My questions for evaluating crowdsourcing sites:
1. Does it follow Clay Shirky’s Principle of Promise, Tool, Bargain?
2. Who can actually join this ‘crowd’ or How easy is it to join the crowd?
3. Would I want to join this ‘crowd’?
4. Can I be myself and still be a part of the crowd (avoid groupthink)?
Josh Catone has even come up with rules (bottom of post) for successful crowdsourcing on a ReadWriteWeb post from 2007 that were helpful but for me the key is whether a particular activity meets my personal sustained engagement threshold (me be the baromater for what any yahoo would do). I poked around the crowdsourcing directory and a few other listings for different types of crowdsourcing sites (both ones clearly with marketing in mind or others that were meant for amusement-hat tip to classmate). I admit the ones that are still going strong are genuinely neat. Some were a little creepy like Perverted-Justice, some seem uncomfortably corporate like YourEncore and some were silly like Halfbackery. What I couldn’t find was a crowd that is something more than momentarily interesting. I look at something like Threadless and I am certainly impressed with the collective intelligence and it follows Catone’s rules. I can’t confirm that Threadless follows the 80/20 rule, but I think I’m definitely in the 80. Where I think sites fall a little short is when the psychological lift of viewing let alone engaging is higher than any red-blooded lurker is willing to go. Threadless averages 5.6 pageviews a visitor based on Alexa.
If I had to pick one site that I keep coming back to it’s Halfbackery. I enjoy the mix of funny posts like the tumbleweed dispensor and creative like the phobia alarm clock and appreciate that its intent isn’t to be a repository for the next big idea like Cambrian House or bzzagent, but really just a place to share weird ideas.
The site is also not a resource to help people guide their inventions from conception to completion. This is the place where you post the things you’re not going to be working on – because you can’t be bothered, or you don’t know how to, or because it’s not such a stellar idea after all.
The site is also not a marketplace where owners of patents find interested developers. Such sites exist (some are listed under links), but this isn’t one of them.
And finally, sending me email isn’t a good way of contacting the Dunkin’ Donuts corporation (but clicking on the preceding link is).
Any site that keeps my short-attention span for more than two pages, is about half-way to being a success in my book. Halfbakery is simple enough a concept and its interface is ridiculously self-explanatory. The titles of the intentions draw you in for at least 3-5 inventions and the comments can be informative and are generally funny but the format is such that people don’t fall into the Borg mentality and stupid or brilliant (favoring stupid) your idea is given a fair shake from the group. This is a fun group of 20% and I am about 50% sure that if I come up with something off-the wall crazy, I would post it on this site.
Links that I found interesting that I couldn’t fit into this post:
Dumbness of Crowds by Kathy Sierra
Digital Maoism–Jaron Lanier