Wired has an important article in their June issue on what they’ve dubbed crowdsourcing. What is crowdsourcing?
Remember outsourcing? Sending jobs to India and China is so 2003. The new pool of cheap labor: everyday people using their spare cycles to create content, solve problems, even do corporate R & D.
Jeff Howe, the author of Crowdsourcing, gives plenty of examples: it’s people uploading photos to iStockphoto where companies and people who need photos can buy them on the cheap. It’s VH1 sourcing videos that “ordinary” people have uploaded to the internet and building a show around them. It’s Proctor & Gamble finding underemployed brainiacs who solve thorny science and engineering problems at InnoCentive. And it’s Amazon’s Mechanical Turk … outsourcing fundamentally simple and repetitive problems that humans still do better than machines.
Other examples that Howe did not give but could have include the recent development of services that enable bloggers to sell their stories to mainstream media companies … newspapers, magazines, etc. … for a fraction of what a staff writer would cost. (For the life of me I cannot find that link back – help!) Or imagine excellent podcasts being paid for retransmission on satellite or terrestrial radio. I could see this happening with Venture Voice easily.
To me, this is incredibly relevant to the discussion on my recent We Are Not Consumers post. I wrote it in quasi-response to Pete Blackshaw’s Consumer-generated media blog … and Pete responded with a lengthy comment explaining why he still prefers the term “consumer.”
However, as the Wired article lists, 57% of 12- to 17-year-olds online are contributing to the web in one way or another:
Late last year the Pew Internet & American Life Project released a study revealing that 57 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds online – 12 million individuals – are creating content of some sort and posting it to the Web.
This is literally changing the world. However, if you’re a company that wants to take advantage of these new opportunities to get more work done cheaper, or to get work done that you’ve always wanted to do but could never do affordably, everything that is presented here relies on 4 things:
All parts of the workflow must be digital. Ideally, not just in PDF form but in malleable formats: text is text, images are images, structure is structure. Everything is broken down to its component bits.
It must be possible to route any and every individual piece wherever it is needed to whomever is needed whenever needed. This allows you to break complex tasks down into simple component chunks, which reduces specialized knowledge needed for any individual job.
After you’ve spread jobs all over the face of the earth, potentially, you need to be able to assemble all the bits and bytes back together.
- Flexible smart project managers
The entire process needs to be managed by smart flexible people who are open to new opportunities and able to adapt quickly to change.
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