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Crowdsourcing: How much does your ox weigh?
Pt. 2 – Finding Success in a Crowd


In September, 2010 Sony set up an online open forum called Open Planet. The public (the crowd) were invited to share their ideas about environmental and sustainability challenges that they found most concerning.  Then they were asked to use seven innovative Sony technologies to invent creative and out-of-the-box ways to solve those challenges.


This was the first time Sony had tried an open forum using social networking and crowdsourcing.  They were running a huge risk, but one that paid off nicely.  The visit times to the site averaged over 10 minutes, which was much longer than would have been achieved using traditional media or communication channels, according to Sony. The results were 400 concepts, 7 of which were selected by a panel, which were then narrowed down to the 3 finalists.


The crowdsource helped Sony discover a new and exciting way to engage with its consumers. Sony gained genuine insights about the concerns of its customers and this understanding was far deeper than it would have been able to achieve through traditional market research and customer surveys.


Sony is just one example of hundreds of successful implementations of crowdsourcing.  The biggest and probably best known implementation of crowdsourcing is Wikipedia.  Instead of looking at the obvious giant open forum, a.k.a. Wikipedia, let’s take a look at examples from a variety of industries and ones that could possibly help you create your own crowdsource. 


Let’s take a look at the 4 types of crowdsourcing to help you understand where some of the upcoming examples fit, and how they are used, in the world of crowdsourcing.

  • Crowd Creation – Most likely what comes to mind when you think of crowdsourcing.  This type of crowdsourcing is what is mostly done through social media and open forums like Sony.  Entering a video in a contest to use for a commercial, designing a t-shirt, or writing a piece of content for a company are examples of this.  “On the Internet no one knows you are a dog,” which is what makes crowdsourcing possible. Nobody knows whether you are a professional photographer or award winning screenwriter.  The only qualification is the work itself.  “Crowdsourcing can be effective not only for sourcing new writing, photography, music and film, but for solving real-world scientific problems.”  Thinking outside the box is great but being outside the world can sometimes be better.  People who don’t attend the same schools, work on all of the similair projects, or are even involved in the field are many times the ones that solve the hardest problems in that industry.  
  • Crowd Wisdom - attempts to harness many people’s knowledge in order to solve problems or predict future outcomes or help direct corporate strategy.  According to Jeff Howe, who coined the term “crowdsourcing”, “Given the right set of conditions the crowd will almost always outperform any number of employees – a fact that many companies are increasingly attempting to exploit.”   Cal Tech professor Scott E Page has done studies to show that smaller groups of highly intelligent people are consistently outperformed by crowds.  We will take a closer look at Crowd Wisdom, successful implementations, and how ClickWrite can help manage you manage your crowd wisdom next week.
  • Crowd Voting - Crowd Voting asks the crowd to organize, filter and rank content.  This includes; movies, music, and blog posts.  Voting is the most popular form of crowdsourcing and results in the highest levels of participation.  If you think about it Google’s search engine is built on Crowd Voting. Jeff Howe refers to what he calls the 1:10:89 rule.  This states that out of 100 people:
    • 1% will create something valuable
    • 10% will vote and rate submissions
    • 89% will consume creation
    • According to Howe, for the 10% that vote and rate content “the act of consumption was itself an act of creation.”
  • Crowd Funding - Crowd-Funding is an alternative way of financing a variety of different projects.  We will look more at Crowd Funding next week.

So now you know the 4 basic types of crowdsourcing.  Let's take a look at some successes from the Crowd Creation and Crowd Voting types of crowdsourcing since we will be looking at Crowd Wisdom and Crowd Funding next week.  


Success with Crowd Creation


There are so many innovative examples of Crowd Creation that it is hard to pick just 1 to look at, so I picked 4 examples.  First we will take a look at large scale and complicated crowd creation projects, starting with YouTube and the “Life in a Day” project that was produced by Ridley Scott of Gladiator and Aliens fame.  The premise was to have everyone in the World who wanted to participate (the crowd) film a day in their lives on July 24, 2010 and upload it to YouTube.  Then the "Life in a Day" team would pick “the most compelling and distinctive footage” which would then “be edited into an experimental documentary film.” 



