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4.0 out of 5 stars A Survey of Crowdsourcing Activities, Sociological Evaluations, and a Few Prescriptions for Business, 23 Oct 2008
This review is from: Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business (Hardcover)
If you have been paying close attention to the subject of crowd sourcing, this book will contain few surprises. But you just might pick up an insight or two that will make the book of much value. That was my experience.

While much of the book covered things I know in more detail than Jeff Howe describes, I began to see connections between how one aspect of crowd sourcing could be combined with other aspects to make more progress more rapidly. I intend to apply those insights into my global project for increasing the rate of global improvements by 20 times.

Ultimately, crowd sourcing's significance is determined in the battle between the tendency of crowds to contain wisdom and the average results of crowds to be lousy. If you use crowd sourcing to get lots of ideas, you also need to rely a lot on crowd sourcing to get rid of the junk.

Although Mr. Howe claims to be taking a journalist's approach to the subject, he comes across as more of an advocate than an observer. In particular, he fails to capture the ways that prolific production of content can overwhelm the accuracy of crowd sourcing votes. Highly ranked contributions often reflect popularity and the crowd's agreement with the conclusions more than the quality of the production. As a result, you can often end up with something that looks like what a lot of undisciplined teenagers would produce.

Yet, even that problem can be solved by adding a layer of expert evaluation to the more popular entries. He mentions that point in passing, but misses its significance.

For a book that aims to describe the fundamentals of how crowd sourcing will be used by business, the conclusion section is pretty limited and abstract. If that's why you want to read the book, borrow the book at the library (or read it standing up at a book store) because you'll finish that section faster than a cup of coffee.

To me, the biggest economic impact will be on problem solving. There's plenty in the book on that point, but Mr. Howe fails to explain why so few companies are using crowds for that purpose.

I conducted a worldwide contest two and a half years ago to gain answers, ran the contest for essentially no money, and was astonished at the quality of the results. But I started with no community, built no community, and don't plan to aim the findings back to establish a new community later. As a result, I seriously question his conclusion that crowd sourcing can only be done by people who get benefits from a community. I would argue, by comparison, that participants need to get some benefits . . . but they don't have to be community-based ones.

I suspect that a better book on this subject would emerge from a crowd sourced methodology rather than relying on typical "professional" journalism methods.

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