Our friend Tim Bonnemann recently wrote a commentary on the evolving uses of crowdsourcing technology over at Federal Computer Week. Namely, the coupling of crowdsourcing with government decision-making and policy creation. Bonnemann suggests that successful case studies using this technique, may not be applicable in many contexts of Government2.0. He references an article by Jeff Howe in Wired magazine that originally coined and defined the term crowdsourcing.
In the article, The Rise of Crowdsourcing, characteristics of successful projects are highlighted. Bonnemann concurs with those characteristics and notes that many projects currently attempting to integrate crowdsourcing strategies aren’t a good fit for the technology and may see less than promising results.
What are these vital characteristics? According to both Howe and Bonnemann they are:
They have a valid point. If stakeholders are involved in a project but not active in the crowdsourcing efforts or able to give considerable feedback within participatory efforts, disputes will undoubtedly arise that could viably lead to the failure of the project. And, as Bonnemann notes, when personal values and beliefs come to play, trade-offs are subjective and reaching a consensus becomes inconceivable.
Personally, I’d add understanding of the incentives that drive people to participate as another vital characteristic. Many projects I’ve seen often assume that there’s enough excitement for a cause that people will invest their valuable time. They end up being surprised that the tasks they were trying to crowdsource do not resonate with their audience and response rates remain low.
This all seems logical, but it begs the question: When is crowdsourcing appropriate? Bonnemann suggests crowdsourcing be used for specific tasks, such as idea generation, fact checking and translations. Crowdsourcing is a wonderful tool but let’s not forget that it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Effective participatory strategies require a multi-pronged approach, not a one-size-fits-all solution.
Read the full article here: http://fcw.com/articles/2010/01/25/comment-bonnemann-crowdsourcing-government-policy.aspx