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Economics of crowdsourcing

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Volunteering, volunteerism and altruism … or economic benefit?

In some cases, the “crowd” willing to participate generously offers a priori powers, their data. Participants may feel somehow reimbursed for their work with results that will benefit everyone, or estimate that the overall benefits of the project justify their participation.

This is for example the case for the online community contributing to wikis like Wikipedia, Wikibook, Wikiversity, Wikispecies, Wikinews, Tela Botanica, etc. This is still the case when Internet users are more or less formally organized through forums to ask questions about computer problems they face, and share and evaluate the solutions proposed by other users.

Another example: since the late 1990s, computer scientists seeking to produce algorithms and tools to better use, validate, qualify and optimize the crowding.

In other cases, the work force, mobilized by economic actors, invites to pay. This raises the question of the monetary value of this type of production.

Economic recovery, with bonuses, gifts, prizes or micropayments

One of the ancestors of the economic applications of crowdsourcing could be found in the middle of the twentieth century with the mechanism of demo-home sales (by inviting other household), developed by Tupperware to sell its plastic containers outside the usual channels stores.

The example of micropayment cited by Jeff Howe is Claudia Menashe looking for some pictures to illustrate bird flu on a stand at an exhibition of the National Health Museum in Washington. It shall enter into negotiations, knowing its low budget, with a professional photographer, Mark Harmel, who is willing to concede to a price he considers two times lower than their normal rates, 4 pictures for $ 600.

It was then discovered that Claudia Menashe on iStockphoto documents with the characteristics it seeks. She tells Mark Harmel she found her happiness, having procured via iStockphoto, 56 pictures at about $ 1 each. The story ends as follows: professional photographer Mark Harmel realized he could not fight against a crowd of fans better equipped (camera less than $1,000, software for treating images, personal computer and the Internet) agreeing to be paid $1 to $5 per photo. He now concentrates on the work order.

This principle of micropayment allows websites to compensate and many contributors to make pocket money or extra income.

Another example of economic valuation of companies using the principle of crowdsourcing platforms is the design competition. The principle of these platforms is to offer its customers the posting of a design competition to receive many proposals for designs from the designers subscribed on these so-called platforms.

Framework, issues and context

We can bring the crowdsourcing concept of “pronetariat” (a neologism from the same domain, proposed by Joel de Rosnay in 2005). Crowdsourcing can be a lucrative business, even if it is marginal, of the “pronetar.” If volunteering can be summarized in a voluntary not-for-profit, social or charitable commitment, can not be regarded as synonymous with crowdsourcing, to the extent that commercial companies are the source of creation concept.

Another concept which is close to the logic of the one crowsourcing is the involvement of the computing power of a large number of individual computers to perform very long or complicated calculations.

“Wiki” projects (Wikipedia, for example), or some studies based on crowdsourcing (eg. Detection or measurement of phenological climate change indices, monitoring of biodiversity indicators, etc.) can virtually do not have limit (time or space, as the “crowd” of participants is, and as it maintains the project and the tools it needs).

A project can also change or create sub-projects by some of the actors.

Translated from Wikipedia

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