Crowdsourcing: Business v Users

I understand crowdsourcing as kind of an industrial age, corporatist framing of a cultural phenomenon. There’s human energy being expended here. A company can look at that as either a threat — to their copyrights and intellectual property or as some unwanted form of competition — or, if they see it positively, then they see it as almost this new affinity group population to be exploited as a resource. And I guess what I’m undecided on and debating internally is whether this is fine. In other words, am I naïve to think this isn’t the death knell for a community-oriented, collaborative, open source ethos? Has corporate America finally figured out the way to arrest this shift in the balance of power? Or do we let them believe they are doing this when actually it is human participation and collaboration going on, the kind of thing I would promote.

More from filmmaker Douglas Rushkoff from WIRED’s What Does Crowdsourcing Really Mean?

Subvert and Profit fills the niche market for ‘darker’ crowdsourced actions. Beginning by operating a black market for votes on social bookmarking services, S&P will bootstrap itself towards operating a full-fledged crowdsourcing marketplace for clandestine actions on the Internet. Striving to maintain our allure and underground appeal, we seek to represent the fundamentally subversive nature of the Internet….Our system has successfully placed a good deal of content on the front page of Digg. At this point, 2 out of 3 advertisements are successful, and we’re getting better. Ultimately our attempts are at the mercy of the Digg community. The average client buys 70 Diggs, though some clients prefer to gamble by purchasing 10-20, hoping that regular Digg users will carry them the rest of the way. We haven’t collected enough data from satisfied advertisers, though I’ve heard a story on Digg gets roughly 10,000 visitors. Once a blog I run under another name got over 30,000. All of this translates to organic marketing that is an order of magnitude cheaper than most other forms of Internet advertising.

More from “Ragnar Danneskjold” of Subvert & Profit from WIRED’s Exploring the Dark Side of Crowdsourcing

There are two ways that crowds are wise.

One way is that the crowds seem to average out certain kinds of nuttiness — which is sometimes a good thing and sometimes not, so I don’t want to just say that is a wonderful thing. I remember one of the examples in James Surowiecki’s book, The Wisdom of Crowds, where a State Fair type gambit was guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar to win a prize, or something like that. The averages were much closer to the answer than the individual guesses. I think there are times when there is wisdom in response averaging, and that is one way crowds can be wise or smart.

The other way is in diversity. It turns out that for a system like Innocentive we are playing off the diversity angle much more. I go back to the Archimedes example. If you just take the story at face value, and I realize that is impossible to do — but if you could reproduce the sitting in the bathtub part, how could I ever build that into my R&D function? But if I go out to the large numbers of individuals in the crowd, somebody is going to sit in their bathtub at the right point in time.

Read more from Dr. Alpheus Bingham, co-founder of research & development firm Innocentive in WIRED’s Using Crowd Power for R&D

Get more Crowdsourcing and Digg content from previous WNM mentions.

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Filed under A Culture of Participation, Business 2.0, Digital Commons, Media Evolution, Same as it ever Was, Social Media

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