How successful was the Life in a Day project?  They received 80,000 submissions and 4,500 hours of footage from 192 countries.  I would say that it was very successful. 



YouTube has turned into a perfect place for innovative crowd creation when it comes to video.  Another example of this was the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, which was made up of thousands of video submissions, from different musicians playing the same song, on a variety of instruments.  This was turned into a collage, or mash-up, and viewed by millions online.  A select group of the musicians were invited to play at Carnegie Hall.



Photography is the “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to crowdsourcing, according to Howe.  There have been 3 separate developments in photography that has turned it into one of the biggest pieces of crowdsourced content online:

  1. The affordable digital SLR camera
  2. Photo editing software, like Photoshop, that has become easier to use
  3. The internet, where people can share their photos and download others

So what did this mean for photographers? Well the quality of photographs by amateurs began to rival professionals.  This especially affected stock photographers who would sell their photos for up to $400 each.  Stock photos were no longer a scarce commodity but instead they were now abundant with amateur photographers around the World posting their photos online.  Instead of spending $400 on 1 photo you could now get them each for a dollar online.  The demand for stock photos went through the roof and a site called IStockPhoto had positioned itself perfectly.  IStockPhoto.com has become the king of the crowdsource by letting users come to the site and buy/license stock photography from other photographers for affordable prices.  They recently began offering videos as well.
Crowdspring has taken the crowd creation to another level by having companies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 post briefs on their site for a fee.  These briefs have set payments for the winner and are seen by the whole Crowdspring community.  Anyone who wants to submit a design for a website, logo, stationary, or a writing sample can and the company then decides which one they want to use.  Many worry that this might cause the same effect that we saw with stock photography.  According to Howe, “crowdsourcing doesn’t eradicate a business, it just changes it dramatically.”  So it is yet to be seen the full effect on agencies and professional graphic designers from Crowdspring and other sites.  


Success with Crowd Voting

If you decide that you like this blog post and want to tweet it or post it on Facebook you have just become part of a Crowd Voting crowdsource.  An even better example would be to post it on Digg and then see who votes for it and results in a higher ranking.  This type of crowdsource is seen everywhere from social media to brand and product choices to American Idol.  People love to vote, rank, make top 10 lists, etc. and all of these can contribute to a Crowd Voting crowdsource. 


Let's say you have two logos and just can't decide which one is right for your business.  Why don't you turn it over to the people who are most important to that business. the consumer?  Put it to a public vote and let them decide which logo is more effective.  Things like that engage consumers and turn them into more than just someone who buys your product.  It turns the customers into partners and lets them know you value their opinion.  You can do this in a variety of ways and it helps you to improve your company, product, or service because your customers help you make the right decision.  Does it always work flawlessly? No, but what does?  Some of you might remember some of the crowd voting used to name new baby animals at the zoo or a new public building and how the names got a little out of hand.  Still, if your customers likes Baby Poop Nugget over Larry the Lion then it might be something to consider. 


One of the biggest successes in crowd voting is the reality television explosion where America votes on who they want to go home or move on (depending how you look at it).  American Idol is probably the best example and has been the most successful crowd voting reality shows.  Millions vote each week through phone calls and text messages.


Google was mentioned in the description of Crowd Voting earlier and is by far the biggest and most successful crowd voting based implementation in history.  Of course Google has grown and its rankings of pages has become more complicated (and for most more confusing) but a huge piece of its ranking system is still based off links to your site.  Why would somebody link to your site?  If they find the information valuable.  They might think it is informative, funny, or just so bad they have to use it as an example (still considered a vote though).  This helps esentially send votes and let Google know that something valuable is located on your site.  The more links the better and this moves your ranking up, which is a crowd voting result.  Next time you link to a site think of it as you being part of a crowd who is voting for that site.  


Next Week...


  • Crowd Wisdom and Crowd Funding, how they can both benefit your business
  • Internal Crowd Sourcing
  • How to Manage Your Crowdsourcing Project
  • How ClickWrite can help you with your internal Crowd Sourcing through Crowd Wisdom and Management


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