Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pitfalls of Crowdsourcing

Following the Crowd - This article in The Economist brings out the pros and cons of Crowdsourcing quite well. While the potential of Crowdsourcing is well-known, thanks to Wikipedia, the pitfalls may not be so clear:

In fact, as the idea spreads, its limitations are becoming apparent. Once the initial excitement fades, some firms are realising that crowdsourcing can be more expensive than doing things themselves. Ask the internet crowds for a new product design, for example, and you may find that submissions have also been sent to rival firms, or have been stolen from elsewhere. Checking that submissions do not infringe copyright can be a nightmare; simply designing things in-house can be the cheaper and safer option.

There are other reasons why crowdsourcing and commerce make uneasy bedfellows. Most crowdsourcing projects rely on volunteers, and people are much less willing to volunteer if they feel someone else is profiting from their hard work. Wikipedia’s success may have much to do with the fact that it is run by a non-profit organisation. A commercial version of it would probably have to find a way to reward contributors.

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