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Crowdsourcing: A Definition

  • I like to use two definitions for crowdsourcing:

    The White Paper Version: 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.

    The Soundbyte Version: The application of Open Source principles to fields outside of software.

The Rise of Crowdsourcing

  • Read the original article about crowdsourcing, published in the June, 2006 issue of Wired Magazine.
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November 30, 2006

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Comments

Shazz

And consumers don't write creative briefs that require a 3-day shoot in the Bahamas for every product! And the client can't ask the creative to make the logo bigger ;D

Quick link: a Canadian microbrewery, Big Rock, has been holding a consumer-generated advertising contest since 1994. I don't think they run the spots as real ads, the way Converse did, but they do get publicity coverage. *Perhaps another reader knows more of the back story?* Media release with backgrounder here:
http://www.bigrockbeer.com/bigrockpress-releases-03-08-06-EDM.htm
The spots can be seen here: http://www.bigrockbeer.com/eddies/

Jeff Howe

More evidence that there's nothing new under the sun, only new buzzwords to describe it. I notice the Eddies are already sold out. Shame! Thanks Shazz ...

Shazz

What will be new is not treating this consumer-generated promotion as quirky experiments ... but as the real deal. I do think it's a shift in perspective that's important.

LukePDQ

Re: the comment by Shazz.
Personally, I'm not sure she is right.
Jeff's point about crowdsourcing is the paradigm shift in "outsourcing" of supplies/services to users/consumers/amateurs/outsiders.
Whereas, outsourcing was previously defined as a corporate purchasing or procurement activity for professional suppliers or service vendors.

LukePDQ

Whoops! Sorry, Shazz. I misread the comments author name as a header, then realised it's the footer.
Whoa is me! Ignore my comment as a slow Brit newbie on this site.

Jason

Hey Jeff -

Thanks for the shout out, glad you're enjoying our blog.
Great post. I hadn't heard about Holotof before, thanks for sharing. You're right, I don't think any agency has cracked the right model yet - no doubt a combination of ego, fear of putting ourselves out of business, and conservatism in the face of change (which we're always guilty of - ironic for a 'creative' industry).
But it's interesting, I'm keen to see where this stuff goes.

Alan

You wrote, “More evidence that there's nothing new under the sun, only new buzzwords to describe it.” Crowdsourcing is now garnering this, Google Results 1,750,000 hits for CS, whereas in the early spring of this year the total hits on Google were fewer than 10. 10 hits shot to 499,000 by the following weekend.


As the CS model becomes more prominent organizations that are eyeballing it for future use are doing so by examining the already coined formulation/usages. The speed of up-take and metamorphosis over the past months indicate that a nerve has been touched or at least its introduction was indeed timely. Language is the harbinger of consciousness. Only the passage of time will tell us whether “buzzword” can be applied as a neologism, or indeed it becomes part of our culture that will no longer be described as a trend!

I suspect that CS will become a permanent part of the web-landscape. The question is; will it become a more prominent part of the machinery that has historically separated the consumer from the product by many layers that value profit as the priority to eclipsed all else. Will this model, by changing the producer consumer equation force a greater change? And will the change spill over to a wider percentage of businesses? Alan.

Jeff Howe

@Alan and Luke
Thanks guys for keeping me honest. Not sure why I took the glib turn in my first comment. I will cop to crowdsourcing as buzzword, but I'm also convinced the trend marks a substantive shift in how labor is conducted and value is extracted from it.
@Shazz
You're right. In fact that's what I was trying to say (in so, so many words) in my post: Heretofore clients have been treating UG Ad campaigns gingerly, as a quirky experiment, the Holotof launch signifies a faith from at least 900 creatives (if we believe the founder's accounting) that a new age of advertising has dawned.
@Luke
Thanks for great comment. What you write (I'm going to change your language somewhat) could be a really pithy rendering of the difference between outsourcing and crowdsourcing: former outsources manufacturing to individual agents (firms or people), the latter outsources information production to communities (broadly defined). As soon as I write this formulation I can see a few holes in it (Bangalore call centers provide a service), but it's at least an instructive way to look at the dynamics underlying crowdsourcing.
@Alan
Once again you prove to be our resident poet, Alan. "Language is the harbinger of consciousness." Nicely put. If you'll forgive me for ignoring your other provocative questions for the moment, let me ask. If this is true, should we be worried that a term that is brutally neutral at best (my view) and suggestive of exploitive practices at worst (Tara Hunt and Chris Messina) has been so quickly adopted? I don't have any problems with the word, obviously, but I wonder if terms like "community collaboration" wouldn't better release the liberating, progressive potential of the model. co-creation, or peer-production have such a nice, egalitarian ring. by contrast, crowdsourcing could come straight out of Huxley's Newspeak dictionary.

