CrowdsourceFollowing up on a request this week, we are giving an overview of crowdsourcing.

From Wikipedia: Crowdsourcing is, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers. Often used to subdivide tedious work or to fund-raise start-up companies and charities, this process can occur both online and offline.It combines the efforts of crowds of self-identified volunteers or part-time workers, where each one on their own initiative adds a small portion that combines into a greater result. Crowdsourcing is different from an ordinary outsourcing since it is a task or problem that is outsourced to an undefined public rather than to a specific, named group.

Some of the more popular examples of crowdsourcing are in the form of crowd-funding. Arts organizations, start-up businesses and community service projects have seen this as a popular and efficient way to raise necessary funds to their projects. There are sites for teachers to get funding for classroom supplies and projects, too. These avenues come into play when there is a large support for an idea, but not deep pockets. The solution is to ask everyone to chip in a little, and then to spread the word via social media and email to untapped supporters. It’s about networking.

Another example of crowdsourcing is for knowledge. Wikipedia is completely crowd-sourced. The vast expanse of information is put up and monitored by a pool of people, and the general public at large. You can correct, update and add to any topic. Any changes are reviewed by someone from the pool of administrators, and checked for factual basis, but the information comes from the people.

Amber Alerts for missing children are crowd-sourced. Message boards on highways alert drivers to look for a certain car, TV stations and social media pass along details of who they are with, pictures for identification and where they might be headed. The more people that know someone is missing, and where they might be, the more eyes that can be on the lookout for finding them.

Some entire companies and projects are crowd-sourced. Last year, a Korean software company decided to shut down the servers and discontinue a very popular online game. The players, who paid subscriptions to be a part of this online community and game, were not happy. A few enterprising individuals floated the idea of writing their own game. Many others offered to help, and an international effort was born to research, write story lines and characters, design, code, handle copyright issues, legal protections, marketing, shopping the product to other companies, everything for an international software gaming company, through crowd-sourced volunteers.

Crowd-sourcing takes time and effort. That is the main drawback. You also may not get exactly what you are looking for. If you have a theater production, and are trying to crowd-source your costumes and sets, you may not have access to the exact costumes you want, or sizes your actors need. If you are crowd-sourcing a community project, you may not have the hands available to meet deadlines. It all depends on how wide of a net you can cast, and not being afraid to ask.

Making “the ask” can be a whole other hurdle to jump. How you ask is sometimes more important than who you ask. You can ask 100 people for $5 and get turned down by everyone if your tone is too harsh, or your reasoning too vague. You can ask 1 person for $100 and get it every time, if you know how to ask… But that’s another topic.

About Reba Winstead

Reba Winstead is the blogger and social media manager at, and the editor of several community news websites through
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