The Rise of Crowdsourcing

Howe, J. (2006). The rise of crowdsourcing. Wired Magazine, 14(6). Received from

Crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined, large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call.

Outsourcing is hiring someone to perform a task until it is finished. Crowdsourcing is bringing outside people and involving them in a collaborative process to complete a task.

1. The Professional
Claudia Menashe discovers iStockphoto for stock images she needed for an avian flu kiosk. Mark Harmal, a freelance photographer, no longer offers a scarce product, and had to do more work to earn less than he usually does because of iStockphoto. Getty Images then bought iStockphoto, marketing bulk purchases to companies. Crowdsourcing has altered the future for stock photography.

Technological advances in everything from product design software to digital video cameras are breaking down the cost barriers that once separated amateurs from professionals.

2. The Packager
VH1 Web Junk 20 crator, Michael Hirschorn, needed licensing for viral videos, which was becoming harder to do. VHI’s partner company, Viacom, purchased iFilm, which sorted licensed viral videos by popularity, for cheap!

Hirschorn predicts more user-generated pieces in TV2.0 because of the successful ratings. There’s a lot of participation, but not always great content in what the crowd sends. Hischorn predicts that users will provide better content as user-generated TV matures.

3. The Tinkerer
The “strength of weak ties” (Granovetter) powers InnoCentive, a network aimed to solve scientific problems for companies/seekers. Successful because of the broad range of information, knowledge, and experience.

Ed Melcarek earns a living tackling challenges posted on the site. Companies currently spend a lot on Research & Development, but with InnoCentive, they can get answers that they might have spent a longer time researching themselves. Other sites: YourEncore and NineSigma.

4. The Masses
Amazon’s Mechanical Turk helps companies find people to perform tasks that computers are lousy at. Case study: iConclude needed tech support and Turkers did it for cheap.

I thought this article was a great example of crowdsourcing, and had never really considered the how the rising trend in such websites like Flickr would affect other professions negatively. Companies and sites that utilize the power of crowdsourcing prove to be innovative and a smart move as technology develops further and more resources are becoming available on the web.

This trend remind me of our previous class discussion on Web 2.0, recognizing the power of public collaboration and communication, not to mention the rise of cloud computing and other computer-mediated communications. Users are putting more of their own resources and information on the web, which seems to facilitate not only communication but is starting to reshape current industries today. I wonder to what extent will professions no longer be necessary, as numerous cheaper alternatives appear online.


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