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A Jersey Researcher in the Crowdsourcing Court


Originally posted on May 19, 2011 on the KL Communications Blog by Kevin Lonnie

Off to Mountain View, CA for the 1st Annual Crowdsortium Conference.  Mountain View is best known as the home of Google and in fact the conference will be held within Google’s Headquarters.

With apologies to Mark Twain, I do feel a bit like “A Jersey Researcher in the Crowdsourcing Court”.   Even the agenda itself is wide open and speaks to the “anything is possible” entrepreneurial spirit.  In fact, I can’t help but notice how different the mindset is from my world of MR.   Earlier this month, at the Technology Driven Market Research Conference held in Chicago, the title of the closing presentation by Dr. MacElroy was “Why are researchers so resistant to change?”

Back home in the research camp, we are still trying to come to terms with the impact of social media on our profession.  At the moment, not much has changed.  The vast majority of research dollars are still spent on conventional approaches.  Focus groups still dominate the world of qual research as they have for almost ½ century.  As for quant, online is the primary form of data collection, but there’s nothing particularly revolutionary in moving a self administered survey from paper to the computer.

Change has been slow to MR.  Will a tipping point emerge and suddenly change our world overnight?  I doubt it.  There is too much inertia, too much caution and too much money wrapped up in existing business models to support rapid and sudden change.

So here I am in a different world.  In fact, attendees are welcome to make their pitch to invited VCs.  And I imagine many of them will.  Silicon Valley is the place for it.  Upon reviewing the attendee list, I noticed that only a small fraction of the attendees have any affiliation with market research.  In fact, it’s probably close to about 1% (that would be yours truly).  This is both troubling and empowering.

Am I seeing something in Crowdsourcing that my respected peers have rejected?  Is the power of product/service ideation via the crowd outside the purview of MR? Am I overstepping my bounds?

The vast majority of attendees are from companies with catchy names like Crowdflower or Clickworker.  Their business model is based squarely on the potential revenue afforded from successfully executed Crowdsourcing products and ad campaigns.

I feel a bit like the geek who got invited to the cool kids’ party, but keeps saying to himself, “What am I doing here?  I don’t belong here.”

Then on the other hand, maybe I do belong here.   We can look at Crowdsourcing as a threat to the MR industry or we can choose to embrace it and possibly own it.

And maybe some of the crazed entrepreneurial empowerment of Crowdsourcing will rub off on MR and real change will actually come.

But that’s all conjecture.  Tomorrow the conference begins.  I will tour this world of OZ for myself and either embrace it or pine to be back in Jersey, where most client insights still come from sitting behind a one way mirror.

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