Crowdsourcing is a term bounded about a lot these days. It has many definitions such as businesses outsourcing work to unpaid, external contributors, and as with most things on the internet, has been used erroneously as a buzzword and a synonym for crowdfunding.
Crowdsourcing has its roots in the outsourcing of small, menial tasks to the online ‘crowd’. So for example, all the directors of films in an online film database, could be populated by users of the website as they browsed through it. And as you can imagine, as businesses turned to this form of outsourcing more and more, the internet had to come up with a name for it and the term crowdsourcing was coined. Web Strategist Henk van Ess articulated the definition rather well as, “channelling the experts’ desire to solve a problem and then freely sharing the answer with everyone”.
But what about giving back to the crowd?
This method of production quickly raised the issue of recompense, however. If the crowd were creating things for businesses to use, and the businesses were using the fruits of their labour in a commercial product, should the crowd get compensation, and if so, what? As in the definition above, it’s often been suggested that the output of crowdsourced products should be released for free on ethical grounds, as the frequently awarded kudos or recognition just aren’t suitable enough rewards for significant contributions. It’s because of this that only so many businesses in very specific circumstances can actually use crowdsourcing effectively and without complication. In order for crowdsourcing to become as widespread as outsourcing, the issues of equitable and fair recompense have to be resolved.
Crowdsourcing in equitable ways
A few subsets of crowdsourcing, primarily crowdfunding, have found ways around the issue of rewards. For instance, if you back a project on crowdfunding sites you’ll get given equity or promised a physical reward, normally variations or multiples of the product you’re investing in. However, what’s different with crowdfunding is that you’ve got a very tangible contribution being made (money) which makes rewarding contributions quite easy. Some of the real complications lie when people contribute their expertise and time. It’s in these types of crowdsourcing that getting equitable and fair returns for your efforts can be quite a challenging hurdle to overcome. In the case of Crowdsourcer.io all contributions made, whether it’s just time or valuable expertise, are rewarded with a proportionate share of the profits, something which hasn’t really been done before in such a way, but has the potential to once and for all solve the primary issue associated with crowdsourced production.