Using the Cloud Crowd, Talent Taken Social

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Wired’s Jeff Howe coined the term crowdsourcing, profiling what was then a huge labor market for specialized skills. What Howe defined back in 2006 has actually been coming to fruition in sometimes subtle ways. While taking advantage of crowdsourcing has become standard business practice for many, the rainbow of opportunity has yet to be even marginally achieved by others. But Howe’s vision draws nearer still – under closer scrutiny.

Like most defining terms, Crowdsourcing has been the cause of some degree of controversy with regard to just who coined it. We need not get into that here, as is it is clear Howe is a sufficiently noted expert. Large and small networks of people, engaged through the ultimate proximity of the Internet – pretty much business’ new conduit into creativity. Maybe more interesting at this point, is the fact that  this sort of “Digital Eldorado” of outsourcing job markets seems to have grown faster than the even buzz around the events – no longer is the buzz term used to categorize digital engagement.  Even Forbes has delved into the cloud for clarity on this issue, without much success I might add.

While case studies abound for business’s use of network potential, widespread adaptation of crowdsourcing is just not perceived to be there yet. Why? The reasons are as diverse as the special skills people in the cloud possess, but maybe the biggest are documentation and classification.  Basically, all the special skills being employed via freelancing, niche oriented crowd skill sources, and the vastness of the crowd are not well considered. From Mommy Bloggers doing PR, to iStock Photo submissions and social media gurus, the crowd is actually employed far more than many realize.

A couple of good examples come to mind from news stories we have published here on Everything PR News. One example, while not exactly “pure crowdsourcing” is Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw Challenge.  Bourdain, one of the world’s foremost food celebrities, decided to engage the social crowd to come up with a simple answer to the question; Foodies: What does it mean to cook food well? Sponsored by Bourdain’s publisher, Harper Collins, someone with a talent for cooking and writing will be published inside Bourdain’s paperback version of Medium Raw, as well as receiving $10,000. In this particular case Harper Collins is of course “sourcing” the social crowd marketing and PR wise, but publicizing “everyman” from the cloud is part of the bigger picture too.

At the other end of the spectrum, crowdsourcing communities exist which are clearly outlined as resources for business. Unlike lesser publicized or known niche communities of talent (even photographer or artist centric ones) networks like our client Prova.fm directly connect talent with businesses in need. A fascinating and greatly rewarding moment for that community just took flight this week. Prova’s community was engaged by Noodle Education to shoot or find, and submit superb photographs with optimal relevance to that organizations cause. The crowd’s reward? Another $10,000. Noodle Education is pretty much outsourcing image ad creation, and in a very efficient manner here.

Prova was in the news just the other day with a contest there being posted by the United States Postal Service too. Taking a look at Prova’s competitors (sort of competitors), crowdsourcing in some sectors is actually quite vibrant. 99 Designs for one, is making a living outsourcing logos and such for entrepreneurs.  But looking at the greater scope of what Howe originally spoke of in 2006, a term which has now obviously outgrown even its originator, crowdsourcing is actually so ingrained an idea on the web most don’t give it a passing thought. Wikipedia to iStock, and everything in between is actually part and parcel the growth of networking – a monumental achievement actually.

In conclusion, we have not covered any new ground here actually. Well, except that what Jeff Howe and others saw as a humongous opportunity is actually coming to fruition. I wondered the other day why I could not get any of my friends in media to cover a story about the crowd actually. I thought; “Maybe crowdsourcing is dead?” But the fact is the massive utilization of talents in the digital world has just not been classified correctly. Crowdsourcing is maybe just too fuzzy a term, one actually hidden beneath the weight of its own inherent  success? What do you think? Will the cloud and the crowd eventually be used for nearly everything? How about movie star searches?

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