by Mike Masnick

People Powered Buzzword Du Jour: Crowdsourcing

from the amateur-to-amateur-to-professional dept

Over the last few years, as people have recognized the power of the internet as a communications platform rather than a broadcasting platform, different people have come up with different ideas to express the new business models this allows. This has ranged from the joke that Web 2.0 is made of people to the more scholarly work of Greg Lastowka and Dan Hunter about how "amateur to amateur" changes the way we think about content creation, promotion and consumption. It looks like Wired Magazine is now taking a stab at naming the phenomenon as well, describing the concept of "crowdsourcing." Basically it's not that different than the digital working class concept we discussed last week, but with a catchy name. While jumping on the buzzword bandwagon doesn't always make sense, there are important ideas to consider across all of these discussions. It's the basic recognition of how the internet has enabled new forms of production that simply weren't possible before. It then raises two issues: how does that challenge existing ways of doing business and what types of companies spring up to take advantage of the new possibilities. We've seen plenty of examples recently of how, especially within the entertainment industry, the traditional business has dealt with these concepts by fighting the inevitable trends. However, it's encouraging to see one of the examples in the Wired story is a program set up by Eli Lilly to encourage anyone to help companies tackle problems they're having, in exchange for a reward. It's a case where companies are recognizing that sometimes a fresh perspective is quite valuable, rather than assuming that they need to somehow protect their traditional way of doing business. Unfortunately, as with many buzzwords, expect to start seeing lots of new business models that talk up how they're leveraging "crowdsourcing" when the truth will be that very few are actually doing so.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Haywood Jablowme, May 25th, 2006 @ 12:08pm



    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 25th, 2006 @ 12:11pm

    Re: HA

    get a goddamn life

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Jezsik, May 25th, 2006 @ 12:17pm


    Now there's a lame buzzword. When I think of a crowd, I think of people physically gathered together ... they don't do that on the net. Now, NETSOURCING, that's what the wired story is about. Cast your net in the World Wide Web and you can pick up all sorts lot of stuff (and some of it quite good!).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Adam, May 25th, 2006 @ 12:28pm

    For shame...

    Why do we use the words some clown shoe executive came up with? /sigh

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Wolfger, May 25th, 2006 @ 12:31pm


    Jezsik defined crowd a little too narrowly. A crowd is "people gathered together". Needlessly adding the word "physically" in there is just so much futile attachment to the 20th century.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    anonymous crowdsourcer, May 25th, 2006 @ 12:36pm




    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Bark Muckman, May 25th, 2006 @ 12:42pm

    Businesses should value their customers more!

    Sites such as Respect Thy Customer are empowering internet users to speak up and be heard regarding how businesses are treating them. Businesses that do not listen to consumers are surely doomed to the same fate as the DoDo bird. In an age where ANYONE can make their viewpoint international in a matter of seconds, the clattering of those voices shall drive businesses to be more focussed on what Customers Really Want!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    anonymous coward, May 25th, 2006 @ 12:48pm

    the guy that came up with crowdsourcing is probably an MBA student that skateboards to work, has a pierced tongue, and has never actually worked or managed a real company in his short pointless life. sorry, i'll stick to real words to describe real business problems.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Buzzword Bill, May 25th, 2006 @ 1:01pm

    Buzztronic CorpSpeak

    I believe that by leveraging existing synergies we can work these top
    of mind items into a fully baked chinese menu. Results should provide
    the much needed green field for our new uber-widget-x

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Michael Long, May 25th, 2006 @ 1:07pm


    Encouraging? Maybe. Then again, it looks to me to be yet another step in the commoditization of labor, allowing companies to lay off staff and further "outsource" those jobs for mere pennies to the dollar.

    "Sorry Bob, but a kid in Acron volunteered to do that entire project for $20. As such, we decided to let you go. But hey, you should be happy for us. Profits are at all time highs..."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    anon, May 25th, 2006 @ 1:28pm

    Commodization of Labor is a Good Thing

    How about making the labor market more efficient. People are actually getting paid for work they perform. Plus, people wouldn't be pigeon-holed into only working for one company, working on one matter, or working in one industry. This movement is inevitable and will make society more meriticious instead of heirarchical based on relationships, networking, and other bullshit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    entrekken, May 25th, 2006 @ 1:31pm


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    entrekken, May 25th, 2006 @ 1:31pm


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    entrekken, May 25th, 2006 @ 1:34pm


    so one could theoretically, crowdsource using open source to solve their outsourcing needs

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    DoxAvg, May 25th, 2006 @ 2:55pm

    Been there before

    Anybody who enjoyed usenet in the late 80's/early 90's know the value of increasingly larger crowds: lower signal/noise ratios. Come to think of it, the rising popularity of TechDirt is another example of the same phenom (first post, my butt).

