Wednesday, April 20, 2011


A colleague asked me recently about what I thought about crowdsourcing, was I for it or against it? Here are some thoughts on the question that developed from the dialog.

As I noted in my presentation at the recent DIHAD conference (see my last Blog entry), technology is a neutral tool; the intent and its use defines its ultimate good. Some points to consider about crowdsourcing:

Some Cons:
1) Paying for crowd-work is a modern form of piece-work, something unions mobilized against a century ago
2) In its global reach and nature, it can be a race to the bottom on wages
3) The crowd can be used for ill intent. See Jonathan Zittrain's work; he talks about a number of the risks of crowdsourcing (See for example, a recent International  Herald Tribune article)

Some Pros:
1) As a volunteer program, putting questions to the crowd can be a rich, inclusive activity
2) Ideagoras can be a source of innovation by casting a wide net for solutions (see
3) A "discover and harvest" approach to Field IT is a positive form of crowdsourcing
4) Crowdsourcing can provide a means for "sunshine info," where everyone is a detector; and political, economic, and policing transparency is more likely.

I favor the volunteer, idea harvesting, sunshine side of crowdsourcing. I find the pay-for-micro-work side of crowdsourcing demeaning. And I worry about crowdsourcing in the hands of oppressive governments.

Also see for an interesting application of crowdsourcing.

"The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent positions, strategies or opinions of any of the organizations with which I am associated."

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