In Crowdsourcing is Not an Industry, Let’s Stop Calling it One David Bratvold of Daily Crowdsource brings up some worthy points to prove it. The piece was a strong showing, but I think there’s more to this debate than we’re taking into account. The crux of this debate lies not only in linguistic and symantic dissonance, but something larger. Something which grows out of the nature of the information era we live in.
I’ll admit – I have stumbled on this cobblestone of vocabulary as well. Even in my opening speech at Crowdconvention, I asked, “Where are we as a market? “ And then I took it to the next level and said, “Where are we, maybe, as an industry – well, that’s a big word for what we are doing here…“ Though I wavered I don’t think I need to eat my words just yet. I think the newness of what crowdsourcing does on an international scale and the way people and companies implement is industry at its best!
Whether we’re crossing the chasm, or in the tornado (as tech business writer Geoffrey A. Moore describes it) – we are all driven by this 21st century process, market, or industry of crowdsourcing. A sort of barn raising on steroids. If we think of industry in the 20th century view, I would agree – crowdsourcing is not cars or steel. But if we go to the classical meaning of industry it makes sense. Coming from the Latin word industria, meaning ‘diligent activity directed to some purpose’ captures perfectly what crowdsourcing is all about.
One of the things I love about technology is the way traditional ideas and practices get re-purposed. One of my favorites is how online retailers “merchandise”. Germans are good at making nouns into verbs, but this is really great.
When Language Fails
But maybe the word industry itself has been outgrown in this era of an international, mobile world. As the historians say, the basis of how we work has changed fundamentally. We have moved out of the industrial- and well into the informational-era. And the way we do business and how we organize ourselves directly reflects this. To keep the metaphor of barn raising going: those 18th century ropes could now be represented by the Internet and the men pulling the planks together could be any person with skills anywhere in the world.
Even if crowdsourcing is changing the way we work and do business, and evolving into a more open – in this case open-source–format, we still use 20th century vocabulary.
Crowdsourcing may very well employ the same amount of people in the future as one of the traditional industry sectors today.
As Jeff Howe says: the rise of “crowdsourcing” as a phrase, “the ‘what’ of what was being produced is going to be incredibly diverse.”
And even great crowdsourcing insiders like Carl Esposti call it an industry – probably because that’s simply the vocabulary we have to use. (Mr. Esposti has even created a very useful crowdsourcing industry.)
Where Do We Go From Here?
Despite my comments, I do agree with David Bratvold on one main point: Crowdsourcing is misunderstood. The ever-so-slightly complicated process of crowdsourcing has always been confusing before someone came along with a concise way to talk about it. Think Twitter or Wikipedia, both of which use crowdsourcing and have created their own language specific to their products to make it easily understandable (i.e. tweets, wikis, etc.) But I see the question of whether crowdsourcing is an industry as part of that reinvention which we need to embrace, and the vocabulary will sort itself out.
What do you think?
Is this all just in-fighting, or does this the label change your idea of the crowdsourcing world? David Bratvold and I will continue this conversation here and on Daily Crowdsource, but we need your input. Please chime in at the crowdsourcing forum thread
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