What is Crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing, a term coined by Jeff Howe in 2006, blends “crowd” and “outsourcing” to describe how businesses tap into a large community for services or ideas, rather than relying on traditional service providers. The crowdsourcing definition encompasses the idea of leveraging collective intelligence and includes a spectrum from unpaid projects like Wikipedia to various paid endeavors.

The principle therefore describes a process in which companies outsource parts of their work processes and fall back on a community of thousands of people (the crowd) instead of individual service providers. Companies, so to speak, work with the “intelligence of the masses”. Individual persons who participate in the crowd are called crowd workers or clickworkers often registered on crowdsourcing platforms.

Crowdsourcing projects work with or without payment. The best-known example of a crowdsourcing project in which crowd workers are not paid is the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. It is a crowdsourcing platform where anyone can contribute, and everyone can edit or improve the content. However, the definition of crowdsourcing is not limited to financial aspects but also extends to its different types and application areas, indicating the breadth and versatility of this approach in modern business and collaborative environments.

Crowdsourcing – Development

Although Web 2.0 was conducive to set the “knowledge of the crowd” into motion, it was used much earlier. For example, in 1879, when James Murray, the philologist and editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, asked his English-speaking readers to provide references for unusual as well as standard words. This was one of the historical crowdsourcing projects resulting from the desire to create a dictionary of the English language that documented the origins of the words. However, the founders of the Oxford English Dictionary soon realized that the task could not be mastered by single persons and that they would have to recourse to the help of the crowd. The response was overwhelming and resulted in the most extensive and significant English dictionary.

Today the Internet offers new, improved forms of cooperation with the crowd. The obvious benefit is the speed with which the crowd of users can be activated in the Web. Platforms such as Wikipedia pool the knowledge of all participating users; on WikiLeaks anonymous whistleblowers disclosed secret documents pertaining to public matters, and fans can support their favorite projects on the funding platform, Kickstarter.

Crowdsourcing Platforms – Main Types

Types of Crowdsourcing Platforms

Crowdtesting

Crowdtesting is inviting and receiving feedback from a subset of your target audience to identify issues or problems with a product (often apps and websites). This gives you more visibility into how the product is being used and what challenges the audience may be having when interacting with your product (including technical bugs or usability issues with apps and websites).

The term crowdfunding is used when the crowd finances crowdsourcing projects or the development of new products. The crowd can sponsor projects via special platforms; in this case, special emphasis is placed on the non-material aspect. However, crowdfunding is also used as a means of preliminary financing in the United States. A provision is disbursed to the sponsors if the project is successful at the end.

In engagement and charity the term reveals that the crowd is expected to donate something. However, in this case the focus is on non-profit projects. Money donations are accepted but the organizations are just as happy to receive donations in kind such as food or clothing, as well as the involvement of voluntary helpers for various projects and events.

Collaborative Knowledge

The term collective knowledge describes the collection as well as filtering and organization of knowledge. In so-called group or collective intelligence many users put their knowledge at the disposal of the crowd. Wikipedia is an excellent example of this phenomenon. Likewise, the assessments or decisions of a large pool of different people can deliver equally good results as those of an expert in his field. So-called prognosis platforms make use of this principle.

Open Innovation

Open Innovation is a form of collaboration that aims to bring together diverse stakeholders and build new solutions for problems by expanding the traditional boundaries between business sectors. The most common type of open innovation is between firms and organizations that offer complementary capabilities.

Open innovation in crowdsourcing is the process of engaging diverse, external people in order to generate new ideas and solutions. Open innovation relies on a team or community approach so that different perspectives and knowledge can be shared.

Companies sometimes outsource their innovation process and strive, with the help of the crowd, to create new product ideas, produce, optimize and market products. This process can also be used to develop problem-solving solutions. High customer satisfaction is guaranteed thanks to the wide range of persons participating.

Creative Crowdsourcing Platforms

Creative and design crowdsourcing involves soliciting feedback from a large group of people to develop ideas, products or services. Creative crowdsourcing can include anything such as websites, apps, or even video games.

