In the original Wired article about crowdsourcing I compared the model to SETI and other forms of distributed computing. Crowdsourcing essentially entails taking advantage of people's "spare cycles," just as SETI utilizes the spare cycles on people's computers. That trope stuck, and is probably the most quoted section from the article.
Well now we're starting to refine that idea. The most gratifying aspect of working on Assignment Zero (here's Wednesday's launch announcement on CS.com) has been the ability to report on crowdsourcing as a participant as well as a spectator. Journalists generally watch events from the bleachers. This is just like Paper Lion, but without bone-crunching details. Anyway, tonight Jay Rosen (AZ's executive editor) and I decided that we needed to establish a basic unit of exchange for the spare cycle.
In other words, what kind of time commitment can a reasonably motivated and enthusiastic volunteer make? We're speculating that it falls somewhere between 5 and 10 hours a week, but that's guesswork.You can bet we'll have a better idea in 12 weeks. You could expand on this hypothesis (and it truly is an untested theory) and attempt to determine a unit of exchange for the "super-contributor," which I believe is Jimmy Wales' term for those few hundred Wikipedians responsible for all the heavy lifting on Wikipedia. (Here's a link to AZ's assignment "Interview a Super-Contibutor," which includes an excellent post about the super-contributor phenomenon from our own Amanda Michel.) Maybe it's my positivity bias (otherwise known, wonderfully, as the Pollyanna Principle.), but I think we're really breaking some ground with AZ. The significance is that we're beginning to develop real methodology to a model that has—with some justice—been accused of being just another Web 2.0 buzzword.
I'll continue to post these nuggets from time to time. Hope they're helpful.