The Brilliant Idea of Crowdsourcing

brilliant idea

Crowdsourcing. It is when an organization takes a task and outsources it to an undefined network or people in the form of an “open call.” Facebook is an example of crowdsourcing. Millions of users provide all the content that makes Facebook interesting. Same thing with Twitter. Without the “crowd” providing the content, those sites would be nothing.

One of the first successful crowdsourcing websites was Freelancer.com.  Freelancer.com is a site where you go if you need a web developer or a graphic artist or any type of job done. You post your job then and freelancers bid to do the work. You then evaluate them based on experience, price and customer reviews.

Freelancer was started back in 2000 by a guy named Matt Barrie. He wanted to hire someone to help him code a website he was working on. So he posted a the job on a site called “Get A Freelancer.”He had asked friends, and the teenagers of friends to do the work but got no takers. In a few hours after posting on “Get A Freelancer,” he had 74 replies from qualified people.

Seeing the potential, Matt bought 9 other similar sites and combined them into Freelancer.com. To date over 5.4 million jobs have been posted in 234 countries representing about $1.4 Billion of work.

The whole idea is brilliant on two levels. First of all, it provides a way for talented people (many in developing countries) to get customers, experience and recommendations. For entrepreneurs, it gives them access to qualified service providers they could never find any other way.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman commented:

” You have a spark of an idea now. You get a designer in Taiwan to design it. You can get the prototype built in China. In Vietnam you get it mass produced… I mean really – now you can be one guy sitting in a room with a few thousand dollars and off the back of a credit card you can build a multimillion dollar company.”

diamindis

Peter Diamandis

If the idea of crowdsourcing is interesting to you, I highly recommend a book (due out February 3rd) called Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World by Peter Diamandis. (You can pre-order it by clicking my amazon affiliate link in the previous sentence.) Peter has been called one of the world’s top 50 leaders by Fortune magazine. His story is amazing. The book is not just his history, which, by the way is fascinating (he has an asteroid mining company and was responsible for giving Stephen Hawking his first zero-gravity airplane flight) but it is also a how-to book on crowdsourcing, crowdfunding and so much more. I learned a lot from reading it.

One of the most captivating crowdsourcing stories in the book is one I never knew. It has to do with CAPTCHAs.

You know what a CAPTCHA is – right? It’s the little test where you have to re-type in what looks like drunken letters into a box in order to gain access to certain websites. About 200 million CAPTCHAs are typed each day – which wastes about 500,000 man hours every day.

The guy who invented the CAPTCHA, Luis von Ahn, wanted to find a way to make better use of all this wasted time. So he introduced “reCAPTCHA.” What’s the difference? A lot. You see there are still a lot of books in the world that have not yet been digitized. Old books are a big problem. On average, for books written more than 50 years ago, a scanner can make out only about 70% of the text. For the remaining 30%, that’s where reCAPTCHA comes in.

Thanks to Luis von Ahn, when a computer can’t recognize a word it sends it out as a CAPTCHA. That means the next time you are typing in those letters into a box, you are actually helping digitize the world’s library. It is happening at the rate of 100 million words a day or 2.5 million books per year.

So thanks for your help.

photo credit: Ruta n via photopin cc
The Brilliant Idea of Crowdsourcing

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