Jeff Howe, Author, Crowdsourcing: How the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future of Biz
Jeff Howe is a journalist and a contributing editor at Wired magazine. He coined the term “crowdsourcing” in 2006 for the magazine. He has also written a book, translated into 12 languages, that explores the crowdsourcing subject in depth.
Crowdsourcing, as we know, is engaging a crowd for a common goal. With exponential technological growth, crowdsourcing is emerging as a mainstream innovation medium.
Theoretically, the proposition of it is to incorporate fresh perspectives and ideas from the larger crowd for innovation.
However, it comes with its own set of challenges, ranging from confidentiality to exploitation.
Today, we have with us a special guest, who coined the term “Crowdsourcing”. He delves into the topic right from its inception to its good and not-so-good impacts.
About Jeff Howe
Jeff Howe is a journalist and a contributing editor at Wired magazine. He coined the term “crowdsourcing” in 2006 for the magazine. He has also written a book, translated into 12 languages, that explores the crowdsourcing subject in depth. Furthermore, he is also a visiting scholar at MIT Labs in Boston.
Jeff starts the discussion as he recalls how he came up with the idea of crowdsourcing while working on another assignment on a social networking service, called “Myspace”. While working on the story from April to mid-summer, he realized the networking service has grown exponentially beyond the imagination of the founders.
As aspiring musicians who needed to make videos for promoting, connected with a larger group of people to help. Jeff says, “I realized we were in the process of triggering a transformation of the relationship between producers and consumers.”
As his editor mentioned this idea as outsourcing services to the crowd, Jeff came up with the nomenclature, “crowdsourcing.”
He defines it as, “It is an act once performed by professionals that have been outsourced to a largely undefined group of people, generally over the internet and for low or no pay. We were saying that is a new model of economic production.”
Jeff calls it a transformational tweak to capitalism.
Cons of Crowdsourcing
We are all aware of the disadvantages that come with crowdsourcing. Jeff admits being guilty of not realizing it initially. However, he supports his first article as it is neutral, sticking to the journalistic standards of fair reporting.
However, his book which should have incorporated the two sides portrayed only a rosy picture. He says, “I saw it as good that democratization of information would have a similarly democratizing effect on governments, and would offer a lot of opportunity and innovation.
I did not see it as a tool for continued aggregation of capital and wealth inequality.”
Jeff mentions that he failed to see that our behavioral data would be crowdsourced for gain.
He says, “What I have failed to see is that if you are trying to describe a large scale phenomenon, be prepared for it to be composed of a lot of good and a lot of bad and for it to be really complicated and for you to not know what it means for decades.”
Crowdsourcing and Journalism
With citizen journalism and data journalism, we see the use of crowdsourcing in the profession. However, fortunately, it has been largely a positive development. Jeff feels that it has broken down a barrier between producers and consumers of news.
Jeff further talks about the various opportunities that his research and article on crowdsourcing opened for him.
The craft of Ideating and Writing
We also talk to Jeff about ideating a story. He emphasizes, as most journalists do, the importance of curiosity and chasing that. He says, “Sometimes you just can’t sate your curiosity and that is the thing you should write about. With experience, you become a living seismograph.
You begin to sense what are tiny little shakes and what are big shakes. What are big movements as within the culture.”
However, he advises having a curious nature for people in every profession as it assists in personality development.
Jeff also talks about his second book, which he has co-authored with the former director of the MIT media lab, Joi Ito.
Jeff Howe is an assistant professor at Northeastern University. A longtime contributing editor at Wired magazine, he coined the term crowdsourcing in a 2006 article for that magazine.
In 2008 he published a book with Random House that looked more deeply at the phenomenon of massive online collaboration. Called Crowdsourcing: How the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future of Business, it has been translated into ten languages.