The Downside to Crowdsourcing [Google’s Free Artists]

image Recently, Edward Cruz (founder and creator of did a series here on crowdsourcing, which encouraged big business to take a second look at crowdsourcing as an economical alternative to getting a generally higher quality product for a variety of things a business may need.

One of the things he emphasized throughout the course of his series was the need to “care and feed” the crowd.

Care and feeding of a crowd, as I sometimes jokingly refer to it, really is not a joke.  It’s one of the key challenges of crowdsourcing. Without an even playing field that benefits both crowds and crowdsourcers, a viable social and economic ecosystem can’t be built, much less sustained.  And that doesn’t bode well for crowdsourcing.

There’s a lot of talk today around the topic of Google, in light of a recent expose at the New York times, having forgotten this essential bit of the crowdsourcing equation.

Essentially, in preparation for a new release of its Chrome browser, Google recently asked dozens of illustrators to provide art skins for its Chrome browser. For free.

“While we don’t typically offer monetary compensation for these projects,” Google said in a statement, “through the positive feedback that we have heard thus far we believe these projects provide a unique and exciting opportunity for artists to display their work in front of millions of people.”

The problem, though, as Edward points out, is one of blowback. Edward offered a wide variety of case studies and examples of successful crowdsourcing in action, and all of them offered at least some sort of bounty on the picked “winner” of a crowdsourced effort.

Google didn’t – and the fact that they didn’t is only exacerbated by the fact that the company grosses billions and nets millions. That they couldn’t set aside a few hundred for a winning design is certain to reflect badly.

Mark 'Rizzn' Hopkins

Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins is the Founding Editor of SiliconANGLE, as well as the creator of and Executive Producer for theCUBE. He’s aBitcoin early adopter, as well as a blogging, podcasting and social media pioneer. Prior the founding of SiliconANGLE, Hopkins worked as Associate Editor at Mashable during its formative years. Prior to his career in startups and media, he worked as a developer for large corporations like Nokia, IBM, Apple and Cox Communications. Hopkins lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife and two children.


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  1. We are recently looking at crowdsourcing as a tool to help conduct market research on business opportunities in different geographies. Anyone has any idea on how feasible this idea may be? Thanks for your comments.

  2. Using crowdsourcing to get something for free really misses the bigger opportunity of peer production; great point on “the need to 'care and feed' the crowd.”

    The debate over this has been interesting: really highlights that artists don't understand digital economics.

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