Tag Archives: crowdsource

XKCD on Crowdsourcing

25 May

From xkcd.com:

We don't sell products; we sell the marketplace. And by 'sell the marketplace' we mean 'play shooters, sometimes for upwards of 20 hours straight.'

XKCD is always relevant, and this one struck me as especially poignant since it reflects my ultimate goal for crowdsourcing. Do you think the speaker realizes he is describing the death of his own job?


The Music of Many: Interview With Ryan Walsh

24 May

Ryan WalshRyan Walsh is a singer and guitarist for the Boston band Hallelujah The Hills. In celebration of their new album out this week, Walsh has teamed up with web comic Surviving the World to present a crowdsourced project to his fans. He asks participants to record their own personal melody for the phrase, “You can escape your fate but it’s not considered polite.” He’ll then sew them together into a single, collaborative musical masterpiece.

  • What happened was, Dante Shepherd asked us to guest host his web comic Surviving The World for a week in honor of our album release. We had four lessons (posts) set to go but I needed to turn in one more. I thought, well Dante has all of these cool, interesting followers; what if we somehow all built a song together?
  • I was Googling the evolutionary reasons for music and I was surprised that no one agreed on one theory. But after I read different theories for a while, I kept seeing this idea that it binds people together as a group. It seemed so obvious, but then sort of profound at the same time.
  • So this is an experiment to make some new kind of song but it’s also an experiment to bring a group of strangers together to work on something as a team.
  • There’s a reason I’m in a band and not a solo performer. It’s a hive mind type of thing. The one-hundredth monkey. When you can effectively pull ideas from everywhere and work together it’s like putting rocket fuel in your engine.
  • Everything is an idea at first. That’s why spending time improving idea-gathering skills is so important.
  • I’ve gotten 22 submissions so far. If I get 25 that’ll be enough, and if I get 200 that’ll work too.
  • I’m going to put them all on my iPod and get familiar with them for a few days. Then I’m just going to have fun with the cutting and pasting, and we’ll overdub some additional instruments and vocals on top. It could end up a 3 minute song or an hour-long piece!
  • This is an open-ended experiment. No expectations, it’s more fun that way. Certainly I hope to see something new, some kind of insight.
  • We could do something with only two or three tracks, honestly. But I think it’ll make the composition more interesting, diverse, and fun with more people involved. An avalanche of melodies will only be a good thing! It’s definitely the “collage” spirit.
  • I would love our entire fan base to join in.
  • If you record one sentence spoken by anyone you encounter today and play it on repeat it’ll reveal itself as music in about two minutes. For me, there’s a fine line between art made by committee (bad) and a group-sourced creation (good).
  • Every stranger is a possible partner in a creation neither of you have thought of yet.

Walsh is accepting submissions until June 1st, so whip out that voice recorder, sing for five seconds, and email the MP3 or song file to ryan@hallelujahthehills.com. You could be a part of collaborative musical history, and/or win the entire HtH discography!

The Thing About Spec Work

21 May

I’ve noticed a phenomenon in crowdsourcing that has plagued many a campaign. Spec work is its name, and after seeing it so often I thought it would be a good idea to share my thoughts on the matter.

To start off, spec (speculative) work is any work where you are expected to put forth a commitment to your time and resources without the guarantee of getting paid. A good example of this is the contest model of crowdsourcing, where several hundred teams of creatives may put forward a product only to have one of them selected to receive payment.

I’ll admit, it seems bad. For an amateur artist, time and resources may be in short supply. To lend them out without the guarantee of compensation may be too risky for some. I myself see it as falling under the “Incentive” tenet of crowdsourcing, so let me see if I can’t justify it a bit.

The thing I feel drives a lot of people to spec work is that for them, it’s not primarily about the money. Much spec work is done by non-professionals who are simply looking for an opportunity to hone their craft. After all, spec work is almost always voluntary. Who else would sign up but people passionate enough about their work to do it potentially for free? A lot of contest-model sites embrace this notion, offering their members educational materials or access to other members for learning purposes. Money is a bonus, but simply a secondary concern.

