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So You Want to Try Crowdsourcing?

Feb 26th, 2010


Amanda Hickman

Cross posted from PBS Idealab.

It is no secret that I’m always on the hunt for great crowdsourcing projects. We’re still learning a lot about what “the crowd” can tackle and what it can’t, but turning to your readers (listeners, community, neighbors) is a great way to foster civic participation because it gives people a stake in the news.

What I really want to know, though, is what makes crowdsourcing sing? Sunlight’s Transparency Corps project to slice Kentucky legislative voting records has been sitting less than half complete for months now, while the Brooklyn Museum’s “posse” is madly tagging, flagging and organizing projects digital photos of the museum’s permanent collection. The only reward offered by Brooklyn Museum, besides a crash course in art history, are the series of short movies of… well, I won’t spoil the surprise. Go tag some art and see for yourself.

Field Guide for Making Crowdsourcing Work

WNYC Labs has been working on an incredibly useful field guide to crowdsourcing. For the harried beginner, they offer 10 simple tips for getting started. Set the tone, and be an editor, is some of their advice, which is to say: Crowdsourcing doesn’t have to mean that you turn over the microphone and walk away. Looking for advice on adapting your editorial process or hoping for some case studies? Done, and done. There is no secret sauce to crowdsourcing. No holy grail. But this field guide is the most comprehensive guide that I’ve seen.

I’d been planning to write something as well about the outcome of ProPublica’s Super Bowl Blitz — they asked readers to ask their representatives if they planned to be at the Super Bowl, and then request that they bring their cameras to the game. The only result worth reporting on so far seems to be that a handful of planned congressional super bowl parties were scrubbed or rebranded. Their reporting is worth a read if you don’t think of the NFL as a major campaign donor (though it doesn’t look like the crowd played a big role in reporting the story). I haven’t asked ProPublica how they measured the impact the project had on reader engagement. If a group of readers who don’t otherwise spend much time thinking about campaign finance suddenly decide they’re heavily invested in campaign finance, maybe there’s something to it. Hooking substantive news coverage to big sporting events is never an easy assignment.

Discuss So You Want to Try Crowdsourcing? on PBS’s IdeaLab.