Have you heard of the new dance craze that all the kids are doing? Its call the Crowdsource, and it goes like this:
- Throw your hands in the air and scream “Man! We are super busy!”
- Shake your head and yell “Have you heard of the craze sweeping the nation? Its called the Crowdsource. The Crowdsource!”
- Shrug your shoulders and exclaim “Its cool. You get everyone else to do your work for you!”
- Then you clap your hands, smile and with a knowing, hip smile, laughingly announce “Lets do this!”
- Repeat until you realize that you are a moron and have no clue what crowdsourcing is.
In 2006, Jeff Howe coined the term in a Wired article. Referring to the practice of presenting a problem to an unknown group of people in the form of an open call. To be exact, on his blog he defines it as such:
Crowdsourcing is the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.
Jeff wrote “the” book on crowdsourcing and among other positives, crowdsourcing problems tends to be free and give real customer insight.
Those two points: insight and lack of cost have led so many companies to attempt to use the “wisdom of the crowds” to solve their problems. For some, like Threadless, it has been a wonderful success. For others, not so much.
One of the outcomes of the rise of crowdsourcing has been the proliferation of spec work (here is the video from a panel about Spec Work from SXSW 2009):
What seems to be missing from the conversation is that not any problem can be solved through crowdsourcing. For example, a friend sent out a tweet that said (paraphrasing): “I want to crowdsource this. What blogs do you read?” Thats not crowdsourcing, thats a survey.
I realize that for many crowdsourcing has jumped the shark, and this post is a bit late to jumping on the crowdsourcing has jumped the shark bandwagon (after all bandwagon jumping has also jumped the shark, and I believe if you look into your heart of hearts, jumping the shark has jumped the shark as well).
But, crowdsourcing, using your passionate users to make a product that they can be more passionate about is still pure genius. Here is a great example.
I bought a TomTom 740 Go Live and instantly was amazed by the accuracy of the trips. I had a Garmin Nuvi 1490 for a few days prior to swapping it for the TomTom, and I was really disappointed in the traffic and the directions. I have a specific route from San Francisco to my parents house in San Jose that after years and years of driving the route, I have determined to be the fastest.
The Garmin took the safe route. The TomTom took the “right” route. What was the difference? TomTom crowdsources its maps and directions.
Taking data from all the TomTom’s in use (sort of), they get the actual speeds of roads at certain times, versus the posted speeds. They also allow their users to submit map updates. In approximately 30 days, there were more than 6,500 updates to the maps. Include that with custom POI updates (I now have all the Apple Stores in the US), and you have a product made better by its users.
Thats crowdsourcing in a nutshell. Will asking your customers to solve a problem improve the product? Will you be able to put out a better product because your crowd (not any crowd) is involved in its growth?
You see, thats the secret of crowdsourcing. Effective crowdsourcing only works if 1) your community is passionate about your success; and 2) you have an existing open dialogue with your community. Threadless is a great example.
Build passion and communication with your community, and the ability to effectively crowdsource the solutions to important problems will be as easy as the box step.
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