What is “Crowdsourcing”?

“What do you do?”

It’s the question we all get at a bar, when we meet someone new.  When I say, “I work at a startup,” it always comes with the followup of “Okay, soo… what does your start up do?”

“I work at a crowdsourcing startup.”  (…in the patent space, but I won’t get into that part here).

“Crowdsourcing?”A crowded harvest of Yin Yang beans

So many people have asked me that question, that I thought I’d write a quick blog post here to explain it.  It’s super simple:

It’s what Wikipedia does.  Crowdsourcing takes something traditionally done by an expert and opening it up to the world, usually in the form of an open call on the Internet.  It’s essentially what some contests used to do (design the best logo, win $100!), but on a much larger scale — thanks to that pesky little Internet thing.

There’s tons of crowdsourcing companies out there doing tons of cool things: crowdsourcing design, market research, coding, quality assurance, call centers and, yes, patent research.  And the beauty of crowdsourcing is that you don’t have to be an expert to participate.  That’s actually the point.  Experts are experts, they have their experience, they are very knowledgeable — but they are one person.  The crowd is (…wait for it…) many people.

In some places experts may be better.  But in many, the crowd is better.  Ask thousands (or hundreds of thousands) and chance are some one can identify the answer, or point you to the right person of whom to ask the question.


Fun fact: On today’s date, in 1860, Pueblo Indians drove out the Spanish and took possession of Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Hasta la vista Spanish!


2 responses to “What is “Crowdsourcing”?

  1. Patrick Hart

    Interestingly, there’s a growing movement to crowdsource parts of municipal budgets — having a portion of the budget developed directly by the voters, rather than by city executive or legislative agencies. I believe Chicago tried this for a portion of its budget. It’ll be interesting to see if it expands as more sophisticated crowdsourcing techniques become available…

  2. That’s awesome Patrick! I think it’s an amazing way to continue the growth of democracy. Just look at Iceland crowdsourcing its constitution: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/iceland/8567224/Iceland-reviews-constitution-with-help-from-online-community.html

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