There is something else I didn’t realize until I spoke to a friend of mine who had entered a shady poetry contest in his formative years. He didn’t find out it was a scam until later, and although he was disappointed, he was still glad that he had gotten the chance to show off his work. He told me that the “spec work” aspect of it didn’t bother him so much;  almost all artists start out doing entirely spec work to help them make a name for themselves. It’s part of the game, he told me, and I happen to agree. If you’re trying to get by on creative talent, it’s practically accepted that getting paid for it is not going to happen right away.

So we have the amateur and part-time creatives finding things to enjoy about the spec work model. That leaves the full-timers, the creative professionals, a group I could definitely see having a problem with the concept because they’re accustomed to guaranteed payment for their efforts. But as I mentioned, spec work is both voluntary and primarily not about the money. Full-timers would be wise to mostly avoid the spec work market, leaving it to the amateurs and part-timers. This ensures that companies will still turn to professionals for their highest-quality creative needs.

Voila, spec work in a nutshell. If you’re a non-pro, spec work is a great way to hone your craft and get your name up. If you’re a pro, it’s probably not what you’re looking for. Overall, I’m a fan of the idea; after all, spec work forms the basis of a ton of creative crowdsourcing efforts. What’s your experience with spec work been like? Enchant us with your tale in the comments.

Stephen Fry Helps Push Crowdsourced Campaign to Fight HIV

16 May
The Community Campaign Launch Video - YouTube

© 2012 Chelsea and Westminster Hospital

HIV and sexual health clinic 56 Dean Street is teaming up with (awesome) actor Stephen Fry to crowdsource ads designed to raise awareness of HIV. Focused around the Community Campaign Facebook page, the campaign follows the typical “contest” model of crowdsourcing. Ads will be openly accepted from all comers, and the crowd will vote to decide the winners. The best ads will be displayed across multiple media outlets, and heavily featured in prominent London gay bars.

I love campaigns like this, because they target exactly the right audience. The ads will be primarily geared towards gay men, a community already famous for their unique style of creative flair. Add that to the videographers and other content producers from all circles;  they’re more than eager to tackle hot-button issues like HIV, since a controversial or popular video provides publicity for its creators. Also, 56 Dean attaching Stephen Fry to the project opens it up to his entire fan base. Some may not be particularly passionate about HIV awareness or the gay community, but they’ll support anything backed by their idol anyway. Heck, I might not have even seen this campaign if his name didn’t catch my eye.

Essentially, we’ve got a “perfect storm” of creatives that will be chomping at the bit to produce an ad like this, and 56 Dean Street is going to receive an enormous number of submissions. And as a bonus, since this is an awareness campaign, even the process of voting for the final ad will contribute to their overall cause. This is well-done crowdsourcing, and I think 56 Dean will be very pleased with the results. Look to the Facebook page on August 13th, when the submissions will be in and voting can begin.

Google Dips Into Crowdsourcing

14 May
Ville Miettinen - Daily Crowdsource

Copyright © Daily Crowdsource

From Microtask’s Ville Miettinen:

“The thing is, in the crowdsourcing industry we are hard-wired to spot crowdsourcing opportunities. All of us familiar with the power of crowdsourcing constantly expect companies like Google to capitalize on the huge crowds it has access to. A feature like Ask on Google+ can look to us like the seeds of Google finally recognizing the massive untapped potential in its crowd.”

This is all regarding a “Yahoo Answers”-type update that Google rolled out recently. The update would allow you to ask questions to your Google+ network if a search result turns up unhelpful or inconclusive. It’s not the most error-free solution, but the quote above gets my gears turning when it comes to what a company like Google could do with the people they have access to.

Semi-Organized Crime: The Dark Side of Crowdsourcing

10 May

Can crowdsourcing be used as a tool for evil? - Tommaso De Benetti, Microtask

In a recent Microtask post, Tommaso De Benetti calls to memory the heart-pounding scene in The Dark Knight where the Joker essentially crowdsources crime by going on TV and threatening to blow up a hospital unless a particular person is killed. De Benetti ponders the ramifications; could real-life crime be crowdsourced in a similar fashion? He offers two scenarios he thinks could be effective.

