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Highlights from The 1st Annual Crowdsortium Conference in Mountain View, CA!

Editor’s Note: This is the follow-up to Kevin’s post on his adventures as A Jersey Researcher in the Crowdsourcing Court

Originally posted on May 24, 2011 by Kevin Lonnie

To start, here are some of my anecdotal observations concerning Mountain View:

  • Silicon Valley is like Hollywood, except you’re dealing with serial entrepreneurs instead of actors.  Similar egos, just different occupations.
  • Everyone is searching for the next big thing, folks think in terms of three year commitments rather than career aspirations.
  • Stanford University is the Kevin Bacon of the area.  Everyone is only six degrees of Stanford.
  • The cool kids commute from San Francisco.  Because at the end of the day, the Valley while pretty is also pretty dull.
  • Google security is very different from the security guards I’m used to seeing in NYC or Chicago.  They are very much in full view, but they look more like Best Buy sales reps than rental cops.  I constantly felt like asking them their opinions of the Kindle vs. the Nook.
  • Finally, if your iPhone is having connection issues, everyone over the age of 4 knows how to fix it.
    • The fellow in the parking garage took care of my initial connection issue and the waitress in the coffee shop restarted my enterprise e-mail account.


Hey, how about that Conference You Attended!  What About That?

The Crowdsortium Conference was totally different from a typical MR Conference.

That fact, in itself, is not all that surprising.   After all this crazy notion of Crowdsourcing has only been around for a few years and the Crowdsortium is only eight months old.  Makes me wonder what the MR industry was like back in the 1950s and the crazy notion of telephone interviewing was taking root.

My main takeaway is that nobody has the playbook figured out yet for Crowdsourcing.  It’s still very much in the “learn as you go” stage.  Most Crowdsourcing today involves the outsourcing of creative activities (e.g. agency work).

This relationship between the crowd and the Crowdsourcing Company is becoming more entwined as the crowd worker looks to generate more and more of his income from this new arrangement.  This in turn leads to logistical questions, such as how to classify the crowd workers, (e.g. are they in fact employees or can they be construed as independent contractors?).

Also what is the level of transparency with the crowd worker?  Can they remain anonymous or is full disclosure required?  Full disclosure might reveal that some crowd workers already have day jobs for current agencies and might be guilty of double dipping, working on independent Crowdsourcing exercises possibly at the expense of their day job.

The Crowdsourcing industry is currently under the radar of governmental regulations but the feeling is that regulation is inevitable.   As such, the Crowdsortium is making efforts to reinvent itself as a 501c nonprofit with future HQs in Washington.  The DC presence would support the hiring of lobbyists to act on the Crowdsortium’s behalf.  In short, taking the necessary steps to help promote and protect this newbie industry.

Another critical issue for successful Crowdsourcing is the implementation of game mechanics into the platform.  Although some might prefer the term “social psychology engagement tactics” over game mechanics, the endeavor is the same, tapping into the social and competitive nature of the crowd to make the Crowdsourcing experience as addictive as possible. This is social manipulation at its best and is seen as a means to keep the ADD crowd worker on task and not slipping back to updating their Facebook Wall.

All in all, I was appreciative of the candor and transparency of the attendees.  It’s clearly still the Wild, Wild West for this young industry which means the strongest players and the best processes have yet to emerge.

As The Lone Researcher (keeping that Wild Wild West metaphor going) in the crowd, I wasn’t sure how I would be perceived by my fellow attendees.  I was pleasantly surprised that most folks I spoke to immediately saw the possibilities of Crowdsourcing in the MR tool kit, particularly as a replacement to ideation groups.  The primary advantage of Crowdsourcing being the iterative nature of the work, which allows the crowd to continually improve on the original idea so you’re left with a perfectly cut gem (at least in theory).

To sum it all up, I’m not ready to jettison my day job, but this world was pretty cool too.  If anything I think stepping out of my comfort zone allowed me to see the role of insight provider in a totally new way.  I’m hoping I can bring some of that anything is possible entrepreneurial spirit to my research role and perhaps add a bit of research discipline to the Crowdsourcing World.

It’s good to be bilingual!

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2 responses to “Highlights from The 1st Annual Crowdsortium Conference in Mountain View, CA!

  1. Thanks Kevin–I had never even heard of this conference!

    I think part of the challenge in bringing crowdsourcing to MR is that it can mean different things. I don’t think it is just about hiring somone based on a submitted design, etc. I would say that prediction markets are a form of crowdsourcing (perhaps “qualified”, but still crowdsourcing).

  2. Karhryn,

    That’s a great point! Predictive markets are already being used in MR as a way of judging concepts and placing a stock value on the ones you think will rise or fall. So to your point, it’s not just for ideation, but for a more creative way to vett existing concepts.

    One point that was clear at the Crowdsortium conference is that there are a myriad of different crowdsourcing models/applications, it’s truly wide open for us to interpret potential applications. – Kevin

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