“Two heads are better than one”
As the Internet penetrates into more and more households across the globe, it becomes easier to take advantage of the minds of many. Harnessing the contributions of the Internet community is called “crowdsourcing.”
Every major website uses crowdsourcing, though some use it more than others. There is a potential to do big things with a website when you harness the power of the crowd. Just look at sites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Wikipedia. None of these sites would exist without a group of people creating and adding content to the sites, all without getting paid.
The Holy Grail of business is to profit significantly with minimal effort. Imagine having a hundred thousand part-time employees working for you, and you pay them nothing. That illustrates how powerful crowdsourcing can be. All you have to do is set up a system that facilitates the contributions of people, and make them want to contribute.
Some novel uses of the crowd
Google is continuously collecting user searches and analyzing them to learn more about its users. While this might freak out some people, it is just good business practice. Every search you do helps Google tailor advertisements and services to more closely fit your needs. Your searches and clicks also contribute to improving future search results. One novel approach to crowdsourcing at Google is called reCAPTCHA. reCAPTCHA puts letters on websites that require verification that the user is a human. The images of letters it uses are images that couldn’t be figured out by machines. When users enter the letters they see for verification, they are also inadvertently helping Google figure out the text of scanned books.
Not all tasks can be done easily by a computer. Maybe you have a hundred photographs of the same thing, and you want to find the best quality ones. Perhaps you have several unattributed quotations, and you need to know who said them. Or maybe you need someone to transcribe what is said in a video. These are all small tasks that are difficult to make your computer do, but they are easy for a human to do. That is where Amazon’s Mechanical Turk comes in. Mechanical Turk is a service where you can post small jobs for an army of freelancing humans to solve. Amazon calls it “artificial artificial intelligence.”
Most people these days carry their smartphones everywhere they go, including while they are driving their cars. Waze uses GPS data and user reports to provide real-time traffic information to other users. This information can be used by navigation software to guide people around traffic hazards to save time and gas.
How You Can Harness the Power of the Crowd
Whenever you use the Internet, you are sending and receiving data. There is no way around this. The Internet is a two-way street. So no matter what you do to hide your information on the Internet, you are part of the crowd in some way or another.
If there is nothing you can do to hide on the Internet completely, then you might as well be helpful. One way to be useful on the Internet is to be a participant and using websites as part of the crowd. You will enhance the internet as a whole. Participate in discussions. Upload valuable content.
Or you can take advantage of the crowd. If you design a website, you should always be looking for ways to use your member community to create content. Creating all your content by yourself doesn’t scale. Ask for help. You’d be amazed at how connected the world is today.