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Re-define the Buzzword: Crowdsourcing


In recent years, a phenomenon known as "crowdsourcing" has been rising in popularity and seems to be the new way to leverage ideas. Closely related to, and often confused with crowdfunding, crowdsourcing is basically the process of enlisting the services of people online and using their ideas, money or information for your benefit and/or profit. The idea of utilizing the public opinion is nothing new, but the buzzword "crowdsourcing" has been used more recently and is often overused. In fact, the word "crowdsource" originated in 2006 from the combination of crowd + outsource. It makes sense, because essentially you are getting people to complete business tasks that a company would either perform itself or outsource to another company.

A bit sarcastic (but also true) the image above by Daren Brabham accurately describes the process of crowdsourcing. Especially with the rise of user-generated content on social media websites such as Twitter, Wikipedia, and blogs, the separation between producers and consumers are becoming unclear. The ideology of crowdsourcing is rooted in the idea of you having the power to contribute and control market forces. This separation is becoming apparent and has many applications that extend beyond just social media.

Buffer posted an excellent article about crowdsourcing on social media to share 13 of the best productivity tricks. This is a perfect example of how collaboration and cooperation can be used to "outsource" a simple activity.
So now, instead of offering some words to use instead of crowdsourcing, we're going to describe 4 websites that help you to harness the power of crowdsourcing.

#1: Kickstarter - Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform that allows people to bring all different kinds of creative projects and endeavors to life. When you donate to a Kickstarter fund, you are called a "backer". Backers are rewarded with tangible goods or special experiences when the project reaches it's goal. If a project does not meet the goal, no money is collected, as a kind of assurance contract. To date, Kickstarter has raised over $1 billion in pledges and has funded 135,000 projects.

#2: OutSmart Flu - One of our clients at The University of Wisconsin - Madison is using crowdsourcing to predict and prevent flu outbreaks on campus. We developed a custom-made application called OutSmart Flu for them to use where students report flu-like symptoms whenever they aren't feeling well. In the past the CDC had to rely on counting the number of students walking in and out of the school's health center to predict the level of flu outbreaks. Now, they have taken a bird's-eye view of the matter and are essentially crowdsourcing flu surveillance at UW-Madison. Check out more about what OutSmart Flu is doing for flu-prevention and awareness on the UW-Madison campus here.
#3: IdeaScale - IdeaScale is using the power of crowdsourcing in the business environment by giving companies a place to listen to their customers, collect ideas, and learn from the results. It's basically a crowdsourcing and ideation platform for the business world. IdeaScale gives companies the ability to create their own crowdsourced community for idea generation by letting users submit ideas. These ideas are then voted on, sparking discussions and even more ideas. Then, the best ideas rise to the top, where you can learn about what users care most about. At it's core, IdeaScale takes a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor and outsources it to a large group of people in the form of an open call.

#4: Indiegogo - much like Kickstarter, Indiegogo is an international crowdfunding website that lets people solicit funds for an idea, start-up, or charity. Founded in 2008, Indiegogo gets about nine million monthly visitors to their site. Right now, Indiegogo operates like Kickstarter. It runs on a rewards-based system in which donors can give money to a project or product and receives a reward. However, there have been talks about the company moving towards equity funding, which would be exciting.

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