Why Crowdsourcing is Here to Stay


“Crowdsourcing” was coined in 2006 by Wired‘s then contributor Jeff Howe, evolving into a marketing tool by 2010 for brands of all sizes — and it’s still going strong. Harnessing and rewarding user-generated contributions to your brand or project is no longer a trend but a way of life, as brands large and small embrace the technique for monetary gain, product identity, entertainment and social good. The latest iterations of inviting the masses to weigh in:

Heineken has launched its second Open Innovation Challenge, asking fans to ‘Reinvent the draught beer experience’ and employing comedians Adam Fields and Samba Schutte pull it all together. Users are asked to submit ideas and an accompanying ‘elevator pitch’ to the Ideas Brewery website and six finalists will participate in an ‘idea-enhancing’ workshop in Amsterdam in November.[more]

The Washington Post this week announced “Crowd Sourced,” a digital platform in which WashPost journalists can hold conversations about current issues and users can respond to questions and vote for ideas they deem most valuable, surfacing those on the site’s front page. Political reporters Chris Cillizza and Rachel Weiner will cover the role of social media in political campaigns, while business reporters Peter Whoriskey and Ariana Eunjung Cha will explore innovation in American businesses. Helping underwrite the initiative, SAP is sponsoring the social technology chatroom and GE Capital is sponsoring the American Competition section.

Netflix is recruiting volunteers to crowd-source captioning for “popular 80s cartoon and other classic TV programming.” A demo video illustrates the community project on video captioning service Amara, formerly known as Universal Subtitles, “an example of Netflix SDH (Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing) Guidelines in action.” According to GigaOm, “Netflix is committed to accessibility and we have decided to test Amara to see if it could work for Netflix content. This is a small scale, early stage test. It is premature to discuss if we would actually use the titles resulting from this test or any future use of Amara.” Crowdsourced captioning and subtitle translation could become invaluable to Netflix as it expands its content and markets, and solve the problem of increasing pressure from deaf and hard-of-hearing advocates who sued the company for not captioning. It’s also, of course, ripe for errors.

• Nivea and American designer Charlotte Ronson are hosting “Kiss of Style,” a design contest on the company’s US Facebook page, with a grand prize of designing a limited edition cap for Nivea Lip Care. Entries will be hosted through August 22, followed by a panel of judges choosing the top 10 finalists. September 5, the finalists will be announced and consumers will vote for their favorites with the winner announced September 20 and the design brought to market in 2013.

• Collins Dictionarydefining proper English since 1819 and keeper of the cutting language edge today, was the first to use “computer databases” to help the process. Now, they are crowdsourcing the finding new words. Tech terms such as livestreaming, superphone, cyberstalking, and tweeps, join economically inclined Eurogeddon, trendfear, and Dollargeddon. Since mid-July, Collins has been taking submissions and offering daily prizes in return. “We want to invite everyone into the process,” commented Alex Brown, head of digital for Collins. Words accepted will be credited to the submitter, while editors and lexicographers remain the ultimate arbiters. “On the site you can watch the review process. You can see the status update — it’s a much more transparent process,” added Brown. Currently about 50 words are in line for inclusion.

• The UN Organisation for Food and Agriculture (FAO) together with Userfarm, a video crowdsourcing platform, are asking the public to help raise awareness for “Ending Hunger,” a video project to put faces to the more than one-seventh of the world’s population living in emergency food deprivation every day. Oscar winner Jeremy Irons is spokesperson and ambassador for the project, and the upload deadline is Sept. 30. The top three video producers will win 3500, 1000 and 500 euros, respectively.

• Also on a serious note, the National Geographic Society teamed with Tomnod in a recent search for two U.S. climbers, Gil Weiss and Ben Horne, who went missing in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range in Peru. Nat Geo’s Emerging Explorer Albert Lin, asked the public to examine satellite images of the region to help in the search. Sadly, this update was posted on July 28. “The team at Tomnod has just alerted us that the bodies of Gil and Ben have been found. On their site, the team offers these words of thanks and consolation for all those who assisted in the search or felt close to the lost climbers.”


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