Thursday, February 4, 2010

Crowdsourcing's Baby Daddy, Jeff Howe

Jeff Howe, the man who coined the term "crowdsourcing" with Chris Anderson in 2006, has created a series of "how(e) to crowdsource" videos for American Express' Open Forum (itself a kind of online collaborative platform for small businesses). Here are Howe's five tips.

#1: Pick the right crowd

#2: Pick the right incentive

#3: Keep it simple

#4: Keep the pink slips in the drawer (i.e., don't expect to save money)

#5: Ask what you can do for the crowd

These tips are posted on a major credit card's website. Which begs the question: has crowdsourcing been so co-opted by corporations that its potential has been stunted? The first instances of crowdsourcing (distributed computing) typically involved solving a complex problem (mapping the human genome, searching for extraterrestrial life) that had an impact on humanity. I'm not sure that a crowd-generated commercial for Heinz Ketchup can do the same.


  1. Andrea, I think that we're just seeing the beginning of how corporations will crowdsource things, maybe slimming down on their creative departments or agency-spending to have the crowd tell them what they want. We are also in the midst of a major change in general in the way advertisers connect to potential customers.

    Facebook and Twitter have people SIGNING UP to follow companies and be inundated with ads. I think advertisers are trying more and more to be part of culture, rather than purely existing in conventional ad spaces - billboards, tv commercials, etc...

    In video #5 Jeff Howe mentions Threadless, the T-Shirt site, which I think highlights his particular view of "crowdsourcing." In a case like Threadless, as Joe and I discussed early on in the planning of this project, the crowd isn't doing much. Individuals are coming up with concepts and it's just about a vote to see what gets printed. You mention SETI above, and aside form the value of the project, that really incorporates the crowd on a much deeper level, where they all take part in the actual work.

    And since you mentioned the Heinz contest, please excuse me for showing the commercial that some friends and I submitted. We're pretty convinced that at our ad is better than at least than one of the five winners (obviously), but the voting structure was not strictly democratic.

    From the rules:
    The 10 semi-finalists will be chosen by our esteemed panel of judges on the basis of their originality (40%), overall appeal (30%) and likelihood to motivate people to eat Heinz ketchup (30%).

    After that, it's up to America—and your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, old college roommates and random strangers you run into on the web.

    Vid link:

  2. Right. That's the same way it was for this panel, too; let's be honest, all flattery aside, in reality the Panelpicker rewarded the best connected, not those with the best idea. Now, admittedly, the public section was only 1/3 of the process. Maybe that's necessary? A check on crowd-sourced power? Those founding fathers sure did have it goin' on...