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How Not to Crowdsource: The End of Google's Prizes.org
editorial

How Not to Crowdsource: The End of Google's Prizes.org

One of the greatest crowdsourcing fails since the term was coined became official just a few days ago. Most people have never heard of Prizes.org, but they've probably heard of the company that  half-heartedly ran the crowdsourced contest platform for less than a year before giving up on it -- Google.

Today, Prizes.org is officially dead. After initially announcing the discontinuation of the product last summer, it finally went offline on January 31.

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The story of Prizes.org is a case of an ambitious vision unrealized and a platform and a community essentially left to rot at the hands of corporate neglect. Here's how Google explained the platform when it launched in the middle of 2011:

It's a place where you can win real cash prizes by coming up with the best ideas to help others out. People create contests on Prizes.org with real money bounlties for anything they need, ranging from advice for the perfect weekend getaway, ideas for a best man's speech, to a plan for losing weight for summer.

At the time, Google also said its long term vision for Prizes.org was to create something similar to the X Prize Foundation, which puts up big money to encourage the crowd to solve big problems. But what Prizes.org became during its very short life was a home for scammers and a (rarely noticed, but very real nonetheless) black-eye for Google and the entire crowdsourcing movement.

Prizes.org is one of the very few platforms that we here at Crowdsourcing.org received multiple complaints about from readers. Reports of fraudulent contests, shill entries and other kinds of nastiness also permeate a number of online forums.

Google appears to have made an effort to intervene in some cases of fraud, but without any clear resolution to the complaints. Just like Prizes.org itself, even the most widely flagged instances of fraud (like the notorious Gourth Bags contest), ever garnered much attention.

Prizes.org was the only legacy product of Google's 2010 acquisition of social gaming company Slide that wasn't axed shortly after the search giant bought the small company for a few hundred million dollars. Google quietly launched Prizes.org in mid-2011 and then seemed to forget about it.

The crowd has demonstarted time and time again its capability to police itself, but for the system to work, it's important that there be a little bit of adult supervision, usually in the form of a platform that lays down the ground rules and then enforces them. 

When those rules aren't strong enough, or your platform operator is too busy buying Motorola and battling Apple to enforce them, you get Prizes.org.

Meanwhile, the bounty or prize-based model is alive and well. Bounty IT and BusinessLeads are just two examples of platforms that are pulling it off better than Google did. Hopefully neither of them get bought out by a quarter-trillion dollar company and thrown into the digital compost heap.

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Comments

  • Hans Lak Hans Lak Feb 07, 2013 05:55 am GMT

    Thank you so much Eric its interesting to see how a big company that has all the power to become the most important crowdsouricing machine in the world can fail....Google could learn a lot from Peter the founder of the X prize if you are mission driven NEVER GIVE UP! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a828U54X0VM&feature=youtu.be what did they do wrong? Or do you realy think that they give up on all the great ideas because they are not mission driven...thank you for making a difference i also retweeted Crowdsourcing Takes Center Stage in Businesses http://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2013/02/01/crowdsourcing-takes-center-stage-in-businesses/ … #innovation @ClintBoulton http://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2013/02/01/crowdsourcing-takes-center-stage-in-businesses/
    Retweetet von Hans Lak Google quo vadis?

  • Hans Lak Hans Lak Feb 07, 2013 06:09 am GMT

    Mr. Diamandis hopes to help large corporations shake off any anti-crowdsourcing sentiment. In March, the Singularity University Mr. Diamandis co-founded to educate business leaders about emerging technologies will host a program to teach senior executives from Google, PepsiCo, The Dow Chemical Co. and other companies on how crowdsourcing is changing the dynamics of business. “Companies are changing how they create their content, their workforces, and produce their products,” Peter Diamandis could give Google.org the power to realy CHANGE THE WORLD!

  • Karan B Karan B Feb 07, 2013 08:39 am GMT

    Google "prizes.org reviewopedia" all the decent users of prizes.org have posted their grievances on that page.

  • Anton Root Anton Root Feb 07, 2013 06:34 pm GMT

    Thanks for the tip, Karan, here's the site address for everyone: http://reviewopedia.com/workathome/prizes-org-reviews-legit-or-scam/

  • Brian Taylor Brian Taylor Feb 09, 2013 07:21 pm GMT

    We learned a lot from Prizes.org, communicated with many of the users and listened to their grievances. That is why when we founded http://www.youzingit.com/ we limited the ability to create our "Request for Ideas" to bona fide companies through a strict brand verification process. There are also other structural protections for users' idea submissions. We are in beta right now after lots of work studying the market and industry as well as working with IP attorneys.

  • Tom Laine Tom Laine Feb 11, 2013 09:19 pm GMT

    What a shame they took it down! Prizes.org was for us one of the benchmarked services that we tried to outperform early on, and ended up doing a very different approach to leveraging the wisdom of crowds. At Innopinion (http://www.innozed.com) we've dealt with the scam and spam issue by implementing an extra crowdsourced verification round to most of our innovation/problem-solving campaigns that are open for public, but in most cases we monitor who's allowed to join particular campaigns in the first place. Most campaigns are somewhat limited who gets to join; pre-approved, invitation only, from @company.com, etc.

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