2,532 crowdsourcing and crowdfunding sites
When the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra decided to use the crowd to help it find a new soloist in February, senior vice president of artistic planning and audience engagement Robert Moir claimed that his orchestra was “applying 21st-century technology to [scout] young talent.”
Perhaps it would have been wiser to leave the choosing to the professionals.
After several months, the orchestra decided to cancel its campaign, electing not to choose a winner. “Our goal was to discover an unknown talent performing at the level of soloists with the Pittsburgh Symphony. We did not find that,” Moir said. The failed campaign raises many questions about just how valuable crowd input can be when voting on decisions that should be left to professionals.
Conceivably, the Pittsburgh Symphony incident was due to the small number and relative poor quality of the entrants: of the 104 candidate videos, music experts chose eight semi-finalists. The crowd voted for their favorite soloists, and the top four were flown in to audition. None of the four won the challenge, which would have meant a $10,000 prize and the opportunity to perform at two concerts, though they were able to showcase their talents and put themselves on the radar for future opportunities.
This was by far not the first time the crowd steered a contest into questionable territory. Last year, the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics opened up voting on the games’ official mascot to the Russian citizens. One Russian contributed his own submission. Zoich, a psychedelic frog, rose to the top of the internet polls and was even introduced into the running to the wider Russian audience (to increase the contest’s visibility, according to officials).
Crowds can also spread lies or misinformation. In 2009, Twitter was a big reason why the swine flu epidemic became so feared. The disease was dangerous, sure, but did not warrant the panic seen on the micro-blogging platform.
Crowd behavior continues to be an inexact and unpredictable science. While there are countless examples of crowds coming together to do good, it is important to keep in mind that tapping into the crowd does not work for every project or campaign, and can actually have a negative effect.