Selective Crowdsourcing: The More Experts, the Merrier
Crowdsourcing is a relatively simple concept: A person or a company looking to have a certain job done for them – say, designing a website – will put out an open call to the world asking for ideas or submissions. Companies will often be able to trace a successful project back to Facebook statuses, Tweets, even message board posts.
However, the technical expertise needed to contribute to complex projects is not readily found by reaching out to the public at large. So a new technique, called "selective crowdsourcing," has emerged to foster collaboration between experts who might not otherwise communicate with each other.
"We're entering a new iteration of crowdsourcing," said Jeff Howe, a writer for Wired magazine who coined the new term. "Selective crowdsourcing ― or 'smartsourcing,' or what have you ― makes perfect sense. Identify what your crowd ― not any crowd, but the actual community that's tuned in to your appeals ― is good at and tap them to perform those functions."
The wisdom of smarter crowds
Selective crowdsourcing has its time and place. When you're first starting out on a project, it may not be a great idea to limit your demographic. If you're too selective while gathering ideas, you may shut out opportunities that could come from casting a wider net. But once you're prioritizing ideas, it's time to start crossing off names.
The social network ResearchGate uses this more selective version of crowdsourcing. Instead of appealing to the Internet's masses, ResearchGate offers its services only to scientists. When one member of the network needs to workshop a paper or hire a researcher, he or she can crowdsource within the community, which ResearchGate co-founder and chief executive Ijad Madisch said improves efficiency immensely.
"When I was a research fellow at Harvard, I realized how inefficient the scientific process was at the time," Madisch told InnovationNewsDaily. "I knew there had to be a better way – a faster and more efficient way of conducting research."
He ran the idea by a few friends and eventually launched ResearchGate, which helps facilitate collaboration between scientists across the globe. According to Madisch, the site currently has over 900,000 members and facilitates research among 192 countries.
This brand of selective crowdsourcing fosters international cooperation and allows ResearchGate members to eliminate repetitive research and speed up scientific discovery, Madisch explained. Scientists and researchers can work together on new projects, confirm results and announce their progress in just a fraction of the time it once took.
"Having the ability to openly collaborate and find out what scientists around the world are working on significantly reduces the chances of scientists starting long experiments that others are about to complete," Madisch said.
The business of smart groups
Selective crowdsourcing is hardly exclusive to the scientific community. Any business can tailor crowdsourcing to certain demographics. Accept Corporation, a company that specializes in innovation management, helps other companies learn to do just that.
"Crowdsourcing in a business context only works when you know your audience," said Brian Glover, senior product manager at Accept Corporation. "Even companies with widespread mass appeal, such as Apple, will tell you about their market in terms of demographics or psychographics."
Crowdsourcing, popularized as a concept almost five years ago, is evolving rapidly. A research group called Cybernorms, for example, has partnered with the website The Pirate Bay – a crowdsourced tool for illegal file-sharing – in order to study the behavior and social norms of people who download media illegally.
Leading scientists seem to believe selective crowdsourcing is the best way to facilitate new ideas in today's Web-driven world.
"Collaboration and community crowdsourcing are the keys to exponential advancement," Madisch said.