    As the available content grows to infinity, the value is no longer in providing access to the content, but in filtering the content to just the items of value. Witness the fall of Yahoo and the rise of Google. There are lots of photos of flowers. There are lots of freely available photos of flowers. Being able to go to a professional stock photo catalog and look at exclusively _excellent_ phtos of flowers has real cash value to anybody whose time isn't infinite.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Jeff Howe, May 25th, 2006 @ 3:41pm

    Well, I do skateboard...

    But I don't have an MBA. Or body piercings. Wouldn't it make sense that the person writing the article coined the term, as is indeed the case? At any rate, the word never seemed half as interesting as the examples I studied in order to write the article, a scant few of which made it into the article. I've started a blog -- -- so I can give many of these variations on the crowdsourcing model proper consideration, as well as delve into long-term implications. Thanks for reading.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    first post, May 25th, 2006 @ 4:08pm


    Crapsaucetasticmania is a new buzzword I just invented to describe the phenonena whereby every idiot feels the need to invent a buzzword to describe any given phenonemon.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    w00fles, May 26th, 2006 @ 12:51am


    Perhaps it takes the identification a social/business trend for people to peice together their "business model". The truth is, most companies forget that they DON'T make money...They make a product or service, which they exchange for money.

    Why does it take a fucking Wired article for people to remember old concepts like The Delphi effect [Wikipedia]. It's not like some businessman who's very interested in making money would not consider such concepts - Identification of this concept was done back in 70s for god sakes.

    The title is correct in assuming this 'trending' is more about hatching new buzzwords than about getting work done,doing things better, or making more money (as a result of making a better product or service).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Alan, May 29th, 2006 @ 6:52am

    How come that so many postings to this conversation are negative and critical? Barley a week has gone by and some of those commenting are jumping all over the author and his article! I find it interesting that new definitions and thoughtful research are being done. Hey, if Google search went from barley a handful of hits to 180,000 in a few days something must have registered out there in the blogesphere, or am I just a lonely soul wearing rose-colored glasses? Alan.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Russell Kord, May 31st, 2006 @ 2:58am

    crowdsoucing and et al

    Crowdsourcing may bring new content at a very low price, but having looked at the presently avaialble content in digital imagery, the quality is very low, in my opinion. However, close to free may often be the only consideration for buyers, and is a powerful incentive.

    The downside of people consuming poor quality content at a low price over a long period of time is clear for all to see in the streets and malls of this country. It is however what people want, and they show no signs of altering their behavior even with the health risks involved.

    Fortunately digital imagery and video produced by everyone
    will probably not give you a heart attack or diabetes, although
    it may make finding a competent photographer or videographer
    a lot harder in the future.

    After all, who will spend time and money to train for a job that pays nothing, to produce great images for consumers that can no longer recognise the difference. Or care.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Russell Kord, May 31st, 2006 @ 3:31am

    crowdsourcing and a further thought

    There seems to be the idea that crowdsoucring will empower workers,
    but the workers who compete in photography have little overhead and
    are willing to absorb most of the costs of production for very little return.

    It is a reality of the the photography industry that many people will enter it, burn through their friends/family's support for about 18 months, and then return home to work at dad's car dealership/factory in Ohio/Washington. To be replaced of course by a new bunch willing to work for a credit-line and the chance to make it,
    until in 99% of the cases they make a similar trip back to Ohio/Washington.

    The only people to make money out of this iteration of crowdsourcing are those able to algomerate the work of
    people willing to work for little, and take a percentage off the top.

    Taking 75% of each $1 download produced by 20,000,000 eager photographers is going to be the only way to make money
    in the stock photography business of the future.

    It may also be the only way to make money in the industry you
    are in, dear reader.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Lionel, Sep 12th, 2006 @ 9:16am

    new crowdsourcing project

    Hello, I'm the founder of a new crowdsourcing project which aims to design innovative electronic products based on crowdsourcing community. Look at the blog for further details. An official website will be launched by mid of october.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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