I'm making light and playing devil's advocate to some degree, and really I don't want to see people get bogged down into a semantics debate. But there's a deeper thought here: How can we cultivate crowdsourcing's potential to activate the creativity and talent and multiple intelligences that have been latent, up to this point in mankind's history, without causing undue hardship to professionals by driving down labor costs? For every Lisé there are hundreds, maybe thousands of photographers that can't feed their families (or even afford a nice meal out) on their iStock income. It's wonderful that so many people can now explore their ability to make images. But will this make the term "professional photographer" an oxymoron?

As always, thanks for everyone's intelligent, thought-provoking commentary.

Alan

“Crowdsourcing could come straight out of Huxley's Newspeak dictionary”. Considering the advent of national “thought police” trends I am inclined to favor any term or content that pushes back.

CS, as a definition, does describe a larger group that has the “potential” to be a source. The plurality might take the sting out but the crowd part has got the interest of many insiders who, as always, are searching for a magic formula. By formulating a new model that uses large numbers it could possibly correlate with first dibs at larger profits like the youtube gamble by Google. "Community collaboration, co-creation, or peer-production sound politically correct to me.

Without getting to esoteric I would suggest that the potential of the term CS was maximized long before the term was brought into usage. I enter rather ethereal realms her is stating that your biography and the events thereof leading up to the terms creation are not at all arbitrary or random. The quick take up must surely be either a tease for you to ponder or the advent of a new model that has been midwife’d into usage by a cultural shift resulting from technological changes and language that made it more conscious. The potential was released once you coined the term, the rest is just fallout or maybe I should use a term like Karma that does not call forth such negative images! Alan.

The deed is everything, the glory is naught. JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE

joyce

How do can one use the first person form in a crowd written article?

"I've always believed?"

Doesn't "We believe" seem more justified?
Maybe we can invent a new form of writing for collaborative works. The crowd point of view.

Sorry for the interruption, Just a quick thought.

Daren C. Brabham

Update: Today CNN.com had a link to its CNN Money report on the "101 Dumbest Moments in Business." Number 4 on that list is the Chevy Tahoe advertising debacle mentioned in this post.

Here's a link to the entire story: http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2007/biz2/0701/gallery.101dumbest_2007/index.html?cnn=yes

...And a link directly to the Tahoe write-up: http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2007/biz2/0701/gallery.101dumbest_2007/4.html

It looks like the effects of crowdslapping are not going unnoticed. Beware the wrath of the crowd.

Daren C. Brabham

Crowdsourced advertising content is in the news again. Sports Illustrated's website (linked to today through CNN.com) featured a story previewing the Super Bowl ad hype. Two paragraphs in the middle of the story are particularly noteworthy for this blog:

***

"One of the biggest new themes of this year's game is getting amateurs into the act. General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet division ran a contest for college students to propose an ad that would be made by a team of professionals, and PepsiCo Inc.'s Frito-Lay unit will run an ad made entirely by an amateur contestant.

Meanwhile, Bayer Corp.'s Alka-Seltzer has a spot in the pre-game broadcast featuring the winner of a contest to come up with an updated version of its "plop-plop, fizz-fizz" jingle. The winner was Josh Anderson, a DJ at a radio station in Greensboro, N.C. The NFL also made an ad from an idea generated by a fan contest."

***

I think there's something riding on the success or failure of these Super Bowl ads this year. If opinion polls after the Super Bowl show that people greatly disliked or loved an ad from the crowd, it might affect whether the advertising industry will look to the crowd for ideas in the future. And that might have a ripple among other industries. What do you think?

For a complete text of the article, visit:
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/football/nfl/specials/playoffs/2006/01/26/ads.ap/index.html?cnn=yes

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