Today’s post comes from David Alan Grier, crowdsourcing expert and author of Crowdsourcing for Dummies. He tackles the question of who makes up the crowd. Check out his previous post for Owler.
One of the more confusing aspects of crowdsourcing is that fact that the term is applied to many different activities. At the moment, “crowdsourcing” is most generally applied to Crowdfunding, raising money on sites such as Kickstarter.com or indiegogo.com. While you can think of crowdfunding as just a modern way to pass the hat, as hats were once passed in churches and community meetings, it is really a part of a form of crowdsourcing that is called Microtasking. To see how it fits into the crowdsourcing family, we need to understand two things. First, we need to appreciate that crowdsourcing is a market-based activity. Second, we need to understand that a crowd market is governed by rules, rule that can be summarized neatly in a 2×2 table. All you need to understand about crowdsourcing can be summarized in this 2×2 table.
Let’s start with the crowdmarket. You can see on in Figure 1. Like all markets, the crowdmarket has two sides. On one side is the crowd. To the market they bring something to exchange. Usually they are bring information, information that they have gathered or processed. Sometimes, as in the case of Crowdfunding, they are bringing money. The basic idea is illustrated in Figure 1.
On the other side of the market, we would find you or another manager of crowdsourcing. That manager accepts the information (or money) brought by the crowd and gives the crowd a reward or consideration. In many cases, the reward is money (think Amazon Mechanical Turk or the X Prize) while in other cases, the reward can be the satisfaction of working on a big project (think Wikipedia.)
Now there are two kinds of rules that we apply to the market. The first is the payment rule. We can pay everyone or pay just one person (or just a few people). The second kind of rule is the collaboration rule. We can have the members of the crowd work in isolation or was can ask them to collaborate. Between the two, we have four combinations of these two rules. Hence we get the 2×2, which summarizes all you need to know about crowdsourcing. A version of that table is given below.
In this table, you see the four basic forms of crowdsourcing. The first kind is the Crowd Contest, which is given in the upper left cell of the table. In a crowdcontest, the members of the crowd work in isolation to submit their work. You select one submission and reward one worker. It is the kind of activity done by 99Designs and the other design firms.
Below it, you get the second type of crowdsourcing, the innovation contest. This form is also a contest and rewards only one submission, but in it, members of the crowd are allowed to collaborate and form teams. The X-Prize, Innocentive, AHHHA, and the other innovation companies run this kind of crowdsourcing.
On the right hand of the table, you get the forms of crowdsourcing that compensate all members of the crowd. The form in the lower right hand corner is eLancing, the form that is closest to freelancing. In this form, you hire a team. The team might have a coder, graphic designer, and a copy writer. These three would work together under your supervision.
The last form is Microtasking. In it, workers are paid by the task and have no direct contact with other workers. They gather data, process results, make judgments, or just bring financial contributions to the projects. Contact generation, data cleaning, facial recognition, and Crowdfunding. They are examples of Microtasking.
David Alan Grier
David Alan Grier is the author of Crowdsourcing for Dummies and When Computers Were Human.