In addition, the creative crowd is also used to create graphic designs such as logos, brochures, advertising material, etc. Companies and private individuals offer creative tasks on numerous platforms; these jobs are more complex and better paid because they demand expert knowledge. As already mentioned before, these can include the creation of websites, banners or logos.

Microtasking

Microtasking is a type of crowdsourcing where individual tasks are assigned to small groups. Microtaskers can either be individuals or an organization that divides the work amongst its members. Microtasking is often used for tasks that require small individual steps, like writing a blog post or doing research.

Crowdsourcing Microtasking

When it comes to microjobbing or microtasking very small tasks, so-called microtasks, are offered to a large group of Internet users. In most of the cases these microtasks result out of a major project that has been divided into many similar subtasks.

The crowd is always a good choice whenever companies have to handle a larger number of tasks in a relatively short period of time. The use of the crowd makes a large number of workers available on demand without creating any overhead costs. Therefore, when demand is irregular, a company can make use of the manpower of thousands of workers on a flexible basis.

It goes without saying that the crowd is best used for tasks that are easily divided into individual microtasks and then reassembled to a convincing overall result after completion. In addition, the task that is being outsourced must not require any profound knowledge of your own product or company. This is essential to ensure that a sufficient number of qualified workers are available to implement the project in a short period of time and provide satisfactory results.

Crowdsourcing vs. Crowdfunding

In the evolving digital world, crowdsourcing and crowdfunding are often mentioned in the same breath due to their reliance on collective public participation. However, they diverge significantly in purpose, process, and outcomes. Here’s a closer look at how these two models differ:


Nature of Contribution:

  • Crowdsourcing: This involves gathering non-monetary contributions like expertise, ideas, information, or specific services from a large, often global, group of people. It’s about leveraging the diverse skills and knowledge of the crowd.
  • Crowdfunding: In contrast, focuses on collecting financial contributions from a broad audience. This approach is used to raise capital for projects, ventures, or causes, relying on the collective financial support of backers.

Primary Objectives:

  • Crowdsourcing: The main goal is to solve problems, generate ideas, or complete tasks through collective intelligence and collaborative efforts. It is often used in innovation, research, and development contexts.
  • Crowdfunding: Aims to secure funding for new initiatives, projects, or causes. It democratizes the funding process, allowing individuals and small enterprises to access capital that might be unavailable through traditional channels.

Use Cases and Applications:

  • Crowdsourcing: Common in areas like data analysis, content creation, software development, and open innovation platforms. It’s utilized in projects that range from scientific research to creative design.
  • Crowdfunding: Typically used for launching new products, supporting artistic endeavors, funding startups, or backing social and community projects.

Engagement and Rewards:

  • Crowdsourcing: Contributors might engage for various reasons, including the challenge, the opportunity to innovate, or the sense of community. Rewards can range from recognition and satisfaction to potential financial compensation based on the nature of the project.
  • Crowdfunding: Backers are often motivated by the desire to support something they believe in, with rewards typically including early access to products, exclusive content, or equity in the venture.

Outcomes:

  • Crowdsourcing: Results in the aggregation of diverse inputs to create, enhance, or innovate products, services, or content. It taps into a wider pool of talent and ideas, often leading to more creative and effective solutions.
  • Crowdfunding: Leads to the actualization of projects through financial backing. It is a testament to the power of community support in bringing ideas to fruition.

In summary, while both crowdsourcing and crowdfunding utilize the collective strength of large groups, they diverge in their core principles and applications. Crowdsourcing is about engaging a community for their skills and knowledge, fostering collaborative creation and problem-solving. Crowdfunding, on the other hand, is about financial participation, enabling people to collectively fund and support initiatives they are passionate about. Each model represents a unique facet of digital collaboration and community support, reflecting the evolving nature of participation and funding in the internet age.

Advantages of Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing, as a model for leveraging the collective intelligence and skills of a distributed group of people, offers a range of advantages across various sectors and applications. This chapter explores the multitude of benefits that organizations, communities, and individuals can reap from embracing the crowdsourcing paradigm.

