Crowdsourcing can be defined as obtaining information by enlisting the participation of, and input from, users or obtaining services by means of an open call via the Internet.
One popular example is the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, which allows anyone to edit information. Its benefits include flexibility, diversity, and affordability.
There are a number of applications across multiple fields that can use crowdsourcing:
By using the highly popular medium of smartphones, the San Francisco government crowdsourced data via a mobile app (CycleTracks), and collected data on bicycle performance measures and identify where the facilities were lacking.
Similar apps were used by the governments of Oregon (ORcycle), Atlanta (Cycle Atlanta), and Montréal, Canada (Mon RésoVélo).
Crowd sourcing is used by market research firms to gather data via surveys (via websites like Toluna). Toluna works through surveys and polls. Companies contract Toluna to survey its users. The survey starts by determining whether or not the user is part of the company’s target audience (by asking them their age, location, gender, etc.), and take about 20 minutes to complete. Polls usually consist of a single question, and lets users obtain points for participation.
Such surveys let brands get feedback and market viability data directly from their target audience, and helps them create their business and marketing plans.
Toluna’s reward system is what makes it extremely popular amongst its users. By filling profile surveys, or completing surveys and polls, a user gains Toluna points, which are valid for a year. These points can be spent at the Rewards Center to choose from the rewards, like vouchers and gadgets, available in the user’s country.
Similar sites include Grabpoints and Survey Savvy.
- Amazon Mechanical Turk lets researchers connect with people for social science experiments; one of the many ways it helps with crowdsourcing.
- Creative work: Crowdsourcing competitions are used (graphic design, video making/editing) not only as a promotional tactic, but also as a collaborative experience. For example, Lego allows users to submit their ideas through their website.
- Websites like SciStarter help “citizen scientists” participate in research projects offered by organizations and researchers.
- Websites like Unsplash and Flickr crowdsource photos, and let other users use them (based on usage rights).
- Citizen journalism: Thanks to the advent of smartphones and the Internet, the general public obtains news in real-time through users of the same.
- Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, where people can ask for capital to create products, or reach personal or professional goals.
- Crowd testing: Websites like passbrains help companies gain user insight and feedback of their product. This is done by crowdsourcing users matching the company’s target audience.
- Crowd wisdom: Crowdsourcing is used to get answers to questions (not just technical).
- Yahoo! Answers and Quora are built on this concept.
- Crowdsourcing is also often used for translation services. For example, Facebook is known to use crowdsourcing to translate its website.
- Websites like Freelancer.com and 99designs also work on crowdsourcing basis, as people can get users to work for them for a nominal fee.
- Fast food eateries like KFC and Taco Bell are known to take surveys about service by providing links in the receipt. The completion of the survey gives you 10% off your next order; encouraging customers to provide data.
Crowdsourcing has the potential to improve or replace traditional survey methods
Testing against conventional data
- In the case of transportation planning, data would traditionally ‘be collected through public meetings because cyclists represent only 1% to 2% of commuters, making vehicle count methods less useful. [Apps like] CycleTracks made participation in data collection for cyclists more accessible by moving data collection to the increasingly common smartphone use’ (Misra et al, 2014).
- When it comes to collection of social data, researchers will find it easier to connect with those being surveyed on a more frequent basis, as compared to standard household surveys.
- In current times, the use of crowdsourcing for data collection is on the rise. More and more apps rely on crowdsourcing for knowledge, distributing tasks, ideas and solutions, and creative productions.
- Apps using crowdsourcing for data collection are on the rise. Some popular examples include Placemeter, Waze, and Grasswire. Additionally, apps like Facebook, Minted, Tongal, and Clickadvisor use crowdsourcing in their activities.
- Despite crowdsourcing being in a nascent stage, modern online platforms are sophisticated enough to provide substantial benefits to solve different types of problems. While the cost savings alone are enough to experiment with it, it’s broader impact is on innovation.
- It is important that an organization should be receptive to new ideas that may be generated by their crowdsourcing initiatives, implying that it should not just be aimed towards cost savings and the sheer scale, but also income.
Pros & Cons of Crowdsourcing
- Time saving: Faster and easier to implement research than in traditional methods. This also ensures that when work is spread across a number of users, it gets done quickly.
- Maximize options: Gives access to a large participant pool.
- Cost reduction: Ideas and services can be obtained for much lesser.
- Knowledge sharing: Also gives access to numerous skills, resources, and locations.
- Real-time data: Helps companies get data directly from their customers.
- Branding: Crowdsourcing contests can help generate an interest in your brand.
- Quality control: There are chances that participants may not respond truthfully, and only want the reward; this affects data quality.
- Can be expensive: Gamification can encourage participation, but is costly to implement.
- Privacy concerns: Users may not want to give out their personal details, which can prevent participation.
- Lack of IP protection: As there is little regulation, if projects are crowdsourced, there may be no signing of NDA.
- Management: Often, you may have to manage a large number of workers, which may get time-consuming, as it is difficult to coordinate between crowd members.
Having considered both pros and cons of crowdsourcing, it is now easier for you to pick the best parts of the process, and help grow your business.