About Me

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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February 07, 2007



Daren said: "Perhaps we should start finding out how many of the crowdmembers who have their designs picked by Threadless are professional, highly trained graphic designers and how many are people who take their doodles and make them more polished."

Daren, great research and informative post! In response to your query above, my initial foray into this exact question (I'm beginning to interview successful iStockers) has found that amateurs or "dabblers" who have an affinity for a particular creative endeavour (say photography or illustration) but often little "formal" education in the field ... have found crowdsourcing to be an empowering model/environment that has enabled them to enter a creative field and flourish without the traditional constraints of "professional" designation and accreditation. "Freedom to do what I want" is what I'm hearing from them. They gain technical and artistic skills as they work in their new field for sure - but often in a more adhoc or experiential fashion.

... Shazz

Daren C. Brabham

Sounds like the "learn by doing motto" that many youth organizations adopt; I agree with it wholeheartedly, too. I guess if research began to show that just as many "amateurs" as "professionals" were finding success working in the crowd, that would have some implications for the value of professionalism and for formal training. In other words, if a Rhode Island School of Design graduate and a non-schooled hobbyist found equal success in the crowd, RISD would get worried. When pedigrees begin to not matter so much, who will seek them out?

I'm wondering if iStockphoto or Threadless or any of the other crowdsourcing examples would mind eventually letting some of us develop a survey to post to their membership. This would greatly help us put a face to the crowd, so to speak. I'm wondering if the crowd is as diverse as we think, both in terms of race/class/gender/etc. and in terms of skill sets and professional training. Shazz, you're tight with you think Bruce would let us post a survey to the homepage or email one out to the membership a ways down the road?

(p.s. Shazz--when I cite your interview you did on this blog, I cite you as Shazz Mack, not Lise Gagne. I just think it's awesome to send research out for review that cites Mack, S. (2007). Yay for pen names.)

Jeff Howe

So much great stuff here guys I'm not sure where to begin. I think you're right Daren--We need to properly define what qualities comprise an amateur. I thought I'd use the comment section here as a brainstorm space, and then propose something a bit more formal in a post in the next few days.

So let's start simple. For me, frankly, the distinction between professional and amateur isn't blurry. A professional, definitively speaking, earns their livelihood from the practice of whatever skill or talent under discussion. Not, I want to emphasize, a supplementary income, but their livelihood. So:
Professional: One who practices a craft as a vocation.
Amateur: One who practices a craft as an avocation.

However, where I see a need for distinctions is in the levels of professional. This becomes clear by looking at the backgrounds of the five Doritos winners. Here's how I would break it down.

Dale Backus: Professional, though hardly at the level of an agency creative with a decade of experience working on international corporate accounts. He's a kid. 21 years old. Let's call him an Entry Level Professional.

Kristin Denhert: Professional. A quick glance at her profile (see Daren's post above) reveals that she's been in the industry for over ten years, and has directed her own short. Let's call her an Established Professional, a distinction we can make based on qualitative attributes, ie, amount of time working in profession and the number of products/projects under the person's belt.

Joe Herbert: Amateur. Web design is not film/video production.

Jared Cicon: Ditto. An eye for composition doesn't mean you know how to mix sound levels in post-production. More to the point, Cicon earns his money as a photographer, a related but not synonymous craft.

Billy Federighi: This is a tough one. I would propose yet one more distinction for Federighi: Aspiring Professional. I won't call him a pro for the above hard-and-fast rule: He's not making his money in film/video production (as far as we know). But he'd like to, and plans to, and by all accounts probably will soon. For what it's worth, any film student--such as those that won the Chevrolet contest--fall under the same rubric.

There's one last distinction that's not represented above (and I'd venture will rarely be represented on the rolls of crowdsourcees): The Elite Professional. Who is this? Well, the NY ad exec from the WSJ whose quote I used in my original post, for one. Andrew Sullivan. Spike Jonez. Obviously the line between established professional and elite professional *does* get blurry, but I think generally an Elite Professional is someone working in the top tiers of their profession, with significant laurels and well-known projects to their credit.

These are all a bit off-the-cuff, but I think it's a start. What do you guys think?

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