EventWeb 13: Crowdsourcing

Events are unique in the sense of attracting people.  People are attracted to attend events and know about past events.  More importantly, people are interested in reports on events.  And people really want to get reports on events from many different people in the hope that some of them will be similar to them in socio-economic-political orientations.  No wonder that when an important event takes place (such as a local team winning a championship) TV people interview many people asking silly questions like — how do you feel about our team winning championship.

In this context, it is clear that media is slowly going towards crowdsourcing.  Wikipedia defines crowdsourcing as:

Crowdsourcing” is a term coined by Wired magazine writer Jeff Howe and editor Mark Robinson in June 2006. Like outsourcing, crowdsourcing is a model that depends on work being done outside the traditional company walls, but while outsourcing is typically performed by lower paid professionals, crowdsourcing relies on a combination of volunteers and low-paid amateurs who use their spare time to create content, solve problems, or even do corporate R&D.

Crowds targeted for crowdsourcing include garage scientists, amateur videographers, freelancers, photo enthusiasts, data companies, writers, smart mobs and the electronic herd.

Lately people have talked a lot about crowdsourcing News — commonly called citizen journalism.  A Citizen journalist is a common person who reports — thru blog posts, photogaphs, videos — an event.  It is becoming increasingly common that when an unexpected event takes place, since there are no professional journalists to prepare a report (text, audio, or visual), most early reports are ‘published’ by people who just happened to be there.  These people have their camera, also called mobile phone, and can capture the event using photographs, audio, and video.  Since there are many people with their camera, it is possible that many people capture the event and are willing to share their ‘report’ with others.  No wonder that during the last bombing in London and Mumbai, as well as in some other situations like Katrina, most early and candid pictures came from such citizen journalists.  Even CNN used pictures and videos from citizen journalists in their reports.


Let’s now consider a slightly different scenario.  Suppose that an event takes place.  And there is a place where citizen journalists (that is YOU) can send their reports (in any form — photos, video, audio, or text) and these reports somehow are attached to that event.  If people knew that this is possible, then they will start sending reports on all important events and not-so-important-events (like an accident in my neighbor hood or a wonderful ballett performance at the elementary school by my daughter) to this location.  Then you will have a place for people to publish their reports.  But more importantly, you will have a place to find reports on all events and from all sources.  Thus you will not be limited to a perspective only of a major TV station or a Newspaper, but of anybody, including those sources, making available a kaleidoscope of reports on the event of your interest.  Of course, there should be methods to organize these reports in some form so you can search only for particular types of perspectives.


This scenario is not very different from what you see happening now a days in blogosphere or even on social networking oriented sites.  This is just a way to bring together power of new media to facilitate what people always wanted to do — to know about events and how different people react to events.

2 thoughts on “EventWeb 13: Crowdsourcing

  1. Fraser Dinnis

    Interesting article in todays ‘The Times’ (the UK version) which talks about the challenges being faced by travel guides as they are supplanted by online user generated reviews. The only problem is the ease with which the hotels/restaurants can boost their own rating by offering reviews. The journalist posed as an online service that would write good reviews in return for cash. They generated interest from even apparantly respectable establishments.

    Such abuse of ‘citizen submitted opinion’ seems certainly to be a threat to its development in the short term. ‘Crowdsourcing’ is fine when there is truly a crowd so that any abuse is lost. However, in the short term, whilst numbers are small, abuse is easy.

    This is a challenge to us all.

  2. Ramesh Post author

    That’s very right — I have difficulty trusting restaurant reviews on different sites when there are only one or two comments — same about the reviews on Amazon. This is a human problem that we will try to take advantage of any technology that will emerge.
    In case of crowdsourcing the true benefits will appear only when there is really a crowd. Same as in case of ‘Wisdom of Crowds’.

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