Sunday, November 1, 2015

Crowdsourcing: Benefits and Challenges

Kelsey Miller

With the VP on Communications from the Wikimedia Foundation coming to speak in class this coming Wednesday, it inspired me to write about crowdsourcing. Merriam-Webster defines crowdsourcing as "The practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers." Examples of it are or Wikipedia. I feel crowdsourcing gets such a bad wrap, when really, there are A LOT of benefits that a lot of people overlook. 

To start, let's look at the challenges of crowdsourcing:

Quality of content. Let's start with the obvious concern of quality control. Because anyone can contribute their thoughts and opinions, there is always a chance of receiving phony advice or information. This is definitely a concern for people that turn to sites like Wikipedia when learning about a particular topic or when writing a paper for school. 

Occasionally time dependent. When you need an answer to a question at a moment's notice, it is difficult to rely on to give you a good quality answer when you need it.

Potential lack of collaboration. This may seem to counter the point of crowdsourcing altogether, but in some cases, there are people that aren't as actives as others. When someone contributes to a topic or answers a question and someone challenges what they say, the other user may or may not follow up or try to collaborate to find the best answer or solution. This is dependent on their activity level.

On the other hand, Hokiat suggests that crowd members will compete with each other by nature. Because people want to be correct by nature, if someone were to question something that someone contributed to a topic or a question, that person may become defensive and cause conflict instead of solving or expanding on a topic.
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Now let's take a look at the benefits of crowdsourcing:

You can build relationships. There is quite a community around crowdsourcing. People tat consider themselves knowledgable on certain topics may collaborate together or get to know and develop mutual respect from one another through contributing to crowdsourcing websites. The Wall Street Journal suggests that if you manage a crowdsourcing website, it is important to build relationships with the crowd that you notice is the most engaged and are invested in what your website is about.

Several People > Experts. "The collective insight of a large number of individual's is superior because of the diversity and breadth of ideas and knowledge these people bring. Companies need to learn from those with different skills and backgrounds---not from those confined to the department,"  Vivek Wadhwa explains in the Wall Street Journal article.

Less expensive. From a management perspective, crowdsourcing is definitely easier on the wallet. Because you aren't paying people to be experts and give you information, you can save a lot of money. On the flip side, you will also run the risk of the quality of the content. But as we mentioned in the previous advantage, just because the people may not be experts, doesn't mean they aren't knowledgable.

As I mentioned, crowdsourcing can get a bad rep from a lot of people, and I start sweating when I notice people found their research on Wikipedia, but we must keep in mind that just because some content is crowdsourced, it certainly doesn't necessarily mean that is isn't a reliable source. Just like everything else you find on the internet, it is important to be weary.

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