While on vacation, you don’t earn money… you spend them. Not my brother-in-law—he finds ways to earn a few bucks. He uses his smartphone and apps like Gigwalk. While in Las Vegas days before the New Year, he surveyed bars and restaurants in the city. He wasn’t bar-hopping or something, he was taking 360 degree pictures of restaurants’ interiors and sending them to Bing. It was a gig he acquired through Gigwalk. The rate for this micro-task is around $5 per picture. Think about this, if 50 of those photos he submitted were accepted, he earned $250. He also does work for big companies that like to employ a “mobile workforce” to check on prices and placement of their products in major supermarkets. He interviews shoppers to conduct designed surveys. The rate for this type of gig is about $10 to $ 20 each. Not bad, isn’t it? Pepsi is using crowdsourcing to promote their sponsorship of the Super Bowl halftime show. They have a contest where fans can submit their personal photos in the hopes that it will be featured in the introduction video. They are sending different instructions per day to fans for diverse types of pictures. I can’t wait to see the outcome of that in the Super Bowl halftime.
What is Crowdsourcing?
This is what crowdsourcing is about—collecting contributions from many individuals to achieve a goal—thus doing more with fewer resources possible. Just imagine if Bing would want to photograph interiors of full service restaurants in the United States and would be willing to employ full time workers to do so. How many workers and for how long? Bing has to consider that there are over 200,000 full service restaurants. Bing would need to contract hundreds of employees for many months to complete this and this would turn out to be a very expensive undertaking.
When you think of a crowd, you think of an unruly bunch of people gathered in a disorganized way. Traditional crowd manipulation is the intentional use of techniques to engage, control, and influence the crowd in order to direct its behavior to accomplish something. Many businesses and politicians have successfully employed that technique in the past. Crowdsourcing differs from traditional crowd manipulation by taking the significance of geographical proximities away from the equation. Nowadays, you can organize individuals from different locations to do what you want using technology. The development of mobile technology in both the application side and for devices (Smartphone) is helping push crowdsourcing to be more commonplace.
Many of us use crowdsourcing without thinking about it. I bet you have used products that came out of crowdsourcing or have participated in crowdsourcing in some way without even realizing it. If you are using Wikipedia, then you are using one example of a service that is a product of the collaborative work of a crowd—or to use a better term, of volunteers. Wikipedia has 24 million articles that were written collaboratively by volunteers around the world. Almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the site, and it has about 100,000 active volunteers that contribute in this process. This is a classic crowdsourcing success story. If you have ever rented an apartment and used comments from previous tenants online to help you decide which complex to take; if you have made a purchase in Amazon.com and read customer reviews to help you decide which product to buy; or if you have used comments on TripAdvisor.com to plan a vacation, then you have taken advantage of crowdsourcing.
Crowdsourcing for Social Change
What can you do to contribute to changing the world? Of course, you can donate money to a good cause but beyond that, there are relatively new ways for individuals to shape social change through crowdsourcing. Prominent blogger Alexey Navalny’s site, RosPil.net, makes the most of crowdsourcing by using it as a mechanism to expose corruption in Russia. RosPil uses crowdsourcing to ask anonymous volunteers to report government anomalies in the form of tenders that are designed to generate kickbacks. From a recent HRB article, “Rospil claims, as of December 2011, to have prevented the granting of dubious contracts worth US$1.3 billion.
Married couple Swati and Ramesh Ramanathan set up the website iPaidaBribe.com in India as a unique initiative to fight corruption. They ask anonymous users to disclose the nature, amount, and recipients of bribes. The initiative provides statistics like heat maps and areas of government who have rampant corruption practices.
You don’t even need a specialized website to run crowdsourcing. Many of these initiatives happen in the internet seamlessly through netizens’ initiatives in Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social media websites.
Smartphones are making crowdsourcing even more sophisticated. Smartphone use has been climbing steadily upward in the last couple of years. The simple capability of a smartphone to take a photo with location and time stamping is a major capability that is used to capture information easily. As the use of smartphones continue to increase, I foresee a proliferation in simple crowdsourcing initiatives – be it for business, social change or other purpose.
Photo courtesy of James Cridland.