Tag Archives: Crowdsourcing

“Crowdsourcing For Dummies” Released

29 May

Image © 2013 Daily Crowdsource

The title says it all. With the release of “Crowdsourcing For Dummies”, crowdsourcing now has its own entry in the popular “for dummies” series. Add this to the fact that crowdfunding is now enough of “a thing” to be parodied, and I’d say that crowdsourcing has officially and finally landed in the public eye. About time!

Daily Crowdsource is on the scene with details about the instructional book:

Over the past year, Daily Crowdsource writer, Crowd Leader, author, Professor, Crowdopolis speaker, & IEEE Computer Society President, David Alan Grier, has been compiling his knowledge in his latest publication, Crowdsourcing For Dummies. It’s a plain-English guide to help you understand crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, & open innovation.

I’m excited about this release because I’ve been communicating with Grier throughout the writing cycle & know he’s put a lot of time into it. Here’s what his latest book will teach you:

  • Plan and launch your crowdsourcing project
  • Find the right platform for your needs
  • Promote your project and attract the right audience
  • Manage and motivate your crowd to get the best results

David Allen Grier is a leader in the field and highly influential when it comes to the topic of crowdsourcing, so the fact that he’s the driving force behind this book makes me very confident about the accuracy of the information contained within. I’m undoubtedly going to pick up a copy as soon as I get my next paycheck. If you’re a fan of this blog, consider the same.

PucaTrade is a Collaborative Way To Trade Magic Cards

15 Apr

Image © 2013 PucaTrade

It’s been well-established by this point that I am a fan of Magic: The Gathering. There’s just something about shuffling up your deck and launching a barrage of monsters, weapons, and sorcery at an opponent’s tender, innocent face. The only downside is that the cards themselves, the fundamental building blocks of the entire game, are not cheap. It’s not uncommon to see highly-played cards for some formats valued at $100 each.

PucaTrade.com aims to change the game by making the process of trading cards between players crazy simple, and it’s doing it through crowdsourcing. The driving concept is that of Collaborative Consumption, where people share things they own instead of maintaining permanent ownership. Zipcar has used this concept to great success with their car-sharing service, and PucaTrade extends the concept to Magic cards.

With PucaTrade, users mail out cards they own that other users also happen to want. In return, they receive some amount of “PucaPoints”, which in turn can be spent on cards the user wants. It’s dead simple, and PucaTrade plays fair by keeping a constant eye on card values and making sure no users are getting ripped off by uneven trades. In another act of crowdsourcing, the site developers have teamed up with the users to create PucaBot. The site-owned “user” identifies and buys surplus cards in order to even out the economy and make a little money to keep the site running.

It’s a solid concept. People who play Magic often have dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of unplayed and unwanted cards in their collections that would be better off in the hands of someone who’d actually appreciate them. PucaTrade also circumvents the entire economy of online card shopping, where prices can vary drastically and shipping snafus can prevent cards from arriving for days. With PucaTrade, the grassroots approach means its users can send and receive a steady stream of cards to each other at no cost except postage. Brilliant.

PucaTrade is growing quickly, and has already traded over $80,000 worth of cards between its users. They are currently doing an Indiegogo project to get out of beta and add some really great features to the site, including a redesigned interface and more tools for user interaction. If you’re as into Magic as I am, or if you just think these cards are getting crazy stupid expensive, donate to the campaign and/or register on the website and start trading. You get free PucaPoints if you share the campaign on Facebook or Twitter, too!

Step by Step: The Incremental Approach to Crowdsourcing

1 Apr

Do you like electronic music? If so, listen to this new Avicii song, “X You”:

As you may have guessed, crowdsourcing produced this song. Avicii spent the last three months collecting musical samples from his fans, evaluating them, and presenting the best ones back to the crowd for them to pick their favorite. Bit by bit, from bassline to breakdown, his fans created one of the first crowdsourced pieces of music.

I’m calling this method the incremental approach to crowdsourcing; it involves a time-consuming but vigorous process of polling, discussion, and idea submission, with each cycle adding a tiny bit to the final product. It’s not the easiest or most resource-conservative way to crowdsource, but when the planets align and the controlling entity jumps into it with both feet, it can provide truly dazzling results.

