When Crowdsourcing Goes Wrong
Randy Corke on August 27, 2010
There are lots of success stories about crowdsourcing out there, but unfortunately, there are also a fair number about crowdsourcing failures. Recently I’ve read about or heard about some perceived failures, in particular the Pepsi Refresh Challenge and the Mad Men Casting Call, which have motivated me to write about why some crowdsourcing goes wrong. Naturally, we don’t like to talk about the failures; we’d much rather say all crowdsourcing projects provide benefit… There are, of course, many reasons why crowdsourcing can go wrong, but most of the highly visible failures have two things in common: 1) “Misguided” purpose: I’ve found that too frequently the purpose behind crowdsourcing that flops is really about driving marketing and awareness for the sponsoring organization, rather than on quality outcome. Instead of identifying a need that can be applied for good, the program is just another marketing program for the company. As a result, less care is taken and more mistakes are made in planning and implementing, and people (participants) get frustrated and angry. Do not take the attitude of “whatever the crowd gives the most votes to will be good enough”. Care about the result, and don’t allow your site to turn into a simple popularity contest that can be gamed, such as the Mad Men Casting Call where they belatedly added a recaptcha to stop the use of proxy voting that has drastically skewed the voting.
Inexperienced Implementation: Failed crowdsourcing sites are
often implemented by companies that don’t have much experience with crowdsourcing. One of the unfortunate things about crowdsourcing is it looks easy to do. Hey, all you have to do is have people submit ideas and get others to comment and vote right? How hard can it be? Well, let me tell you, some firms are learning the hard way. Crowdsourcing done well is a LOT more than ideation, comment and voting. You must consider crowd management, eliminating bias, ensuring fairness, reporting, providing at least some equality in idea visibility and much, much more. You must plan for a great user experience so you can avoid problems such as those on the Pepsi Refresh site. Experience is not an option, unless you want to risk a failure. Any web-design firm that hasn’t done crowdsourcing in the past that looks at a crowdsourcing site and tells you “yeah we can build that” is something to be afraid of. What’s behind the UI is more important than what you can see. At a minimum, you should get a consultancy firm that understands
things like crowd recruitment and moderation, incentives, reporting and analytics to work with your web-design firm to make sure the implementation is done well, or quite frankly hire a firm like Chaordix, where we do crowdsourcing for a living. Sorry for the blatant pitch, but we’re good at what we do and it pains us to see crowdsourcing failures that could have been breakthroughs. So, how to best understand good crowdsourcing practice? I’d suggest
starting off by reading blogs by people like Stefan Lindegaard, Robert Brands, Jason Spector and Andrea Meyer. Or, join us for a
free webinar. And be sure to read our “Eight Principles of Successful Crowdsourcing” white paper and take a look at the Crowdsourcing Scorecards in our Resources section. The good news is with the right planning, purpose and experienced implementation, your crowdsourcing initiative can be one of the success stories.
Provides two of the most common reasons why crowdsourcing can fail. The reasons are as follows:
1. “Misguided” purpose
2. Inexperienced Implementation
Most crowdsourcing projects have succeeded. But there really are some of those which went wrong and it's because:
1. Too frequently the purpose behind crowdsourcing that flops is really about driving marketing and awareness for the sponsoring organization, rather than on quality outcome.
2. Failed crowdsourcing sites are often implemented by companies that don’t have much experience with crowdsourcing.