Should We Say ‘Crowdsourcing’ or ‘Crowds’?

By | November 26, 2011

Initially Getting Results From Crowds was going to have the word ‘Crowdsourcing’ in the title. However we have chosen to make the book about ‘crowds’ rather than crowdsourcing.

One of the reasons is that those who are involved in the field have different views on what crowdsourcing means. Also, while it’s a great word that still has plenty of rich life left in it, it is just starting to get a little tired through overuse, even though there are many who have never encountered the word. Using crowds includes what I consider the more specific term ‘crowdsourcing’, and more besides. The big, big shift we are experiencing is that work is flowing to crowds, in a multiplicity of forms.

In Chapter 1 we write:

The term crowdsourcing, coined by journalist and author Jeff Howe in 2006, has helped us to frame the concept of using crowds to get work done. Implicit in the idea of crowdsourcing is the ability to create value that transcends individual contributions, crystallizing collective insights through structured aggregation.

For example competitions, prediction markets, idea filtering, and content rating are all mechanisms by which collective contributions can create better outcomes than individuals or small groups.

However it remains true that accessing the talent of the most relevant individuals within a large crowd is one of the best ways to create value, given the global access we now have.

In this report we use the term service marketplaces to describe platforms such as Odesk, Elance, and, that connect clients with the most relevant individual workers or small teams.

In the strictest sense of the word these are not crowdsourcing tools, as they are marketplaces where buyers and sellers can meet rather than aggregating the contributions of many to provide a collective outcome. However they are still an important – and arguably the most important – way in which crowds are creating value for business today.

In this book we use both the terms ‘crowds’ and ‘crowdsourcing’. Our core theme is how businesses can get results from using crowds, including the mechanisms of crowdsourcing.

What do you think is the most relevant term? ‘Crowds’ or ‘crowdsourcing’?

  • Arie Goldshlager


    Congratulations on your new book!

    I agree that more and more “crowdsourcing”applications will be focused on collaborating with the most qualified members of a large crowd. Crowdsourcing will become Smartsourcing or Narrowsourcing in these cases.


    • Ross Dawson

      Thank you Arie!

      In our Crowdsourcing Landscape I refer to this phenomenon as ‘managed crowds’ and ‘labor pools’. The broader participation and marketplace models will still exist, but yes the trend will be to selected and filtered crowds.

  • Anonymous

    “crowding” ; it covers all the crowd+s, crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, crowdanything…captures the Smart Mobs.

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