Nordic Track Book Club Review: Crowdsourcing

I’m giving Jeff Howe’s 2008 work Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business 3-out-of-5 [NordicTrack] Stars. This doesn’t mean it’s not a valuable read, but that perhaps other books on the subject, like Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody or Seth Godin’s Tribes provided—for me, anyway—more useful information about crowdsourcing than Crowdsourcing. Or it simply could have been because I read them first, otherwise this would have gotten 5-out-of-5 stars, too.


p.6 Threadless isn’t really in the T-shirt business. It sells community. Threadless is a business only by accident. They just wanted to make a cool site where people who liked the stuff they liked would feel at home.

p.8 Labor can often be organized more efficiently in the context of community than it can in the context of corporation.

p.13 Crowdsourcing uses the network to harness individual people’s spare cycles—the time and energy left over after we’ve fulfilled our obligations to employers and family.

p.15 What unites all successful crowdsourcing efforts is a deep commitment to the community.

p.29 The time we once devoted to pastimes such as bowling or bridge is increasingly being spent producing information.

p.77 Cheap tools would be meaningless without access to information on how to use them.

Film Producer Belmont didn’t need to send DVD trailers of his film to studios and news outlets in order to generate press. He just posted it on YouTube and let the community distribute it via electronic word of mouth for free.

p.83 Buckminster Fuller quote: “To build a new system you don’t compete with the old one.  You build a new system that makes the old one obsolete.”

p.90 Today kids walk out of film school with a copy of Final Cut Pro.

p.99 Four developments created a fertile ground in which crowdsourcing could emerge. The rise of an amateur class was accompanied by the emergence of a mode of production—open source software—that provided inspiration and practical direction. The proliferation of the Internet and cheap tools gave consumers a power once restricted to companies endowed with vast capital resources. But it was the evolution of online communities with their ability to efficiently organize people into economically productive units that transformed the first three phenomena into a irrevocable force.

p.180 The essence of crowdsourcing creative work lies in culling the brilliant from the banal.

It is no accident that much of the interaction between community members revolves around improving their skills.  People like to learn and they like to teach.

The community has an unerring ability to identify its most talented members and highlight their work.

p.189 Like Threadless, iStock’s Livingstone didn’t set out to revolutionize an industry, he just wanted to fill a personal need and help a few friends at the same time.

p.199 iStock doesn’t offer a chance to get rich. It offers the chance to make friends and become a better photographer.

p.206 The beauty of iStock’s large active user base is that it becomes self-perpetuating and evangelizing, continually drawing in more contributors.

p.214 What we learned is that you have to be way clearer in what you ask contributors to do. Just because they show up once doesn’t mean they’ll show up over and over.

p.218 Understand participants’ motivations before asking them to contribute.

p.224 Today people have the opportunity to vote on everything. If the customer is always right, why not give him better tools to express his preferences.

p.274 Social Network sites thrive by making content creation tasks exceedingly simple.

p.285 When it comes to crowdsourcing, any task worth doing is worth dividing up into its smaller possible components.

p.287 If you find yourself inundated with submissions, don’t bother sifting through them yourself. Take the expedient course of allowing the crowd to find the diamonds in the rough.



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A long time developer, I was an early adopter of Linux in the mid-90's for a few years until I entered corporate environments and worked with Microsoft technologies like ASP, then .NET. In 2008 I released Sueetie, an Online Community Platform built in .NET. In late 2012 I returned to my Linux roots and locked in on Java development. Much of my work is available on GitHub.