Posts Tagged ‘crowdsourcing’

New Management Paradigm Is Tribal

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Yesterday I got a bit ahead of myself by reviewing Seth Godin’s new book Linchpin without having read it. I did read the 60-page preview sent to European readers, but the fact that I think the book lacks some meat makes sense given that my American cousins are being treated to an extra 240 pages, so until we Euros get the full package let’s talk Tribes.

There are few books that will get the skeptic in me excited, and it seems even fewer as I get older, but in Tribes Godin did the trick! Of all his books it is the most relevant to my main area of interest – crowdsourcing. To put it in a nutshell this book inspires you to lead, not manage, and explains that by building a tribe you are creating more value than via a typical top-down approach.

It’s a book of ideas, including the one that you should believe in what you do, and try to create change around those beliefs. You do this by inciting a movement, and providing the structure that enables your tribe to communicate and advance your believe. These are what I consider to be some of the underlying principles behind building a solid crowdsourcing platform.

The book explains that technology, and the emergence of the social graph, are facilitating the conversion of groups into tribes, and making it easier than ever to be a leader. These tools are giving individuals more power than ever before, and there is a real opportunity for those who can reach a mindset where, ‘the safest thing you can do feels risky and the riskiest thing that you can do is play it safe’

Beyond the presentation of ideas, Godin goes on to give you practical advice on how to build a tribe:

  • Publish a manifesto
  • Make it easy for your followers to connect with you
  • Make it easy for your followers to connect with one another
  • Realize that money is not the point of a movement
  • Track your progress

He briefly discusses each, and goes on to explain the guiding principles of forming a tribe, but this is no nuts and bolts guide on how to become are leader. That is a problem for many senior managers – they  know that they gotta change, but they need more than a philosophy. I think that this is where platforms specifically set up to help companies and managers build tribes come into play. Of course, there are big ones like Twitter, but I think we will start to see company-specific technologies. I have a few ideas on this that I will flesh out in future posts.

So where do I stand on Godin’s Tribes? It’s an exciting, and inspiring read. Digest it and build a tribe of your own!

Actually, Crowdsourcing is Evil

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

(note: if you are reading the blog rather than RSS please excuse the design. There have been problems following the Worpress 2.9 upgrade, and I’ll get around to fixing them once Christmas 2009 is behind us.)

Following yesterday’s post about 102 misguided translators blaming crowdsourcing for their woes I have come across an article in the New Scientist with the headline, ‘The sinister powers of crowdsourcing.’ Unlike the translators this reporter actually has a point in noting that the effectiveness of crowdsourcing can also be applied to less alturistic activities than online encyclopedias and cause-driven movements. For example, law enforcement officials in Texas have installed a network of CCTV cameras to monitor key areas along that state’s 1900-kilometre-long border with Mexico. To help screen the footage, a website lets anyone log in to watch a live feed from a border camera and report suspicious activity.

Another example is a system called Internet Eyes, which pays online viewers to spot shoplifters from in-store camera feeds. It’s going to launch in the UK in 2010, and I look forward to being a vigilante for my local Boots pharmacy. A more disturbing application is an Iranian website which is offering rewards for identifying people in photos taken during protests over June’s elections.

The fact that the benefits of mass collaboration are being used by the forces of evil further evidences that their impact. That can only be a good thing.

Merry Christmas!

Crowdsourcing is Evil

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

crowdsourcing-translationSo say the 102 misguided translators who have signed up to the petition, “Professional Translators Against Crowdsourcing and Other Unethical Business Practices

According to their petition professional translators and interpreters all over the world have been expressing their concerns over the ethical problems posed by crowdsourcing and how this practice negatively impacts an already suffering industry.

Basically they are saying translation is a skilled task that requires training, whereas crowdsourcing bases itself on non-professional translation provided by people who are not qualified to translate in the first place. In particular, they take issue with Twitter and Facebook asking professional translators who use their sites to provide free online services.

