Barack to JAM: Crowdsourcing in the modern era


Applicability, connection and authenticity. That’s how I would sum up this week’s three articles about crowdsourcing, a trend inconceivable in most of the last century and now the norm for sites like Wikipedia. I was familiar with a the ideas noted in the Wired Magazine piece highlighting different case studies — but had no idea the level to which some industries are playing, including figuring out how to get fluoride to stick to toothpaste, apparently! I’m also struck, however, by the parallels of some of these examples and the multiple ways that Barack Obama basically counted on crowdsourcing to expand his campaign message (vs. relying on traditional media or paid staff) during his first (and second) presidential election.

The power to connect students from around the globe to tackle some of the biggest issues of its generation  was clear in the IBM Jam session. But I must say I was left underwhelmed by the final product. It seems they did a great job establishing a baseline of knowledge for a farflung group of people, but it seems to me the next step would be establishing microcrowd groups to actually tackle concrete efforts. Nonetheless, I can see the power in this approach. And as  the study noted, in using this kind of technology to connect constituents in a given political area to solve and brainstorm problems.

Finally, the research paper on Wikipedia — perhaps the most successful but still unreliable crowdsourcing initiative everyone has heard of. And while I understand the founder’s notion that to keep this pure you keep PR sources out, it seems to me he is trying to apply an old-school rule to a new-school technology potentially for the detriment of the user and the truth. Would it not make a lot more sense to allow the PR/communication professional editing but clearly denote it as such? Wikipedia seems to want to operate under the illusion that information can be neutral because the crowd will make sure it is when in fact, particularly when it comes to crowdsourcing, the integrity is further undermined by barring/censoring some one’s people’s input. Better to cite the source and let the reader decide.


1) How do you use Wikipedia? Do you trust it? Have you ever contributed/edited an article?

2) If your local government was to set up a JAM type event, would you participate? And are you more likely to do that than get involved in other ways, such as voting, attending/watching public meetings, etc?

3) Do you know anyone who has made money off crowdsourcing work? What did they do?


3 thoughts on “Barack to JAM: Crowdsourcing in the modern era

  1. Wikipedia is a great quick reference. Usually the first site that comes up in a Google search, wikipedia can provide quick information on a large very of content. Although it is user generated they do a fairly good job at monitoring it and for a daily reference on definitions etc. it can be very beneficial. I have not actually contributed to Wikipedia. But I think that if I felt that I was educated enough on a topic I might be inclined to add to it should I feel it necessary.
    I personally do not know anyone who has profited from crowdsourcing. Although it is possible, I do not have much experience with companies using it in general. I think that individuals who participate int he freelancing aspect have the potential to make money from this tool, however I am not sure if it is something that is reliable enough to consider an income or if it would be a secondary way to make money.

  2. 1) I often use Wikipedia to find a “reliable source” of information. You could call compare it to a research paper. I have never edited an article…but I came across this piece:

    2) That’s a really good question. I think I might be inclined to try it at least once. You know–public meetings are often so dry. This might be a way to get digital natives to become interested in important community matters.

    3) I know a stay-at-home mom who created a few logos to make some cash. She’s a graphic designer by trade. Her main objective was to keep her skills up to par. However, it can be time consuming.

  3. In regards to Wikipedia, I agree with your suggestion to cite the source and let the reader decide. It is likely most web users are savvy enough to determine the intent of the information based on its source.
    I would partake in a government sponsored JAM type event as a supplement to but not in lieu of participating in other ways. It would be a great opportunity to hear concerns, ideas and opinions from a broad spectrum of community members which in turn could affect how I decide to vote and on what side of an issue I stand.

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