A crowdsourcing primer
You may have heard of the terms, "crowdsourcing", "crowdfunding" or perhaps even "crowdbrain." What is this all about? How can one leverage the crowd mindshare? What crowd services are available to me that will help my organization? Is this the next evolution of the social web? Does this apply to me at all? All good questions I will attempt to answer in this post.
Leveraging crowds can be summed up with the term "crowdsourcing." This can be defined simply as the process of relying on a large, undefined group to attempt to get a job done. Wikipedia defines it as: "Crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined, large group of people or community (a "crowd"), through an open call."
If you think about it crowdsourcing has been around for quite a number of years. Open Beta's of online projects, for example, forums collecting discussions and opinions, any element online that collects feedback. In this context we have seen and you are probably involved in a number of discussions or feedback systems that leverage the crowd's opinion to get thinbgs done. My advice is to not get caught up in the terminology. Here is a great video about the source of great ideas - it shows the relationship of how sharing ideas, bouncing ideas off of others (crowd-brain) leads to bigger and better ideas (by Steven Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From - The Natural History of Innovation).
The tools have evolved to take advantage of the Web's ability to source and aggregate opinions and answers. This can be quite powerful! That is why people use crowdsourcing. :) For example,
- soliciting feedback on feature upgrades for software
- generating ideas
- asking for solutions to a problem
- understanding a cultural climate
The FEEDBACK tab
There are several feedback tools you can use on your site, such as these simple to install free ones: Barometer or Monyta. These allow anyone to comment and provide that crowd feedback on your site like you've always wanted. We can implement this on your site with ease. UserVoice goes the extra mile by providing you the ability to see what others are saying, provides a social Helpdesk, and reports for your site specialists. UserVoice is not free, but plans start at $5/mo. Also check out GetSatisfaction, a similar pay-for service starting at $19/mo. Being able to read what others are saying adds the sense that you are linking in spirit as well, providing feedback to the enablers of evolution for the site.
The Ideation Drupal Module
If you are interested in crowd-sourced feedback and you have a Drupal-based website, we recommend the Ideation module. The Ideation feature is essentially a crowd-sourced suggestion box, which allows users to: suggest ideas, vote on and discuss already submitted ideas, surface most important/best ideas, as well as start discussions around ideas.
You can always place a form on your site to solicit suggestions, include a dropdown of options to focus your needs. Explain what it is your seeking and why. This is quite easy using Drupal, or ask your developer to create one for you.
The links below illustrate various methods for generating a conversation around a topic or several topics. In a way these are conversation forums, perhaps not your traditional forums that have been around for the last couple decades, but they allow users to post suggestions and others to follow up with their response. There are many ways to do this as you can see. Fuse IQ can easily create these kinds of tools on your site, from using Drupal Organic Groups, to the traditional forum.
Blog with Commenting
Less effective but nevertheless effective for posting requests and soliciting feedback.
RESOURCES & EXAMPLES
LinkedIn has a number of great groups generating some great discussions, below are a few worth noting:
OpenCol - Open Collaboration & Change
Other crowdsourcing resources:
Kluster - Collaborative Brainstorming
GreenFunder - Test, market, sell your project with GreenFunder's help
ViewsHound - Crowd publishing site