Crowdsourcing it’s an expression we are hearing more and more. Like a lot of other ideas though, is it really so new? Or is it that new media provides a more efficient way of making it work. Jeff Howe, first used the phrase in June 2006 in an article “The rise of crowdsourcing” featured in Wired Magazine. A combination of two familiar words crowd and outsourcing, it is in essence a published ‘open’ request for collaborative problem solving or idea sharing.
The idea is not new. An organisation I do pro-bono work for annually ask members of the public to nominate good examples of design and build within the city. This request is published through both traditional and new media channels. There is no doubt that it is a lot easier to instantly submit a suggestion on-line than it is to make a note of the address in the paper and follow it up. The request by the Government earlier this year asking members of the public to comment on existing policy is another example.
Howe describes Crowdsourcing as something that is outsourced to an ‘undefined’ public, in reality it seems that it builds on the open source idea and that there is a mixture of requests some to defined and others to undefined audiences. For example the employee survey that asks for suggestion on ways the company can save money. Or forums, like linkedin and melcrum communicators, that allow members to pose a question for other members to answer could be considered as examples of crowdsourcing solutions. So is it really a strategic tool that promotes collaboration or a cheeky way of getting someone else to do the work?