Examples of Analog Crowdsourcing


To understand what analog crowdsourcing is, we must first look at the word “analog”. In this instance, we will refer to technology as it is most relevant to crowdsourcing. Very often when we talk about analog technology it is accepted that we mean the opposite of digital technology. However, this can be confusing as most people think most if not all technology is digital.

An analog watch tells the time via two hands that sweep around a dial pointing at the correct numbers. A digital watch displays numbers on a small screen. But how does the latter make it analog? Consider this, the hands represent the passing of time, they aren’t time itself. Therefore the movement of the hands is an analogy of time. As we know, an analogy is a representation of something. Now apply this to crowdsourcing. When we talk of crowdsourcing online you think of individuals doing the same thing. Yes, they’re a crowd of sorts but they’re not in a literal crowd or group of people. This is digital or online crowdsourcing.

Beispiele von analogem Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing Was First Mentioned in 2006

An editor for Wired, Jeff Howe initially coined the term in 2006 in his article “The Rise of Crowdsourcing” and the term crowdsourcing was born. Crowdsourcing is mainly practised via the Internet these days because it simply makes sense logistically and can bring people together from all over the world easily. However, as Howe mentions in his article, it wasn’t always that way. Although this is a new term, the practice itself is far from new.

Crowdsourcing Without the Internet

Crowdsourcing works particularly well on the Internet, it has varied uses and can help many businesses and individuals alike. But what if we didn’t have the internet? Would we still be able to crowdsource? Before the popularity of the internet when a company wanted to cut costs they would outsource. This saw a huge rise in Western companies outsourcing office based tasks to other countries. The reason for this was that those countries were able to pay workers far less than the ones the company was based in. Whlie many consumers were irritated by this companies took the hit by seeing costs go down.

An example of this was when British Telecom started to open call centres in India back in 2003. They closed around 70 out of 100 UK call centres much to the annoyance of ex-employees and customers alike. Yet by 2020 they brought all call centres back to the UK. This was based mainly on ethical grounds and frustration from their customers. Many companies are following suit and relocating back to their original offices. Whilst this isn’t specifically crowdsourcing, outsourcing is often seen as a precursor to crowdsourcing.

When did Crowdsourcing Start?

This is an often asked question and it’s one that’s very hard to answer because crowdsourcing has probably been around as long as humankind has existed. Communities wouldn’t thrive unless people worked together. One of the earliest examples of crowdsourcing was back in 1714. Back then navigation was difficult and seafarers would struggle in open waters causing many vessels to be lost completely. To combat this the British government created the Longitude Prize of £20,000 (millions in today’s money) to be paid to someone who could combat this situation.

Word was spread far and wide about the prize and, of course, people got to work largely due to the huge financial incentive. The winner was a one John Harrison who created a clock that would work out at sea and when used with the position of the sun sailors could orientate themselves. The British government used the crowd to fix a problem that had been plaguing sailors for centuries.

Historical Examples of Analog Crowdsourcing

When including crowdfunding then a very early example is from 618-907 with the creation of the Joint-Stock Company Heben created by the Tang dynasty. Merchants operated using funds from investors as well as having shareholders. In 1849 a crowd of 150 weather observers were set up as part of the Smithsonian Meterological Project. Volunteer’s data would be sent via telegraph to compile weather maps. 1884 saw 800 volunteers create the Oxford English Dictionary via cataloging words to form the first copy. In 1916 Planters Peanuts held a contest to create a new logo and thus Mr Peanut was born from the mind of a 14-year-old boy from the crowd. Robert Axelrod invited people to submit FORTRAN programming algorithms in 1979 to play the Prisoners Dilemma. Whilst this example does use technology it was well before the World Wide Web.