In my view, one of the coolest terms out now is Crowdsourcing. This is a term that was first proposed by Jeff Howe of Wired Magazine in June, 2006. His goal with the term was to call attention to the emerging trend of user-generated content. Implicit in the term is the idea that the communities underlying user-generated content, as exemplified by Wikipedia or HubPages, are very similar to open source communities that have brought us Linux, Firefox Browser, and multitudes of software that are available on websites such as sourceforge.net.
I have been especially interested in all this because I think it sheds insight on why HubPages has been successful and why HP keeps growing in popularity. Very high quality content can be created by giving anyone the chance to show what they can do. Most of what gets produced may not be of the highest quality but a small amount will reach surprisingly high levels and best of all, this is quality content that would not have been available through traditional publishing channels.
Since the term first appeared in the Wired article, it has taken a life of its own. Thankfully, in August, Jeff released Crowdsourcing, the book. This is a very ambitious attempt to catalog the trends underlying Crowdsourcing. How did it emerge? What’s happening? Where’s it going?
In my view, the book succeeds exceptionally well as an overview of the current state of the trend. The book is very readable and provides a solid foundation on some of the most popular crowdsourced websites. Crowdsourcing depends on an active community that can’t be driven solely by the money. The money, as a rule, is small for most, but has the potential to be large for a few.
Crowdsourcing depends on a high tolerance for failure. If you give the ability to publish to everyone, there is a very good chance that most of it will not be very good. But that’s ok. The goal is to highlight the quality content that would otherwise not be available. At HubPages, we promote quality through easy-to-use tools, a hubscore that provides feedback to authors and readers, and policies that encourage high quality content (no spam, gambling, or adult content).
The new infrastructure of the web has greatly reduced the costs of publishing and in this way, greatly reduces the cost of failure. When publishing required major resources by the publisher, the barriers to publishing were high. Content had to get submitted, approved, and then after a time, edited into a book or magazine. Howe’s discussion of these trends is extremely good.
The book has a lot in common with Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody which I have written a hub about. I think that both books complement each other and I recommend both to those interested in the subject. Jeff Howe also a crowdsourcing blog which is worth visiting to get his latest views.