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Crowdsourcing  

What is it?

Crowdsourcing is the act of giving tasks to a large group of people or to the general public, for example, by asking for help on the internet, rather than having tasks done within a company by employees. Crowdsourcing means that work once done in-house, from design and research to customer support, can now be farmed out, cutting costs and tapping new expertise.

Crowdsourcing is also used to raise funds, especially for start-ups who have little access to standard funding. There are websites which help enterprising business people to find investors for their enterprises or to donate money to help organisations get started. It can also be used to solicit comments or work from people helping to expand the base of contributions as well as to start online petitions in order to reach a significantly larger number of people than would otherwise be possible.

The origin of the word comes from crowd + sourcing.

Why is it in the news?

As online use is growing rapidly, a number of companies, non-profit organisations and entrepreneurs have begun to use various forms of crowdsourcing to gather information about products, ask for ideas from their customers, do market research or raise funds. As getting information from the online community can be done across cultures and borders, this means of getting in touch with large numbers of people can be carried out at the click of the mouse. An organisation on one continent can easily get in touch with people on the other side of the globe without travel costs or losing valuable time.

How can I use it in class?

Write ‘crowd + sourcing’ on the board and ask students what the two words mean on their own and if they know what they mean when they are put together. Explain the word to them and ask if they have heard of it or had any experiences with crowdsourcing. Put them in small groups and ask them to come up with three or four ways to make use of crowdsourcing. Have them share their ideas with the rest of the class.

Vocabulary

Match the sentence halves together to create definitions of the words in bold.

1 One method companies are using to bankroll products A before a digital product is ready to be sold to the general public.
2 When an organisation seeks pledgesB reach positions of power based on their abilities, rather than on the money or connections they have.
3 If you have overshot your targetC creators to directly contact possible financial backers.
4 If you reel in money,D an internet site which acts as a main point to connect people and other sites.
5 Beta testing occursE is by raising cash through crowdsourcing.
6 Peer-to-peer funding helpsF support given to a business or public institution.
7 If you are destined for obscurityG you have done more than you expected to do.
8 A meritocracy is a system in which peopleH then you were able to get funds from someone else.
9 Patronage isI it is trying to get funding.
10 An online hub isJ it means that no one will hear about you.

Reading

Read the article from the BBC about Kickstarter.

Discussion

Discuss these questions.

  • What do you think of the idea of a video games developer using on crowdsourced cash to fund a new title? Was this a good idea? Why or why not?
  • What benefits do backers get when they help Double Fine with funds?  Do these benefits make it worth investing in your opinion? Why or why not?
  • Why is Kickstarter regarded as an internet phenomenon? Do you agree?
  • How does the article define ‘peer-to-peer’ funding?
  • Who has Kickstarter helped?  Do you think this is a good idea?
  • What are some of the more unusual projects Kickstarter is helping? Can you imagine others?
  • What does the article stress about the idea of seeding projects through crowdfunding? Do you agree with this philosophy?
  • What is the downside of this type of crowdsourcing? Do you agree that this is a negative aspect?

Where can I read about it?

Kickstarter crowdsourced cash emplowers US innovators, BBC, 28 March 2012

Baseball organist crowdsources music requests, BBC, 8 May 2012

Investor Caveats Raised as Startup Funding Rules Loosened, Bloomberg, 20 April 2012

Health Bargain Hunters Use Websites to Cut Doctor Bills, Bloomberg, 21 May 2012

Where can I see a short clip about it?

Glowing Car Among `People's Car of China' Finalists, Bloomberg, 24 May 2012

Key
Vocabulary

1E, 2I, 3G, 4H, 5A, 6C, 7J, 8B, 9F, 10D

 

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