Crowd Sourcing Websites - A good idea or a waste of time and effort?
16th February 2012

Recently we had a brush with crowd sourcing through a client. He needed a logo designed and wanted to try out the crowd sourcing option. Ultimately it did not work out and he gave the job to us to complete. But the whole experience got me thinking about the crowd sourcing idea.

What is crowd sourcing? 'Crowd sourcing' a misleading term.

'Crowd sourcing' is a misnomer I feel since you are not really sourcing from a crowd but from many individuals at the same time. There is no interaction between the member of the 'crowd'. Each person designs individually and bids for the job by putting up the work in secret. Only the end user client sees everyones work together. So although you have more options, you end up with each individuals work independently. It should be called 'More options than I know what to do with sourcing.'

Perceived advantages of Crowd Sourcing - when done right.

I use the term 'perceived' as I am still to get on the 'it works' boat.

  • The client gets a huge lot of options to select from, much more than any agency can provide.
  • Due to the variety and size of the 'crowd' the work would be more diverse and unique.
  • In some cases its cheaper than an agency since individuals who contribute to such sites don't have much overheads.
  • No long term commitments are required, just the job and thats it.

Disadvantages of Crowd Sourcing - which are considerable

  • There is a huge risk of plagarism, where bidders freely copy parts or whole from other published sources.
  • Too much choice can also be bad and confusing for the client.  
  • Due to the low cost nature,   the quality tends to be much lower. Many are just quickie throw-it-out-there jobs.
  • There is a limit to the complexity of the jobs you can offer out there. Complex work is simply not feasible.
  • The bidders never have the complete picture, they tend to design in a vacuum, whereas an agency has access to the client and the business.

 There are winners and there are lots of  losers - not a good motivation for contributors / bidders.

Out of the 400 odd entries the client selects one that he likes, which means there are 399 losers whose efforts are down the drain. Those who consistently find themselves loosing will quit or tend to not make much effort after a while. It can be a very demoralizing effort for many. Although some people love the competition, most would not appreciate loosing for work they spent a lot of effort on. Due to this, most  work contributed tend to be 'quicky'work' rather than well thought out work.

 It can get quite shady in the crowd sourcing world

The opportunity to make a quick buck tends to attract shady dealers and fly by night operators. Most crowd sourcing websites will try their best to vet the contributors and tend to have some sort of grading system but that is not full proof. A lot of work on these sites is usually 'inspired' from published work, a way of saying plagarized or copied. Another area is that many  a times the contributors dissappears and the client is not able to do any followup work or even make any modifications at a later stage. Although the payments are withheld in escrow till the client is satisfied, there is no recourse after the payment is made, especially since the bidders are spread geographically all over the world.

 In conclusion I would say that its a good start but not a full proof system and clients should be aware of the risks and shortfalls before committing to a crowd sourcing project. The risk of plagarism, disputes with bidders, poor quality of work   and other such factors still make this new form of outsourcing risky.


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