Last fall and winter I had the pleasure of teaching a class at the local community college on a topic that is near and dear to my heart: social media. As part of the course, my students and I spent some time discussing the merits of crowdsourcing. I had them do a little bit of research and come up with examples of how businesses use crowdsourcing to solve problems.
Not sure what crowdsourcing is? I bet you’ve encountered it, even if you didn’t realize it at the time.
My favourite simple definition of crowdsourcing comes from Mashable:
Crowdsourcing is distributed problem solving. By distributing tasks to a large group of people, you are able to mine collective intelligence, assess quality and process work in parallel.
Many writers and bloggers use social media as a tool for crowdsourcing ideas, facts, quotes and examples for the purpose of writing blog posts or articles. I’ve done it. In fact, I used crowdsourcing for my post right here on Work it, Mom called “Shift Work for Beginners.” I wanted to talk to other parents who were more experienced with shift work so I distributed the task of collecting information about shift work to my Twitter followers, mining their collective intelligence on the topic to generate some content within my article.
It used to annoy me when I saw writers using this method to collect information, only to present it as their own in a post or article later on. I think I felt a bit betrayed. I don’t mind crowdsourcing posts much anymore, because it’s easy for me to identify them. Crowdsourcing becomes a problem for bloggers when their followers begin to feel that the engagement is no longer sincere, and exists only for content generation.
All of this got me thinking about the ways in which crowdsourcing can be done well, along with the ways it is sometimes done poorly.
Three “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of Crowdsourcing:
1. Divulge to your audience or community that you’re fact-hunting or looking for a quote on a particular topic for an article or post that you’re writing.
2. Credit the source in your article, having gained permission for the quotation ahead of time. Link to the Twitter account or blog URL of the person who provided you with the quote.
3. Engage all of the members of your audience or crowd when it comes to the answers you receive (this is the social web, after all). It’s rude to ask a question in a room filled with people but only acknowledge the funniest, most witty or most interesting people present, isn’t it? The same is true when crowdsourcing. Thank others for contributing to the discussion or at least acknowledge their responses.
1. Never present the ideas of others as your own. This is called plagiarism. Professional adults do not engage in plagiarism and there is no excuse for taking someone else’s thoughts or ideas and passing them off as your own.
2. Don’t constantly rely on your crowd for developing your content. Presumably, your community has been following your writing because they value your original thoughts. Keep it that way.
3. Don’t wait until the last minute to engage in crowdsourcing. Doing so will ensure you won’t have enough time to properly credit your sources.
Do you use crowdsourcing for your writing? Do you have any “do’s” or “don’ts” to add to this list?