OK, I’m trying out a new theory this morning. I am sitting waaaay up front. I’m typically your cynical, back-of-the-class type.
I’m in a conversation between Scott Belsky, founder of the Behance creative network, and Jeffrey Kalmikoff of Digg. None of the below are direct quotes, but most of them are close.
Kalmikoff: My love for business is about how it’s a way to take an idea from concept to reality.
K: Crowdsourcing is an umbrella term that broadly describes several ways of sourcing information.
Belsky: Misconception — Crowdsourcing equals access to free labor. It’s given crowdsourcing a dirty name.
There’s crowdsourcing of wisdom [like Wikipedia] and of labor [like Mechanical Turk].
Belsky: There’s a difference between crowds and communities, especially if you’re depending on it for business purposes. You need sustainability.
With a crowd, there’s a common purpose, some sort of event, but interpersonal isolation.
K: Interpersonal isolation provides a comfort to many people. Many of us are uncomfortable when someone strikes up a conversation in the elevator.
B: With crowds, sourcing exists in sprints. There’s a start and an end — not sustainable. [That’s where you get into the event aspect of being a crowd.]
K: You have to keep up some level of participation to remain involved. High probably of fatigue.
B: Community is based on identify and cohesiveness from shared conditions. Sustainability exists inherently in the organic, adaptive nature of communities.
K: Businesses can be part of communities, but they don’t define communities. If Harley Davidson went out of business tomorrow, it’s unreasonable to think that all the communities related to Harley Davidson would cease to exist.
B: As a business, you don’t have a community. You are part of a community.
[Me: This is a key point.]
Risks Inherent in Crowdsourcing
* Discount sushi — Something that seemed like a good idea at the time. It filled a need. But it’s not a repeatable source.
* Football team vs. strip club — Imagine the pre-game locker room of a football game. Everyone’s getting amped up, with a common purpose. There’s an incentive for collaboration. OK so now we’re supposed to be imagining backstage at a strip club before the first performance. There’s no incentive to assist others — if you help someone else improve, you make less money yourself.
[Me: Well that’s an interesting metaphor, but the point is well taken about communities vs. crowds.]
* Careless engagement — People aren’t engaged enough. They don’t care. They’ll put out crap to say they’re participating. If careless participation doesn’t harm your personal reputation, it’s a real risk for the community and the business.
* Wasted neurons — At the end of an open call, people have spent a lot of time working on a project, and the vast majority of it isn’t used. You have to weigh your time against the potential rewards.
* No contextual reputation — If you’ve already got a great reputation in your field, the level playing field created by communities isn’t your friend. If you’re the new kid with great ideas, it is helpful.
Questions we should ask of any sourcing model
1. Can it foster community? Is there incentive for conversation, learning, engagement? Or is it transactional? Is there a culture of collaboration?
2. Does it tap collective wisdom?
3. Does it nurture participation? Does work benefit reputation? Are participants building relationships? Are resources valued or wasted? Are terms/facts clear to all?