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Definition: Although crowdsourcing can have many meanings, we define it here to mean breaking down large tasks into small ones that can be performed asynchronously.

  • The Best Practices entry for crowdwork, developed last year and reposted on Class 3, classifies crowdwork three ways:

First, a large group of workers may do microtasks to complete a whole project; the best-known platform in this arena is Amazon Mechanical Turk. Second, companies may use cloudwork platforms to connect with individual workers, or a small group of workers, who then complete larger jobs (e.g., Elance and oDesk). Finally, a company may run “contests,” where numerous workers complete a task and only the speediest or best worker is paid (e.g., InnoCentive and Worth1000). In some contests, the company commits to picking at least one winner; in others, there is no such guarantee.

  • For a quick overview by Jeff Howe, author of Crowdsourcing,[1] take a look at this YouTube clip.[2]
  • Northwestern University Professor Kris Hammond also explains crowdsourcing, but argues its downsides are worker rewards and quality.[3]
  • In the News. The New York Times recently ran an article on crowdsourcing featuring two crowdsourcing companies:[4] Microtask[5] and CloudCrowd.[6]
    • It's interesting to note that these companies are attempting to monetize crowdsourcing in exactly the way in which Howe says it cannot be monetized successfully.

A Framework For Analyzing Issues in Crowdsourcing

1. How do concerns of reputation and identity play into crowdsourced work quality?

  • tasks where want rep known, others not known
  • phone card/coupon system
  • Verification of workers is becoming a problem (can access the linked article through Harvard Library).[7]

2. Can we ensure work quality using (semi)automated mechanisms?

  • Some have attempted to use crowdsourcing to ensure quality on crowsourced tasks using cheat detection mechanisms.[8] This can be done for both routine and complex tasks.

3. Can we enhance work quality using a targeting system

  • Amazon rec, ebay sytle, MT?, differentiate tasks?