Cost Efficiency

One of the primary advantages of crowdsourcing projects is the reduction in costs. Traditional outsourcing or in-house development often requires significant investment in recruitment, training, salaries, and infrastructure. In contrast, crowdsourcing allows for flexible engagement with a vast talent pool, leading to competitive pricing and reduced overheads. The pay-per-task or contribution model minimizes financial outlay while maximizing output.

Access to a Diverse Talent Pool

Crowdsourcing opens the door to a global workforce with a wide array of skills, expertise, and perspectives. This diversity can inject creativity and innovation into projects that might be limited by the homogeneity of a small, localized team. The variety in thought and approach available through crowdsourcing can lead to more well-rounded and robust solutions.

Scalability and Flexibility

Projects that utilize crowdsourcing can easily scale up or down based on real-time needs without the logistical challenges of hiring or laying off employees. Whether it’s a startup looking to test a new idea or a large enterprise needing to manage seasonal demand, the crowd offers an elastic workforce that can be tailored to suit fluctuating requirements.

Speed and Efficiency

Crowdsourcing can significantly expedite processes. Tasks can be distributed among numerous participants, enabling parallel processing and rapid completion. This is particularly advantageous for time-sensitive projects that would otherwise take longer if confined to the working hours and availability of a traditional workforce.

Innovation and Creativity

With a vast pool of participants, crowdsourcing encourages a breeding ground for innovation. The crowd can provide a wide array of ideas, solutions, and feedback that a company might not generate internally. This is especially beneficial for creative endeavors, problem-solving, and brainstorming sessions.

Real-Time Analytics and Feedback

Crowdsourcing platforms often provide tools and metrics for real-time analytics, allowing organizations to monitor the progress of tasks and gather feedback instantaneously. This immediate insight can be used to make swift adjustments, ensuring the final outcome is aligned with project goals.

Risk Mitigation

One of the primary advantages of crowdsourcing is the reduction in costs. Traditional outsourcing or in-house development often requires significant investment in recruitment, training, salaries, and infrastructure. In contrast, crowdsourcing allows for flexible engagement with a vast talent pool, leading to competitive pricing and reduced overheads. The pay-per-task or contribution model minimizes financial outlay while maximizing output.

Crowdsourcing Advantages
Crowdsourcing on Clickworker.com - How does it work? Pt. 1

How does crowdsourcing work at clickworker?

We analyze your requirements together with you and divide your project into individual work parcels, so-called microjobs.

A network of over 6 million qualified Clickworkers all of whom have proven their expertise in a multi-level qualification process are then at your disposal, and can start work on your order immediately.

We reassemble the microjobs after they have been completed and deliver the finished overall result.

Crowdsourcing at clickworker – More

Typical Crowdsourcing Applications & Crowdsourcing Solutions

AI Training Data

Creation, research and processing of training data for AI systems.

More about AI Training Data

SEO Text Creation

Creation and optimization of texts in numerous languages and varieties.

More about Unique Content for SEO

Categorization & Tagging

Structuring large amounts of data by categorizing and indexing.

More about Categorization & Tagging

Web Researches

Address data research and verification, leads and keywords researches, …

More about Web Researches

There is an empty canvas. You may place a tile upon it, but you must wait to place another. Individually you can create something. Together you can create something more.– Reddit Place

Reddit Place 2022

Creative Crowd – An unusal, recent Example

To illustrate the system a bit, we can look at Reddit’s recent crowd experiment.

Originally intended as an April Fool’s joke in 2017, the “Place” project was repeated in 2022. In the beginning there was an empty canvas of four million (2000 × 2000) pixel squares. For 4 days, every Reddit user was able to color a pixel of their choice on a small cooldown of a few minutes.

Several subreddits coordinated to claim and decorate certain sections of the canvas for themselves. It was only through this collaborative effort of over 6 million participating users that this breathtaking result could be achieved in the end. The development of the canvas can also be viewed as a time-lapse video.