Take Wizards of the Coast (WotC), for example, the company that makes the popular trading card game Magic: The Gathering. They recently started the fourth iteration of their “You Make The Card” campaign, which allows fans to help them create a card that will appear in a future release. We’ve also seen this approach utilized by Nissan, who used the help of their Facebook fans to build a limited-release performance racing vehicle. In both campaigns, the company built something great by letting their fans choose what went into it with a multi-step process that took several months.

How It Works

All three of these campaigns followed a shockingly uniform series of steps. The contest begins with the most general parts of the project and moves to the specific. For Avicii, the beginning was the song’s melody; WotC started with the card type, and Nissan first asked for an exhaust system that would do justice for the car’s engine. The crowd voices their opinion on which of several options should go onto the next round, and then the next piece is selected to be added on. More discussion, more voting, more submissions; rinse and repeat until you have a complete product.

It’s important to note here the distinction between incremental and iterative development. Both consist of several periods of discussion, voting, and designing; the main difference is what is produced at each step. Incremental development adds a new thing to the project each time; a new sound effect to a song, or a new ability on a card, or a new set of tires on a car. Iterative development, by contrast, would design the entire product at once, and then make it a little bit better better with each progressive pass. This is sometimes the method used to create Wikipedia pages, in which a heap of information is dumped onto a blank page and slowly pared down, edited, formatted, and given citations in the coming days.

What Makes It Great

The incremental approach isn’t for everyone; you need a ready-built fanbase that is not only numerous, but dedicated. Avicii is one of the most popular DJs in the world, Nissan is a multi-billion-dollar auto-industry leader, and Magic: The Gathering players have been dutifully flipping cardboard for the last 20 years. Because of this, these entities can afford to hold a contest that stretches out over months, where those less popular may find their crowds losing steam after the first few weeks.

Additionally, when designing a product where every piece of it needs to work well with every other piece, the incremental approach ensures that the crowd doesn’t get ahead of itself and the work is easy enough to swallow. If WotC had attacked this project using the iterative approach, they would have faced the tremendously difficult task of sorting through several thousand card submissions, some of which likely being completely unusable. By instead uniting its crowd on each consecutive step, WotC streamlines the conversation surrounding its project and focuses its audience on the task at hand, while not losing sight of the upcoming steps and the end goal.

Compare this to a project where each piece is designed individually. It’s been said (but never concretely attributed) that a camel is a horse designed by committee. This brings to mind a product that is designed simultaneously by several entities that have conflicting interests in the final outcome; some may want it to have functionality or features that the other groups aren’t interested in or actively oppose. In this manner, parallel design by many sub-groups of a crowd can create a product that while unique and novel, doesn’t really accomplish any one goal to a satisfactory degree.

It also helps that all three of the entities I am using for examples show great adhesion to the three tenets of successful crowdsourcing, as I’ve mentioned before with WotC and Nissan. Avicii also hits all the marks of incentive, barrier to entry, and compartmentalization; his fans are more than willing to put in the effort for the chance to hear something they created get blasted on the radio or through nightclub speakers, the submission process for samples was simple and available on social media channels Avicii’s fans frequented, and the incremental approach ensured that each new piece of music was carefully planned and fit with everything before it.

The Juice is Worth The Squeeze

I would love to see more companies use this approach in the future to replace the standard “contest” model of crowdsourcing that really only allows input from one creative mind. The incremental approach is truly the right choice for entities that want to tap into the collective knowledge of their entire crowd, with an added bonus of collecting market research as they go. Even if Nissan doesn’t end up using Exhaust System C, they will still know what their fans think of it after the contest is completed. WotC’s You Make The Card not only gave them the final product, but also inspired entire mechanics that went on to become very well-loved.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve seen a company use this approach to achieve great (or not-so-great) results, or if there’s someone who you think would benefit from changing their approach to this one.

