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Saturday, September 8, 2012

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What Is Crowdsourcing?

A few years ago, Jeff Howe of Wired coined a term for a method of generating workflow that was becoming more and more popular all around him. That term was "crowdsourcing"–a method of outsourcing work to a large group of people or a community of people rather than to individual employees or departments.
This is an old business concept that used to be second nature. Businesses (generally small ones) would enlist the help of the common people on the street to do a task for some reward or pay. This was usually for tasks of menial labor or distribution, and sometimes crowds would gather early in the morning to wait for these requests so that they could earn a living.
Of course, the process is now a bit more complex. Since the term was created and the practice became common knowledge, there have been conferences and organizations built around it to share new ideas and innovations. These include CrowdConf and Crowdsortium.
Usually crowdsourcing is implemented by larger companies that will put out a call for communities or groups of people who are best suited for the position. But individuals or smaller companies can also find ways to utilize this tool. It might even be a great option for non-profits and other groups that are limited in resources and so need all of the targeted (but economical) help that they can get.
Here are five easy ways to make crowdsourcing work for you, no matter what your needs may be.

1. Mechanical Turk

Mechanical Turk is based on HIT’s, or Human Intelligence Tasks. These are basically simple tasks that are easy for the average person, but not simple enough for an automated system to handle. The work itself is micro-labor. That means you will be paid pennies per section of each task, adding up to greater amounts for time. So if you chose to organize a website list to find active links, you might be paid a few cents per link. Others pay up to ten cents per section, which will add up faster. You can make money here, or even post your own jobs for others to do.

2. Cloudcrowd

Another micro-labor site, Cloudcrowd is more translation, data entry and editing based. You can also work in content creation, in a way similar to sites such as TextBroker. You have to have a Facebook and PayPal account in order to qualify, but chances are you have those anyway. The amounts are greater than Mechanical Turk, but the tasks are also a little more time and energy consuming.
If you have been looking for people who can transcribe your files, provide translations or do data entry, you can find some good ones here–however, you have to be prepared to pay a little bit more.

3. CastingWords

Anyone who has a typing skill can make some extra cash by doing transcription at CastingWords. It is associated with Mechanical Turk and allows you to search for jobs related to transcription, which is pretty much just very quick data entry. They pay through direct bank transfers or Amazon store cards, and the pay isn’t bad.
If you are going to use Mechanical Turk to find people who can transcribe for you, it is worth checking out CastingWords as well.

4. IdeaOffer

IdeaOffer is an interesting site. You sign up and look through projects on the site. They will ask you for any ideas you might have to improve it, market it, change it, name it…whatever they need. You submit your ideas and the best ones will be paid a reward. These might be anything from $1 to $100, but you can usually expect about $5 to $10 for each reward.
While this isn’t great for making a lot of cash, it is a good place to get help if you are stuck on your project. You will also be rewarding concepts and creativity.

5. NamingForce

Do you like some real competition? Businesses looking for product or company names will come to NamingForce and ask for your input. The winning name will get a $100 bucks or more for their efforts as they buy that provided name. It is harder to win here because there is more to gain, but it’s an interesting site.
If you are looking for some good marketing ideas and names, then this is a fantastic place to get what you need. You have to be willing to hand out some real cash, but it is still a lot less than you would pay a concept team. You will also be tapping into a fresh idea resource, and that is important in a business-oriented market where creativity can quickly become stale.

Crowdsourcing Gets Results

Of course, these are only a few ideas. You always have the traditional way of giving an open call to your local community, which will inevitably bring in some great minds for the task. But if you are looking for something quick and need a greater pool to choose from, these are some of the sites you can use.