Crowdsourcing: The Future of Business

.One of the most exciting part of how the internet has been transforming to effect lives with social networking and true crowdsourcing.  Wikipedia (a great example of crowdsourcing itself) today suggests “Crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to a large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call”

One of the popular examples of the power of crowdsourcing in 2007 when Researcher Jim Gray was lost at sea. 12,000 people came to the rescue with a combination of maps and a new idea of web based software for searching the seas.  It’s amazing how much we’ve evolved from the crowd based SETI project where you had to do nothing the app would take advantage of your processor cycles to process data to look for intelligent life. 

Answering Dreams and Prayers through Crowdsourcing at Kiva.org 

I was introduced to  by my cousin who said she and her boys would spend the evening as a family evening as a family picking their candidate for their $25.  What a great gift, what a great way to teach your children, what a great way to help make contributions personal.  I had a chance to try it out for my son’s birthday.  He picked a guy who was looking to buy a scooter so he could make more money and spend less time getting to and from work and spend more time with his family.

I previously tried out the site and made a loan that has nearly been repaid, but about a week ago, I was thinking… How could we help our more people?  As I travel around the world I think man I wish I could be doing more to help people.  I think Kiva gives us that option.  What it really needs is awareness.  The platform is really set up.  You can fund in small $25 incremental loans also referred to as Microloans, you can fund with paypal or other easy methods.  Loans repayment can go directly back to allow you to then lend the money to someone else or cash out. 

At first I was a little cautious about posting on facebook that I was loaning money to people with their enterprising projects, buying a goat, a motorcycle, or sewing machine, but then I thought.  Hey this isn’t like the chartity contributions that should be in secret.  This is crowdsourcing.  My excitement could encourage others do the same.  Why not share my passion!!???

I created a group on Kiva called SharePoint http://www.kiva.org/team/sharepoint where we can simply track how we’re doing and invite others to join.  You don’t have to list all your loans with the group, but it’s a mechanism to encourage people to join.  I have been extremely impressed with the 98.98% return rate and stats like 1 loan every 19 seconds.  The stories themselves are very compelling.  Thinking of starting a small business? You’ll actually see right through the site you can sign up for a loan as well.

 

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If you hadn’t heard.  I like to travel.  I’m now on a quest to see if I can lend to someone in every country possible.

Crowdsourcing Searching the Stars

A recent example is a schoolteacher in Holland recently made a major discovery on http://galaxyzoo.org, of an unusual gas cloud that might help explain the life cycle of quasars. (More detail in an article on The Rise of Crowd Science) Search for Hanny’s Voorwerp.  You can also get more info from Hanny’s blog.

I recommend checking out http://zooniverse.org/ for more on the crowdsourcing project of scanning. 

The idea of this Crowd Science is leveraging the power of the crowd of people who are motivated.  The software simply allows people to then use a simple interface to perform a task.  The task could be looking for a person on an image of sea, inspecting stars, or making microloans.

FamilySearch.org

My mom spent thousands of volunteer hours a few years ago transcribing text on birth and marriage certificates that was hard to read for FamilySearch.org project.  Some could be automated with OCR, but where it was making mistakes, my mom would fix it, and even verify work from other volunteers.  She is a trained Graph analyst so it takes advantage of her skills and the crowdsourced thousands around the globe that were trying to help.  People who had a few moments could take as little or as much on as they had time for.

Make Monkey by doing tasks or get work done with crowds at MechanicalTurk.com

I recently was at a SharePoint dev shop, and they said they were working on a cloud project with Mechanical Turk a project of Amazon.  They call the tasks HITs, Human Intelligence Tasks.

The design there is two fold.  On one hand you can choose to make money doing tasks at home or whereever you are on your hours with legitimate work.  The other side of the coin is creating tasks such as tagging a photo for a penny, translating Malay words into English at 5 cents, copy editing a Recipe for 40 cents each recipe, or taking a personality survey for 50 cents.  There are now over 65,000 different tasks!  

From the Mech Turk requester site the value you get is:

  • Have access to a global, on-demand, 24 x 7 workforce
  • Get thousands of HITs completed in minutes
  • Pay only when you’re satisfied with the results

To get the HITs into the cloud based system, the devs would build against the API to load the tasks.

That’s exciting stuff.  Blows my mind what’s possible here especially as this continues to grow.

Source to the specialized SharePoint technical community to build your webpart, Architect your farm or write a blog

I had mentioned Elance.com to Mike Watson and he was saying.  That’s old school.  Now you need to look at http://odesk.com (2000+ SharePoint resources) or http://guru.com (250,000+ Freelancers). People are spec’ing SharePoint work and individuals or companies pick it up.  The work is rated and the social features we’d expect are built in.  Very slick stuff.  Post jobs and search contractors and visa versa.  You can then filter the results by category, feedback, and hourly rate.  Mike was explaining how you could write out a web part you’re looking for and the people could bid on it. 

As an example Ajay has 5 stars as a portfolio of 10 things you can look at.  I can imagine listing myself to do some blogging, webcasts, social media marketing, or tech writing. 🙂 (assuming no conflict of interest)

Mike Watson’s got an account.  Check him out.  Great to see the ability to crowdsource a SharePoint Architect.

I can imagine my Office365 vendor support friend taking off hours SharePoint support calls, my blogger friends sharing their blogging skills, and independent consultants and even small companies listing their skills.  Guys like Owen Allen could list his SharePoint and IT Business Development skills.  It takes the resume to a very practical level.  Obviously you should make sure you have a moonlighting agreement if you already work somewhere, and ensure you don’t have a conflict of interest on the projects you work.  There are other practical considerations, but you get the idea.

I hope this has helped you explore the world of crowd sourcing and how it works.  Love the idea of allowing people to use their skills where they are ultimately benefiting each other in an extreme scale kind of way.

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