Continuum’s Crowdsourced Fashions are Hit or Miss

19 Mar

Continuum

With an industry as fickle, high-minded, and individualistic as fashion, one would think leaving the big decisions to the crowd would be a good way to fast-track your designs to the bargain bin. But Continuum Fashion hopes to change the game through technology by boldly incorporating webapps, 3D printing, and user-generated content into their design processes. Their website is a collection of projects: the custom-clothing line Constrvct, the 3D-printed N12 bikini and Strvct shoe line, and the D.dress app for creating your own Little Black Dress.

The Constrvct and D.dress webapps serve as a pertinent example of how fashion can be crowdsourced, with Constrvct being the most promising section of the Continuum arsenal. Constrvct is a webapp that allows you to order highly customized clothing. The user specifies their personal bodily dimensions and uploads a photo to be used as a graphic print, and Continuum will fabricate and print the final design, in addition to hosting it on their site for others to purchase.

constrvct_designs1This isn’t so much a new idea as it is a well-polished combination of several already-extant ideas. There have been several websites in the past that allow users to order custom-fitted clothing or to create clothing with their own personal designs. Constrvct just combines these two ideas, along with featuring well-liked designs on their homepage for others to customize and purchase. There is no particular design direction that seems more popular than another, either. Designs range from mirrored patterns to full-garment prints of art that looks like a cathedral ceiling, a variety which only serves to highlight the wide range of tastes present in the Constrvct community.

N12-detail

The N12 and Strvct shoe line do not incorporate large aspects of crowdsourcing (yet) and are instead notable for their conceptual design and unique construction. Both the shoes and the bikini are made completely through 3D printing, with the exception of the shoe soles and leather lining. They are visually striking, but an informal poll among my fashion-minded Facebook friends reveals precious little else past the initial impression.

“While it is innovative, in terms of design the only thing that makes the bikini special is the material and how it was constructed,” confirmed Amanda Finesse, fashion model/designer and winner of the 2009 American Mall Model Search. “With the runway, it’s more about how it looks, and I don’t see them translating well for photo shoots either.”

Erica Regelin, owner and lead designer at Hull Street Studio, believes the N12 bikini to be a “weird novelty item you wouldn’t really wear to the beach. But then again, it opens a lot of doors to the possibilities of what you could make with a 3D printer.” Regelin was much more optimistic about the Strvct shoes: “Every woman on this planet would love to print her own shoes in her own house! Plus they could be designed to your exact foot shape and be far more comfortable than a lot of shoes out there.”

Pictured: a dress, sadly.

Pictured: a dress, sadly.

The D.dress app, on the other hand, is very high-concept but falls short on the execution. The project is centered around the app software, in which the user draws a dress that the program will then make through a process of 3D modeling, laser cutting, and triangulation. The result is… well, it’s not pretty. As cool as the idea of being able to sketch out your own Little Black Dress is, the end results look angular, frumpy, and uninteresting; one of my friends compared them unfavorably to crumpled sleeping bags or bad quilting. I understand the draw behind the creation of a system such as this, but I ultimately fear that the technology just isn’t yet at a point where dress sketches can be automatically translated into real garments without some severe hits to quality.

So, more than half a year after my admission of ambivalence over the state of crowdsourced fashion, nothing has really changed. In the space of a single studio’s website, we have examples of the wonderful and imaginative designs that I dreamed could come out of crowd creation, and we also have the “tries to hit too many targets” approach that ends up missing the majority of them. At any rate, we’ll never get anywhere by not pushing boundaries, and sometimes you need to crowdsource just to see what you’ll come up with. I applaud the efforts of Continuum Fashion, and I can’t wait to see how they further the future of garment fabrication.

The Final Frontier: Crowdsourced Romance?

7 Aug

Write My RomanceI’d be lying if I said it never occurred to me that romantic encounters could be crowdsourced. My problem lied in the process of transferring this insanely complicated series of human interactions  into a simple platform that would achieve results.

I have not found such a platform, but I have found someone who’s willing to give the thing a shot. Sola Puella (“Single Girl” in Latin) has just started a blog called “Write My Romance“,  where she intends to crowdsource her so-far-unsuccessful dating life. Through a series of posts detailing her past relationships, recounting date experiences, and stating what she looks for in a soulmate, she hopes to solicit advice from her readers and perfect her own dating process.

