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News & Insights

News & Insights

Crowdsourcing: Approaching Ubiquity

In 2010, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) posited the three conditions that would make crowdsourcing a common, everyday process. Over the last five years crowdsourcing has matured a lot, and it seems these three conditions have now been met.

These are the three requirements the authors suggested.

1. What interaction models and protocols do we need to lay the technical foundations between the ubiquitous computing systems and the crowd?

Technological infrastructure for crowdsourcing is now solidly in place. Amazon Mechanical Turk, eLance, and oDesk provide the marketplace for worker recruitment, interaction, and payment. Platforms like WorkFusion and Crowdflower allow complex process management.

2. How will crowdsourcing face quality assurance challenges while providing valuable incentive frameworks that encourage honest contributions?

Quality management mechanisms embedded in crowdsourcing platforms have improved dramatically since 2010. Credentialing routines ensure the performance of crowd workers on specific tasks before work starts. Data validation filters prevent the entry of invalid values. It’s also possible to constantly sample results for accuracy while processes are running. Crowdsourcing managers typically pay their best workers several times what random crowd workers receive to incentivize work on their processes. They also use in-house quality control staff to run post-processing routines, identifying and resolving any potential problems on their projects. This combination ensures quality control at the same level as in-house resources.

3. Finally, what are the novel applications of crowdsourcing enabled by ubiquitous computing systems?

Now that computing power is ubiquitous with 87% of individuals in the US having Internet access, crowdsourcing is useful for any number of creative tasks. Crowd volunteers review thousands of ocean images to find accident debris, identify criminals based on photographs, and monitor local water quality. Paid crowd workers can also now do a lot more than just simple micro-tasks. They conduct telephone surveys (with call recordings for quality assurance), write short descriptive blurbs, and analyze images to ensure they meet precise acceptability criteria.

Now that crowdsourcing has achieved ubiquity it’s hard to tell where it will go from here. There’s no doubt that it will continue to play an increasingly major role in the way we gather and process information.

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