As someone who has worked with translators and interpreters extensively I totally agree that these are highly skilled professions. You really do get what you pay for, and the top professionals can pretty much name their price. I know of a Japanese to English translator who works out of Australia for US$350,000 per annum. Having built up his credibility doing translations for banks in Japan he hopped on a plane to Aus to work freelance from Perth. It wouldn’t be my first choice of location if I could live anywhere, but there you go. I also remember that when we did financial press conferences there was one interpreter who charged $2,500 for an hour, which was around 30% greater than her peers. But we always tried to get her because she was so much smoother than the others.

Whilst I have great respect for translators I don’t see how they can seriously object to companies sourcing poor quality translations if that is what they are happy with. It’s not like someone posing as a doctor and messing up your heart by-pass when they cut into the wrong chamber in the heart.

But what is really going on here is that these crowdsourced translations are pretty good, and thus a serious competitive threat to translators. It’s one further example of the rise of the amateur and the effectiveness of crowdsourcing in certain situations.

Good translators should not be complaining. They should be looking at ways to remain competitive.

Paying for Peering

Friday, December 11th, 2009

paying-for-peeringCollective intelligence is touted as a rich resource that companies need to tap into in order to maximize profitability, but is it something they are willing to pay for? Not so far. Until the Fortune 500 start stumping up some serious cash to invest in crowdsourcing it will remain more of a buzzword than a phenomenon. Of course, we can point to Wikipedia, Goldcorp, Linux and others, but tapping the crowd as a strategy is far from widespread as a for-profit strategy despite having a few examples that make for interesting reading.

In the 2006 book Wikinomics, the authors outlined their belief that peering is optimal when three conditions are present:

  1. Object of production is information or culture, thus keeping cost of production low for contributors
  2. Tasks can be divided into small portions, thus making it easy to contribute
  3. “The costs of integrating those pieces into a finished end product, including the leadership and quality-control mechanisms, must be low”

I don’t agree with the third point. If we are going to move on from encyclopedias and logo competitions, then it is my opinion that the technologies designed to leverage all the benefits of crowdsourcing warrant sizable investment. If peer production of goods and services has half the potential that its advocates claim, then this investment will be well worth it.

It is time for companies to start paying for peering, and invest in a resource that is as untapped as Goldcorp’s assets used to be. I’m looking forward to 2010: with more and more companies, such as Chardoix, builidng platforms to help access the crowds we might finally get to see what we can do.

Yellow Tail Chardonay Naming Competition

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Yellow-Tail-Wants-You-to-Name-Its-New-ChardonnayAustralian wine company Yellow Tail is holding a contest to find a name for its newest make of chardonnay. You can submit your suggestion by December 9th, and if your name is selected then you win a free shipment of the new wine.

I see this as a PR stunt to generate publicity for a new wine, and as a marketing ploy to make customers feel involved in the brand. Stunts and ploys have their place in the marketing mix, but I don’t consider them crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing’s applications extend to complex software development, generating deep information resources, and more. It is a lot more than a naming competition.

This is being reported as a crowdsourcing initiative. Daily Finance notes, “Crowdsourcing is increasingly viewed by marketers as a way to involve consumers in new product launches and generate buzz.” I think that is what this is all about, not tapping into the masses because it is the most effective way to determine a new wine’s name.

My wine name suggestion is ‘Supermarket Special’

Twitter Search Slays Google

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

The power of Twitter search isn’t news anymore, but what will be big news over the next few years is its role in the battle of the search engines. Although Google has now signed up to integrate Twitter into its search results I wonder just how long it can tame Twitter. Google acquired its almighty power by taking control of search – is it possible that Twitter could acquire a similar status?

When I want to check the latest news on crowdsourcing my first port of call is a Twitter search:

I subscribe to a Google News blog feed too, but I tend to find more interesting information, more quickly via a Twitter search.


After comparing the two, what do you think?

Bobby McFerrin Works the Crowd

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

OK so people can sing together in harmony, is this really exciting?

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo.

Well the interesting thing is the way the audience coordinate with minimal instruction, like a colony of ants. It’s a nice illustration of the crowdsourcing dynamic, and if you can get it singing as sweetly as this in your business then you are on to a winner. The lecture under discussion at the World Science Festival asked whether our response to music is hard-wired or culturally determined, but whichever it may be, what is hard-wired is our ability to work together to complete complex tasks.