Hi there, and thanks for stopping in! My name is Ken, and I’ve always wanted to learn about the history of crowdsourcing. There have been many successful campaigns that I’ve seen that raised money for great causes, or products, or even services. My fascination came up when I read about 3 Bucks for Brendan, which was about a kid that needed funds for college. What a great idea! Lately I see stories on Facebook about little products that help get garbage out of the ocean, all the way to a little fidget cube. So, as part of my college course, I figured let’s dig in and learn more.
Crowdsourcing sounds relatively new and fairly cutting edge, even after more than one solid decade in its present form. The more recent idea of crowdsourcing is best displayed in Amazon’s mturk or with GitHub or Firefox. With GitHub or Firefox, developers all chip in their talents to build something.
In the case of Firefox, it is to build and maintain the browser. GitHub is not specific to any one company or project. Mturk took the idea that was often and long-used with bulletin board, IRC, techies who would collaborate together to make their ideas come to life.
In the case of Mturk, the idea was for techies to be able to easily go outside of the IT world to request help with translation, writing, human indexing, transcribing, or searching for information. Those are just some of the skills that they would post for help performing. In other cases, researchers would find a study population among the ranks of turkers.
Even gig work in a way is a form of crowdsourcing, or crowdsharing even. The idea of drivers being coordinated by technology to have one willing driver show up to bring a neighbor to their destination fulfills this idea as well.
Though, the first crowdsourcing could be attributed going back throughout humanity. For example, in Waltham, Massachusetts, residents were required to show up with a bucket of water to contribute to putting out fires in the late 1700’s well into the 1800’s, before they had a fire department. The town was its own bucket brigade.
What’s The History Of Crowdsourcing?
The same is true continuing into today for the purposes of what Jeff Howe and Mark Robinson called Crowdsourcing back in 2005. Even more so you see the same concept employed even in a corporate culture.
For instance, where project managers are employed, they are tasked with identifying the necessary talents required to perform a project and coordinating people from the ranks to fulfill tasks. In a sense, they are sourcing from their own crowd of resources.
In fact, most workplaces in some shape or fashion are crowdsourcing in action. The difference between the quickly disappearing traditional workplace and the virtual online crowdsourcing is in its reliance on people showing up. If it were not for people who showed up to write a bit here or there for mturk or to transcribe a media piece, then the work is just not going to be completed.
What has been a great boon for the low-paying crowdsourcing is the crash of 2008. With a continued beleaguered workforce and diminished wages, gig working and crowdsourcing is something that fills in the gaps.
These days, there is a growing call for the rights of workers who have increasingly had to take on the work of the crowdsourcing projects. It turns out 99% will tell people they are contractors, but when it comes down to it when there are no pay negotiations, and the ability to “block” or “rate” workers, they are walking the line of employer. That’s the history of crowdsourcing.