Aveneu Park, Starling, Australia

Crowdsourcing, generated content in form of Google’s You

Crowdsourcing, Open Innovation and Co-creation (COC) are three facets of a related phenomenon
where enterprises create products, develop solutions or generate value by
engaging with external world. This outward approach challenging the binary notion
of buyer/seller is increasingly becoming popular across a spectrum of
businesses with an intent to reduce the cost and lead time of innovation, increase
productivity, improve processes and/or enhance customer engagement and loyalty.


Crowdsourcing is an
online, distributed problem-solving and production model that was described for
the first time by Jeff Howe and Marc Robinson in 2006 (Brabham 2008). In his
book: “How the Crowd is driving the power of business”, Jeff Howe defines
“Crowdsourcing” as an act of taking a task traditionally performed by a
designated agent (such as an employee or a contractor) and outsourcing it by
making an open call to an undefined but large group of people. Crowdsourcing,
by definition, relies heavily on usage of internet to interface with ‘crowd’. The
seeds of Crowdsourcing, much before it became a phenomenon, lie in early 1990s with
genesis of Linux Operating system, the most successful open source software used
in computers, cell phones and digital devices. At the turn of the millennium,
Wikipedia, founded by Larry Sanger and Jimmy Wales, became the next poster
child for open source collaboration. Launched in January 2001, Wiki had 15,000
articles by end of 2001. Today, it has more than 2 million articles –
approximately about 23 times the number of entries in the Encyclopedia
Britannica. The power of crowd has been successfully harnessed by NASA to
identify and measure land forms from image database of Mars – completing in one
month what would normally have taken 2 years for a professional planetary
geologist. In 2007 US Patent Office created a ‘Peer to Patent Project’ inviting
public to review and comment on patent applications before the patent is
issued. More recently, a whole new parallel world has been constructed with user
generated content in form of Google’s You Tube and News Corp’s MySpace. What is
driving this revolution is the fact that technology is making everything
cheaper, smaller, faster and easier to use placing tremendous creative power in
the hands of the crowd rather than in hands of professionals. A yet another
critical enabler for the crowdsourcing phenomenon is the rise of vibrant
self-organized geographically diverse online communities around topics of
shared interest. These online communities are better than brick-and-mortar
traditional organizations in harnessing talent. They are self-policing,
self-directing and thrive on power of persuasion, collaboration, recognition and
respect rather than hierarchical edicts and financial incentives. iStockphoto is a vast collection of photographic images
contributed by more than 50,000 amateur part-time photographers and graphic
artists. A fundamental tenet of problem-solving through forces of collective
wisdom of crowd is that breakthrough out-of-the-box thinking almost always comes
from someone with no prior experience in the field. Crowd excels not only in
generating ideas but also in sifting through them and voting on them to let the
best idea/solution bubble up to the top. Threadless.com generated more than 17
million USD in 2006 using a ‘design by democracy’ approach allowing people to
submit T-shirt design ideas on which others can vote. Google’s PageRank
algorithm, which determines relevance and importance of a website by counting
number of other websites linked to it, is one of the finest examples of
collaborative filtering powered by the crowd. Over the last decade, crowdsourcing
has dimensionally expanded to even using crowd’s collective pocketbook i.e.
crowdfunding. Inspired by Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner for
microfinance concept, Kiva.org launched the worlds’ first person-to-person
micro-funding website raising 20 million USD in capital from philanthropically
minded lenders from First World countries to help fund more than 200,000 new small
businesses in Third World countries. Sellaband.com, launched in August 2006,
allows bands to create a profile page and upload few of their music tracks. Listeners
have an option to buy a share in band’s future revenue stream by committing 10
USD. Once the band has attracted 50,000 USD in revenue, Sellaband connects the
band to a producer. By end of 2008, Sellaband had helped 21 bands get a break
in music industry.