Crowdsourcing: Hanging Out with All the Right People

According to researchers at Penn State, crowdsourcing works best when the right type of crowd is matched up with particular types of crowdsourcing projects.

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According to researchers at Penn State, crowdsourcing works best when the right type of crowd is matched up with particular types of crowdsourcing projects. For instance, for the website ebird.org, bird watchers submit observations and sightings, such as this Ovenbird spotted in Atlanta.

Image courtesy of Flickr user geno k.

Can crowdsourcing help your business?

According to Penn State researchers, crowds have characteristics that can be more or less useful depending on the organizational problem at hand.

For instance, Dell’s IdeaStorm launched in 2007, has encouraged current and potential customers to make recommendations on enhancements to Dell’s products and services. As of November 2012, the crowd had generated 18,000 ideas, of which Dell has implemented 500.

In another example, eBird.com, a collaboration between Cornell University and The National Audobon Society enlists bird watchers from across North America to document the presence or absence of specific species of birds. This crowd of bird watchers has submitted millions of observations.

While Dell and ebird.org both utilized crowdsourcing, they use different types of crowds to solve two very different problems.

For businesses interested in solving problems with crowds, not just any crowd will do. But what crowd is right?

The Penn State study, “Hanging with the right crowd: matching crowdsourcing need to crowd characteristics,” offers specifics on how to match organizational needs with the “right” crowd. The study’s authors, Lee Erickson, a Ph.D. candidate at Penn State University College of Information Science and Technology and former CEO of Erickson Barnett Marketing Agency, along with Irene Petrick, a senior lecturer of Information Science and Technology at Penn State, and Eileen Trauth, a professor in the same department, identified four areas in which crowds are commonly used to solve problems: marketing/branding, improving productivity; product/service innovation and knowledge capture.

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Social business research and more recent thought leadership explore the challenges and opportunities presented by social media.
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Comments (3)
Colin Pinto
I found the chart of the framework for applying to a crowdsourcing project immensely valuable.  I'm working on a project to improve heart health, looking at the psychosocial aspects as well as diet. 
Crowdsourcing Quality Articles: Knowing the Right Keys to Turn
[…] Finding the right workers makes all the difference in the outcome of your project. Not only do you need to locate the right group, but you need to identify the quality writers in that group. For example, if you need product descriptions or blogs about video games, then you should have no problem identifying a group of workers that are interested in your work. However, identifying the quality writers in that group greatly increases the quality of the content you receive. […]
Boris Chu
I think crowdsourcing is a great way to collaborate on many different things;  I would usually use crowdsourcing from getting ideas from customers and get a better understanding of what the customers need and want.  I would want to get a clearer picture of that chart though it looks interesting although I don't quite understand it.