The first method is pretty much the real-world application of Joker’s ultimatum; a cyber-terrorist posts on Facebook (for example) that they will blow up the Eiffel Tower unless everyone goes to Website X and donates $5 to him. He describes it accurately as “a cross between crowdfunding site Kickstarter and those absurd guilt-trip chain emails”, but would it work? Probably not. Joker’s ruse was successful for two reasons:

  1. He’s the Joker. When he says he’s going to blow up a hospital, people tend to believe him. Random Facebook poster? Probably not going to get as much credibility. He’d have to prove he’s capable of such a thing, and in doing that he would most likely attract law enforcement attention, nipping the whole thing in the bud.
  2. He was on Gotham TV. Joker knew his audience. His message was targeted towards a scared, doubtful audience, one that had already put very little faith in traditional methods of keeping the peace. In the real world, a message like this hits a much different crowd, and we probably can’t expect the reaction to be similar. Someone who actually believes this terrorist’s message (see point #1) is more likely to simply call the cops or FBI than actually donate their hard-earned and scarce funds.

De Benetti’s second method, however, has already seen some success. It involves using an online medium to organize a mass robbery of a certain store. The organizer offers to buy the loot, and the crowd organizes their own lookouts, getaway vehicles, and systems to decide who gets a cut of what. We’ve seen this in small-scale with flash robberies. If a mob was to collaborate to attempt a bigger heist, they certainly have the tools to do so, but at a certain point it seems bound to collapse on itself; all you need is one miscommunication or stool pigeon, and suddenly your big heist has no getaway cars. Or worse, the police are waiting for you when you arrive.

Flash Mob Welcoming Party

Your crowdsourced mafia’s welcoming party.

The best example of real-world crowdsourced crime that I can think of is Anonymous’ DDoS raids of various websites. While it equates to little more than Internet vandalism, the heart of crowdsourcing is absolutely present here. This is a group that anyone can join, organized grassroots-style, which has no leader and its participants have no illusions of personal glory. Their actions are for a cause they see as righteous and use methods that could only be accomplished by a large group of loosely-organized individuals. Nothing more crowdsource-y than that.

Do you think crime can be crowdsourced? Tell me in the comments how you’d build your own ground-up crime syndicate.

The Second-Best Swordsman; What GeniusRocket Is Doing Wrong

9 May

I’m not gonna beat around the bush with this one, kids. The ad-production company GeniusRocket claims to be a crowdsourcing agency, but they suck and you shouldn’t use them. Today’s lesson is about what crowdsourcing isn’t.

GeniusRocket - The First Curated Crowdsourcing Company

What crowdsourcing isn’t: Exhibit A

Cruise on up to that “What Is Crowdsourcing” tab at the top of the page, and scope the second paragraph. “Crowdsourcing involves taking a task that would ordinarily be completed by a hired individual or group, and instead hosting an open call for whoever wants to work on the task to do so.” GeniusRocket drops the ball right off the bat by using a “curated crowd“. From the site’s Community page:

“Every member of our community is vetted for their experience and expertise. As a result you won’t find amateurs or students. In other words, you won’t find people in our community that are trying break into the business by working on a client’s project.”

Red flags right there. By having such a stringent process for being a part of their crowd, GeniusRocket essentially takes away everything that makes a crowd a useful thing. This is a difficult concept to wrap one’s head around, but it’s called the Diversity Trumps Ability Theorem and it basically states that a varied group will outperform a group of experts every time. Mark Twain explained it best, if you’re willing to accept metaphor:

“The best swordsman in the world doesn’t need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn’t do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn’t prepared for him.”

A group of experts, with the same talents, same education, and similar backgrounds, will always come up with the same ideas that they’ve been coming up with forever. A diverse crowd will offer a multitude of perspectives, which more often than not leads to breakthroughs and inspiration you simply won’t get from a homogenized group of professionals that have done the same thing, the same way, for their whole lives.

Pictured: Not The Crowd You Want Helping You

As a result, you’ve got a company that wants to have the advantages of crowdsourcing but is afraid of the risks, so the service they offer is simply the illusion of crowdsourcing. You’ll get varied ideas from different perspectives, if your definition of “varied” and “different” is actually “same as it’s always been”. And you don’t have to take my word for it; watch some of their ads. They’re terrible, pointless, or disturbing at worse and average at best.

Now, the platform is salvageable, but they need to make some big changes. Namely, they need to realize that by definition of both terms, there can be no such thing as a “crowdsourcing agency”. So hey, GeniusRocket execs, if you’re reading this: shoot me an email. Something has to change at your company and I’d like to help you with it instead of bitching about it on the Internet.

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