from professionals. Communities such as ‘Cure Together’, seek to solve all sorts of chronic diseases.

Another good example of the power of crowdsourcing is Threadless (www.threadless.com), which is a website that allows users to create their own designs whilst other users rank these designs via a voting system. The most popular ideas are printed on t-shirts and other items, and sold on the website.

In order to achieve success in a crowdsourcing initiative, it is important to understand why communities exist, and furthermore identify what motivates users to participate. Certain well known communities, such as Starbucks’ “My Starbucks Idea”, exist because of customer’s loyalty and their interest in improving the products and services of that brand.

In order to improve crowdsourcing initiatives, individuals and organisations can be rewarded for their contributions with discounts or various recognition methods like awards for outstanding ideas. For example, the image repository eCommerce website iStockphoto, provided their users (customers and contributors) with a platform that allowed them to contribute towards user-voted causes, and supported the initiative by matching half a million’s worth of donation.

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Online fashion retailer Boohoo.com ask for customer’s opinion on what they think of their product and services, and use competitions to incentivise customers to answer their online surveys.

I believe that in the near future, crowdsourcing will play a key role in coming up with medical cures and medical provision, in education, in tourism and bespoke holidays (like is currently the case with www.tripadvisor.com), and also in marketing and charity initiatives.

The Internet provides a way to tap into the collective knowledge of more than one billion people. Therefore, with Internet crowdsourcing, large groups of people are able to approach problems from multiple angles, thus increasing the chances of finding the best solution.