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What is Crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing is a relatively new term that is coined by the journalist Jeff Howe back in 2006 as a portmanteau of Crowd & Sourcing. In its article called “The Rise of crowdsourcing” 1 published in Wired magazine his idea of crowdsourcing was “ the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call.”

Even if few years have passed since crowdsourcing has been first mentioned, several definitions have been given to this term during the last years. One of the most accepted descriptions is the one done by Alsever J. that defined crowdsourcing as tapping .“into the collective intelligence of the public at large to complete business-related tasks that a company would normally either perform itself or outsource to a third-party provider. Yet free labor is only a narrow part of crowdsourcing's appeal. More importantly, it enables managers to expand the size of their talent pool while also gaining deeper insight into what customers really want.” 2

In a study made in 2011 by Estellés E. and González F. where they tried to integrate the crowdsourcing meaning they conclude that “Crowdsourcing is a type of participative online activity in which an individual, an institution, a non-profit organization, or company proposes to a group of individuals of varying knowledge, heterogeneity, and number, via a flexible open call, the voluntary undertaking of a task. The undertaking of the task, of variable complexity and modularity, and in which the crowd should participate bringing their work, money, knowledge and/or experience, always entails mutual benefit. The user will receive the satisfaction of a given type of need, be it economic, social recognition, self-esteem, or the development of individual skills, while the crowdsourcer will obtain and utilize to their advantage that what the user has brought to the venture, whose form will depend on the type of activity undertaken.” 3

The definition of this term will continue evolving as nothing is set in this field.


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1. Jeff Howe (June, 2006). “The Rise of Crowdsourcing” Wired. Consulted the 23-02-2012

2. Jennifer Alsever (March, 2007). “What Is Crowdsourcing” CBS News. Consuletd the 23-02-2012

3. Estellés-Arolas E. and Gonzáles-Ladrón-de-Guevara F. “Towards an integrated crowdsourcing definition”, Journal of Information Science XX (X) pp. 1-14

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