Real-World Examples of Crowdsourcing

Through the practice of “crowdsourcing,” a group of people can contribute their expertise, opinions, or resources to a task or project. Crowdsourcing can be used to solve a wide variety of tasks, from developing a new product to conducting market research. Crowdsourcing can be used to gather data, create new ideas, or solve a problem.

Below are a few real-world examples of crowdsourcing.

  • Waze
    Traffic apps are designed to help drivers avoid accidents by providing them with up-to-date information about traffic conditions in their area. Traffic apps rely on the contributions of thousands of “citizen scientists” who use their smartphones to report road incidents and traffic congestion. This data helps traffic engineers develop better algorithms and make more informed decisions about how best to manage traffic flow. Waze is one of the most popular crowd-powered startups. Users of the app can report traffic congestion, and the app will also suggest the best route to travel. Waze gathers information from users by asking them to report road closures and tracking driving speed to identify traffic jams.

  • Wikipedia
    One of the earliest applications of online crowdsourcing is Wikipedia. In 2001, Wikipedia launched a free, web-based, multilingual, and collaborative encyclopedia based on a non-profit business model. Wikipedia is currently the most widely used encyclopedia on the internet. With 17 million pages authored collectively by the community, it aims to be “The sum of all human knowledge in one place.” Collectively and without compensation, community members have written every page. Wikipedia users have the option to contribute anonymously and articles can be created or revised by anyone with a computer.

  • CitySourced
    An industrial platform for civic involvement is called CitySourced. Citizens can discover and report non-emergency civic issues like public works, quality of life, and environmental issues using the CitySourced mobile app. The service is a component of the e-Government or “gov 2.0” movement, which attempts to use technology to establish a connection between the government and its constituents.

  • Informative Video on CitySourced

    Beautify Your Neighborhood with an App: CitySourced | Brain Food Daily | TakePart TV
  • Zooniverse
    Given the size of the universe, it would take an enormous quantity of data to fully understand all of its complexities. Through the Moon Zoo crowdsourcing project, which Zooniverse established, regular people can examine and arrange high-resolution lunar photos. Four million lunar photographs have been studied so far.

    Video on Zooniverse

    A Brief Introduction to the Zooniverse

Crowdsourcing – Key Takeways

In the realm of project execution and task management, microjobbing and microtasking through crowdsourcing represent a significant shift towards efficiency and innovation. This approach, which involves dividing larger projects into smaller, manageable microtasks, taps into the collective effort of a vast online crowd. It offers a cost-effective, flexible solution that circumvents traditional challenges of recruitment and infrastructure. By accessing a diverse global talent pool, crowdsourcing injects creativity and diverse perspectives into projects, leading to more comprehensive solutions. Its scalability and flexibility are particularly advantageous for adapting to fluctuating demands and urgent timelines.

Moreover, the model fosters innovation, drawing on a wide range of ideas and solutions that extend beyond the capabilities of internal teams. Real-world examples, from traffic navigation apps to collaborative online encyclopedias, highlight the practical effectiveness of crowdsourcing. In essence, crowdsourcing stands as a testament to the power of collective effort in the digital age, transforming how businesses and communities solve problems and execute projects.

Crowdsourcing – FAQ

What is Crowdsourcing?

Combination of the words “outsourcing” and “crowd”. Outsourcing work processes with the help of a community instead of individual service providers.

How does Crowdsourcing work?

Define a fitting crowdsourcing type for your project and create tasks for the crowd. E.g. microtasking: split up a large project into many parts.

Why Crowdsourcing?

Utilize crowd knowledge to source expertise and availability of millions of crowdworkers or Clickworkers to deliver fast, efficient results to your company.

Where to use Crowdsourcing / Where can it be applied?

There are countless application areas for crowdsourcing. For example Training Data for AI, SEO text creation, Categorization and Tagging, Surveys, Web Research, Mobile Crowdsourcing and Product Data Maintenance..

When is Crowdsourcing effective?

For big, data hungry projects. Getting diversity of impressions and fast problem solving.