Social Web Apps Design
Online Community Development

Unleashing Crowd Power, Part 2

by Michal Hudecek on February 14, 2012

Part two of a five part guest posts series,“Unleashing Crowd Power”, by Michal Hudecek.

Crowdsourcing

General web directing principles described in the previous article apply to crowdsourcing projects without any exception. However, in case of crowdsourcing, thought process of a contributor has a specific pattern, which can be further analyzed. Web screenplays for crowdsourcing projects look similar as the basic thought process of contributors is also similar. The order might vary in different projects though.

Web screenplay for crowdsourcing

When to use crowdsourcing

Not all the services can be delegated to the crowd. In fact, four specific conditions must be met in order to run a successful crowdsourcing project. They correspond with a typical though processes of a contributor. It basically means you must be able to provide satisfying and simple answers to following questions. The better the answers, the more successful your project will be:

1) What am I asked to do?

Firstly, it must be possible to divide the work load into very tiny tasks. The crowd does not work in real time as a team but rather subsequently as a group of individuals. Although the difference might seem subtle it plays a significant role. The output of each individual stacks up, which means at one particular moment only one person is usually working on his/her tiny task. Others are just deriving from the predecessor. Imagine, how Wikipedia is edited. One person writes an article, after that another adds pictures, after that another inserts more links etc. The crowd is not collaborating at the same time. Although it is technically possible, it would be much harder to gather people together at one particular moment. It is better to let them choose to work at their best convenience.

Example of a good answer: “Write an article or edit an existing one.”

2) How is the final output being assembled?

The system for integrating the outputs must be easy to understand and cheap to maintain. Usage of pre-build crowdsourcing platforms, such as Wiki or Crowdgene, is strongly recommended.
However, if you decide for any reason to develop your own crowdsourcing platform, bear in mind a few rules that should be followed:

  • Everything that can be automated should be automated. In case your crowdsourcing project becomes popular, you will not be able to handle thousands of contributions otherwise.
  • Create a system for deleting poor contributions via the crowd itself or assigned administrators. Quick removal of spam or low-quality entries is crucial to prevent further decrease in quality and demotivation of other participants. The crowd should see that inspirational contributions are really being appreciated.
  • If you are able to remove poor contributions quickly as described above, allow both anonymous and non-anonymous entries. Any kind of login might cut the number of contributions significantly. However, for the ones that want to take credit for their work, allow them to sign in and show off.

Example of a good answer: “Articles are connected via hyperlinks by the authors themselves. Anyone can edit an article and remove the mistakes or spam.”

3) What do I need to overcome to start working?

In other words, what are the transaction costs for the contributors? When designing a crowdsourcing project, try to remove as many barriers as possible. Make your site multi-lingual, simplify the user interface and create a transparent collaboration mechanism that is easy to understand.
For example, there might be a lot of gardening hobbyists in the world from which you would like to get ideas, but they might not speak the language you need, there might be geographical deviations in their knowledge (same plants might require different treatments in different climates) or they might not have the computer skills to participate.

Example of a good answer: “Learn simple Wiki syntax to format the article. Otherwise, use any language you want.”

4) Why should I participate?

Naturally, there must be efficient incentives for participation in place. Motivation factors are by far the most crucial to the success of any crowdsourcing endeavor. By analyzing dozens of crowdsourcing projects, web directing developed its own concept called Motivation Wheel. It provides range of motivation factors that can be used to attract the participants.

Example of a good answer: “I will show my expertise and be a part of an initiative striving for free knowledge.“

Stay tuned for the next installment, tomorrow.

About Michal Hudecek

Managing director of Maintop Businesses, a Czech company focused on discovering and developing new innovative online businesses. Author of Web Directing Framework and Motivation Wheel Concept. He occasionally comments on user experience and crowdsourcing both in local and international TV and press. You can follow him on Twitter @michalhudecek

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