Collaboration and Crowdsourcing: Helpful or Harmful?

Hello again blog readers! It’s time for another post, this time discussing crowdsourcing and collaboration. I’m specifically going to talk about my views and opinions of the helpfulness versus harmfulness of mass online collaboration and crowdsourcing. After reading a few articles on the subject and having some class discussions, I have formulated my viewpoint.

For starters, I will give a quick description for those who haven’t heard of these topics. Essentially, crowdsourcing and collaboration is when an online site or company asks the online community to contribute marketable ideas for the company to produce. For example, when searching for one of these sites during a class activity, I found that Lego has a crowdsourcing site, which allows users to submit ideas for a new Lego set and, after reaching 10,000 supporters on the idea, the company will then put the design under review and potentially sell it as the next new set. While in this example the creators will get some of the profit and their name on the set, some crowdsourcing sites/companies do not pay people for their ideas. It is because of this fact that not everyone is sold on the idea of collaboration and crowdsourcing.

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In my opinion, I think this can be helpful overall. If a company is truly having trouble coming up with new ideas or improvements, it can be extremely helpful to ask for outside help and see what kind of ideas come pouring in. In terms of copyright and payment, I think it is fairly common knowledge that submitting an idea to a crowdsourcing site has risk in that aspect and should be a factor that someone considers before choosing to submit. If someone gets upset about their idea being used and not receiving credit, then they should learn from it and next time find out the policies on receiving credit if selected. It seems very unwise to post an idea you are very fond of online and not expect some form of ramifications. That is simply how the online world works.

Another concern involves an article we read in class from the Washington Post, “SketchFactor controversy showcases challenges of crowdsourcing”. This article discusses an application for the iPhone that allows users to comment on the safety of specific neighborhoods. While made with good intention, many of the comments are inaccurate and misinform users about certain areas. A solution to this aspect of crowdsourcing, in my opinion, is to only apply it to sites that are creating something new, rather than sites that seek to inform (just look at the accuracy of some Wikipedia pages). This will prevent misinformation and problems associated with it.

All in all, I see crowdsourcing and collaboration as a very useful tool for companies and those seeking help for an idea. The benefit of viewing so many different ideas from so many different types of people can greatly expand the mind when thinking about a solution. It also allows people to gain experience with invention and entrepreneurship and participate with a company/site they would otherwise not have a chance to contribute to, thus providing them with beneficial experience as well. I see these concepts as overwhelmingly positive and something that should continue, allowing people to become critical thinkers and problem solvers; tools that no person should be without.

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