Crowdsourcing is a great example of how technology can improve our problem-solving methods in ways not possible before. The IBM Jam Report and The Rise of Crowdsourcing illustrate how crowdsourcing allows streamlined collaboration enabling us to solve problems faster and more efficiently.

If you think about it, we often solve problems in this manor anyway. For example, at work, emails are often in a chain, so if there is a problem, everyone can add input and work together to solve the problem faster. A lot of times, you can find what you’re looking for by emailing the right person. Also, it’s similar to people posting to social media to ask peers for advice/thoughts on something.

Wikipedia is an earlier example of Crowdsourcing, however, not as ideal because there were a lot of issues with the integrity, and, consequently trust of the site. This is because “anyone can edit it.” However, I’ve tried to edit it and my changes were deleted within a few minutes. And I didn’t do anything obvious what-so-ever. So I’m curious to know who finds it easy to edit the articles on Wikipedia. I also heard from others that editing content on Wikipedia was very hard. Given, this was more recently, so it was after the big movement to monitor and make sure Wikipedia’s information was trustworthy. It was probably a lot easier to randomly edit Wikipedia content years ago before these security measures were in place. I feel like now it’s pretty trustworthy though. I always cross-check sources, which should be done anyway.

I thought Jam (from IBM Smarter Planet University Jam) was a great example of how social and organizational problems can be solved through crowdsourcing. I also think it’s great for the student participants to get that kind of experience with real-world problem solving and to collaborate on such a progressive project.

While Jam is a more theoretical example, the company InnoCentive is a real example of how effective crowdsourcing can be. Leading companies used InnoCentive to solve scientific problems their in-house researchers could not. It demonstrates how essential diverse collaboration is to innovation.

“InnoCentive’s chief scientific officer [said] more than 30 percent of the problems posted on the site have been cracked, ‘which is 30 percent more than would have been solved using a traditional, in-house approach.'”

I think crowdsourcing programs like Jam and InnoCentive could be useful in a lot of government problem solving, as well. If you think about it, they could replace the government all together if executed properly. It would be an interesting twist on technology and democracy.


  1. Can you think of more applications of crowdsourcing?
  2. Would you participate in crowdsourcing activities like the ones from the readings?
  3. Do you feel like Wikipedia is trustworthy?

3 thoughts on “Crowdsourcing

  1. I’ll answer 1 & 2 together as the JAM article really made me think of a way that crowdsourcing has been so underutilized and that’s government. Sure, government agencies use Facebook, Twitter, etc., but what if they launched efforts like JAM on a regular basis with robust support (i.e. including providing computer terminals in popular public areas where people were encouraged to stop and respond to queries or participate in online discussions)? It could totally change the dynamic of public discourse as right now most of the feedback local governments receive from “average” folks are only those who can get off work or have several hours to spare to attend a daytime meeting.
    3. Your question reminds me of the speech at my undergraduate commencement, given by Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post best known for editing the Watergate stories. His topic was “How to read a newspaper” but the message was this: Newspapers are only as reliable as their sources. So Wikipedia, to me, is only as reliable as the sources and by extension the editors. And while I would like to believe in the utopian idea that all Wikipedia editors are dedicated to neutral information, let’s face it. People have all kinds of motives for trying to spin information. I find it a great resource for initiating research but never, ever quote it or depend on it without checking the information elsewhere — particularly on local or esoteric topics that I know likely have had very fewer “checkers” involved.

  2. I’ve used the iPhone GPS app Waze, which is a crowdsourced app where users provide traffic information. I think that’s a great application for crowdsourcing, especially in bigger cities. The more people participating, the better the app is.

    Do you feel like Wikipedia is trustworthy? This is a really simple but really important question. To me, Wikipedia is as trustworthy as most other published content I find online. By that, I mean, when I stumble across anything important online, I verify the content with other sources. It’s just so easy to publish content online and there’s no filter. It’s up to readers to be distrustful of “facts” they find from any open content.

  3. I would and do participate when it comes to these types of crowdsourcing. The nice option is that it saves a large amount of money in exchange for a small amount of effort and or time. Crowdsourcing is great but doesn’t give the automation that going with a professional creates. The longer crowdsourcing is around, the harder it’ll be for professionals to maintain with current standards. They’ll have to become even more experts and offer even more with their services.

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