She’s started off well. I have to give her big props for including her extensive back-history. No two people are the same, and things that happened in the past can have big ramifications on the future. It’s good, then, that her readers can see what’s worked (and hasn’t worked) in Sola’s past, and change their recommendations accordingly.

Photo courtesy of Stefan Gustafsson

© 2010 Stefan Gustafsson

In terms of the crowdsourcing aspects, so far it looks like Sola is just after unbiased, objective advice. This in itself is a fine pursuit for any sort of romantic; we’re often blind to simple solutions for our personal problems, and the friends and family Sola already has may share a similar blindness or be inclined to give less than truthful advice to spare Sola’s feelings. The Internet will offer no such buffers.

If Sola wishes to integrate more crowdsourcing aspects into her dating journey, there are options available to her. Dating sites like OkCupid and PlentyOfFish are as close to crowdsourcing as a romantic service can come. I recently reported on WeGoLook, which could scope out potential dates before she wastes her time on an obvious dud. And once she finds someone promising, she could use sites like Schemer to find the perfect date idea.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on Sola Puella’s progress, and hopefully I’ll have the chance to talk to her personally and find out a little more about the drive behind this endeavor. Should she find this process fruitful, I have no doubts that single men and women will be banging down her door to learn her secrets.

OpenStudy’s Catapult Update: Get Paid To Learn

26 Jul

OpenStudy Catapult Update

OpenStudy’s newest update, Catapult, is an effort to incentivize learning by giving students the opportunity to get paid for it. Through the website, students can set up simple learning goals like “get an A on this essay” or “finish my science fair project”. Friends and family can then pledge money towards those goals, and the student collects if the goal is reached.

OpenStudy has always been about polish, and it shows in how put-together this service is. Catapult is free to use, although OpenStudy and the payment system take a few percentage points for fees. A feature I especially like is the ability to post constant updates on your goals; if it looks like you’re doing well, or like you could use an extra push, your sponsors can donate extra money. Plus, making your goals known gives you extra accountability, which is another push to Get It Done.

Of course, I am not without my concerns. Offering money for studying has been effective in the past when it’s just between a student and their parents, or a similar setup, but I worry that adding it to a system like this may pull students away from the primary incentive of learning. There are already students who treat their final grades, and not the knowledge itself, as the end goal; this additional reward may push them in the wrong direction. It’s a minor concern, but one to keep an eye on nonetheless.

All things considered, I’m excited for this update. My parents gave me money when I was a kid if I made the grades, and I distinctly remember being ecstatic. OpenStudy has once again broke the mold with a feature that makes learning more fun and less of a hassle. If you’re a student, check it out, set up some goals, get knowledge, and get paid.

Zaarly Opens Up The Goods and Services Marketplace

24 Jul

Online “quest board” Zaarly is a neat way to get your overwhelming tasks done with the help of your fellow man. It operates similar to Milk.ly in that people who desire help will post their task on the site’s collaborative crowdmap, and other users who choose to help will get paid the listed amount for it.

Zaarly

I like apps like this that crowdsource small tasks to local help. It’s a get way to enhance both local economies and communities, and it’s a good opportunity for someone who’s a bit of a specialist to take on some relevant jobs and show their town what they can do.

This is why I’m excited to see what comes out of Zaarly’s new “Zaarly Anywhere” API. The update would refocus the app on products in addition to tasks. For example, if you were browsing Pinterest and saw a really great carved wooden chair, the Zaarly API would give you the option of posting a task asking local craftspeople to make a similar chair for you. If you see one you like, you pay the price, and the chair of your dreams is in production without you ever leaving your seat.

I see a deep well that this technology could draw from. The advent of sites like Etsy has made us all too aware that there are talented artists and producers literally right down the block, and I’m sure they’d love another opportunity to showcase (and sell!) their skills. And I can already imagine this will have some impact on the tech support / computer repair industries if it catches on; people will stop using these services once they realize their neighbor’s kid will do it in half an hour for a fraction of the price.

Personally, I would love for applications like Zaarly to create some sort of money-free economy where people simply trade help for other help. But until then, getting a few bucks for helping someone set up their LinkedIn profile isn’t bad.

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