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GBA | 23 September 2017

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Crowdsourcing: Involve your target audience into the game

Crowdsourcing: Involve your target audience into the game

As our daily lives blend with technology, our routines and habits take on new forms. The concept of leisure time is a thing of the past for most people; we find something to do – useful or useless – at any moment we are connected to the Internet. The way we go after information and work have changed a lot. Now, everything is related to buttons, screens and the Internet they are all connected to.

Almost every person that may be the target audience of a start-up use at least one (often more than one) device with this combination every day. How true is it to rack your brains with a dozen people stuck between four walls in order to give these people ‘something they need’? Is it reasonable to use ‘try and see’ logic when testing the solutions to understand if they will be really needed? It is true in some cases, but certainly not in all cases.

Although it is different from the traditional trade form of the business world ‘seller-buyer’; you and your team alone do not have to develop a project you want to create for people. By including your computer and the audience with smart mobile devices into the process, you can create a service, just like you imagined, with the collective efforts of people. The bigger you dream, the more help you need. For example, creating the world’s largest and ever-growing encyclopedia. It is impossible to do it alone or with your team.

Examples from the historyYou have an idea and you want to make it happen. You can never be sure that this idea will be adopted by masses and they will want to give money to the product you’ve created. The reason is that the audience holds the key to what they really want and you may not be able to understand the main idea even though you conduct dozens of surveys. History is full of cases in which crowdsourcing is used.

The invention of chronometer is a result of crowdsourcing call of the British parliament in the 18th century. First chronometers were developed by carpenter John Harrison, who had previously made a wooden clock tower at the end of a 40-year struggle beginning with the compensation act enacted by the British parliament to enable ships to easily calculate their locations in the east west direction in 1700s. These first tools are still exhibited in Greenwich observatory. The first ship to sail with a chronometer is the ship featured in Mutiny on the Bounty which sailed to New Zealand in Captain Cook’s command. As well as chronometer, history of canned goods, sodium carbonate and turbine can be shown as historic examples of crowdsourcing.

Other areas that benefit from the use of crowdsourcing in the history are astronomy, journalism, ornithology and genealogical researches. So, how do we know them? From Wikipedia, one of the biggest examples of crowdsourcing today…

Our common digital memory is a crowdsourcing product.Founded in 2001, today Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia that hosts information generated by people in 290 languages in a free, impartial and independent manner. What distinguishes Wikipedia from all other examples of crowdsourcing is that encyclopaedia culture follows the time and notes new information constantly and creates our collective memory. In plain words, it is assumed that Wikipedia will never be completed as continuous additions and changes are made.

In the example of Wikipedia, the audience is expected not to cross several red lines: Free content, impartiality and resource. Reducing the number of red lines plays a major role in higher author, translator, editor and proofreader attendance in Wikipedia. Everybody has the authority to modify information on Wikipedia; but deliberate mistakes are immediately noticed. The information that is not based on any sources is filled with ‘Sources should be indicated’ warnings by other authors.

All authors on Wikipedia are working voluntarily to “create a free, top quality encyclopaedia for everyone in the world in their own languages” as the co-founder Jimmy Wales says. The encyclopaedia has more than 252 thousand articles in Turkish. However, Wikipedia ends up being the target of vandalism for years.

The answer to the question “how”Since the new generation of entrepreneurship endeavored to solve the problems of daily life, crowdsourcing and entrepreneurship have become associated with each other more than ever. It is hard to say this new method of finding a solution will be useful in this or that scenario. Nevertheless, examples show that crowdsourcing is useable in cases where the provider seeking solution asks “how”.

Yandex which is based on Maps service of Yandex.Navigation product is using the power of the mass against heavy city traffic. Now we are able to know which road is clogged and when. But how can we update it in real time? Yandex found the answer to this problem with drivers. The system works in a very simple way. With the system that updates road conditions instantly with data from drivers’ devices, drivers share road condition information with each other similar to P2P logic. All Yandex does is to provide the infrastructure.

As can be understood from its name, crowdfunding is definitely the one-down breakdown of crowdsourcing. Crowd voting is a type that is often overlooked. In this method which we see on a few large web sites and on social media today, a large audience dogmatizes their views on a particular subject. Using this method, Domino’s Pizza asked its new pizza, Coca Cola asked a new bottle design, Heineken asked its new beer to the mass.

There are more direct approaches to crowdsourcing. For example, the website called innocentive.co is the popular place for companies having scientific or engineering problems that R&D departments are unable to solve. Companies tell their problems here and give monetary award to professionals who find a solution. Yourencore.co is distinguished as a platform for the discovery of retired scientists for companies to receive support for their one-time projects.

Science world is one of the fields that add prestige to crowdsourcing. The biggest example is Loebner Awards which gets its name from the American inventor Hugh Loebner. The creator of artificial intelligence, which was likened to human most, was awarded in the competition which was based on Turing test criteria every year between the years 1991 and 2005.

Risks of crowdsourcing in entrepreneurship: Crowdsourcing is like opening a crate full of energy, bringing some risks particularly for companies.

The first issue is that a choice should be made between quantity and quality; and this should be told to the audience in the most direct way possible. Otherwise, your team may lose time by continuously working on quality control.

Even if you create a project by using the resources of your target audience, you will still be responsible for it. Therefore, you will need to invest in project management and create a special team for this purpose. Completely voluntary audiences had sent more than 6 million articles to the English Glossary, one of the oldest crowdsourcing cases. 70 years were required to process of all of them… It will be to your advantage if you do not accept crowdsourcing as an easy task. On the other hand, crowdsourcing is ethically questioned in recent years and examples in which people, who do not get the employee title, are forced to do business with unequal conditions are pointed. In one of the examples, it is criticized that workers using Amazon Mechanical Turk service get an income lower than the minimum wage.

Today, Wikipedia’s vandalism problem is the biggest obstacle against the encyclopedia to create a ‘reliable source of information’ brand image. Wiki’s problem reveals the two-phase weak side of crowdsourcing: safety and long-term brand strategy. There is a very strange relationship between crowdsourcing and security. The projects that are wanted to be accepted by wide masses can only handle small security protocols and as the security gets stronger, the work can be improved by a limited number of people contrary to crowdsourcing concept. However, it is certainly much better strategy than opening the door to people seeking vandalism and piracy.

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