Crowdsourcing is the practice of harnessing the power of the crowd to solve problems or accomplish certain tasks.  The expression Crowdsourcing was coined as a portmanteau of the words crowd and outsourcing.  While advances in technology have pushed this practice to the forefront recently – the notion has been around for a long time. It is a participative online activity where questions and tasks are proposed by an individual or organization via a particular crowdsourcing platform.  Individuals or groups of individuals who belong to that community – accept the challenge and attempt to answer the question or complete the proposed task.  The individual(s) who provides the best solution as determined by the proposing organization, becomes the winner and receives compensation or recognition or some other remuneration. 

The benefits to the crowdsourcing organization include:

  • Access to a large group of problem solvers with varying and diverse knowledge and experience
  • Optimized creativity and innovation
  • Extension of existing staff for special projects without hiring
  • Cost savings
  • Etc.

The benefits to the crowdworker include:

  • Monetary rewards if they win the contest
  • Recognition in their field of expertise
  • The chance to learn new skills through collaboration with others knowledgeable in the field
  • Opportunities to hone and improve their skills in a particular area
  • The thrill of competition

Popular examples of crowdsourcing include

  • Wikipedia – an online encyclopedia that is maintained and policed by the ‘crowd’
  • Linux – an open source operating system maintained and improved by its users
  • Waze – an application you can download to a smart phone or tablet for travelers.  While on the road – Waze users will report slow traffic, accidents, speed traps, etc. to the Waze application which then provides other users with alerts and alternate routes.
  • Lays Corporation’s ‘Do yourself a flavor’ contest – where members of the online community propose new potato chip flavors – the best of which becomes a new offering of the Lays brand and the proposer of this flavor wins $1 Million.
  • The US Air Force is crowdsourcing (within their ranks not to the general public) the naming of the US’s newest stealth bomber, the B21 

Check out this article for some more crowdsourcing success stories (

There are, of course, many more serious and potentially game changing aspects of the crowdsourcing practice.  One of the most interesting of these is the use of crowdsourcing platforms to involve the crowd in software development tasks and algorithm development tasks.  Tasks such as website design, coding, testing, bug fixing and complex algorithm development are being published to the crowd and members of the crowd compete to win prizes for their brilliant solutions.  Crowdsourcing platforms such as TopCoder, CrowdSpring, CrowdsourceTesting, etc. are available for software development organizations to post their challenges and for software development professionals to compete for cash, recognition and other prizes.

Crowdsourcing   - it could be the next generation of outsourcing software development!