This is by far not the first book I read about crowdsourcing (the last is Daren Brabham’s Crowdsourcing at MIT Press) but it’s an interesting one. Why? Because, to my knowledge, it’s the first piece in English by the French crowdsourcing researchers Katia Lobre-Lebraty and Jean-Fabrice Lebraty, whose work I already blogged about – in English. Their paper Créer de la valeur par le crowdsourcing: La dyade Innovation-Authenticité (in French, but here is a summary) is one I liked because it really resonnated with my own experience of crowdsourcing. Now, this book finally brings their research to English-speaking audiences, which I think is great to feed the literature and discussions around this field of research.
This book aims to review this concept and show how it leads to the creation of value and new business opportunities
Katia Lobre-Lebraty and Jean-Fabrice Lebraty are Professors of management sciences in Lyon, France. In recent years, they have co-authored a couple of papers about crowdsourcing, one of which looks at the different forms of value that organizations can get from different types of crowds:
Their book encompasses this work (Chapter 3), but also goes beyond by offering a general introduction to crowdsourcing (rooted in the Informations Systems literature) and by proposing classification of crowdsourcing forms. The latter outlines 10 forms that crowdsourcing may take:
- Crowdjobbing (like Amazon Mechanical Turk)
- Crowdwisdom (like Threadless)
- Crowdfunding (like Kickstarter)
- Crowdsourcing and forecasting (like Predicti… now closed)
- Crowdsourcing and innovation (like InnoCentive)
- Crowdsourcing and authenticity (like eYeka)
- Crowdauditing (like Goldcorp)
- Crowdcontrol (like Reddit)
- Crowdcuration (like Buzzfeed)
- Crowdcare (like Heart Attack apps)
I must admit that I’m having difficulties with yeat another classification or typology of crowdsourcing. Especially for a PhD student like myself it becomes difficult to navigate if every researcher proposes her/his own crowdsourcing classification, and I don’t think it clarifies the debate. For example, for the authors of this book, Wikipedia is an example of crowdcuration where users author, correct and classify articles, led by “a certain human inclination to arrange, classify and box up the things around us” (p.91).
For Daren Brabham, whose line of thought I like, Wikipedia is not crowdsourcing, mostly because most of the production happens on the crowd side, and not between the crowd and the company. “[The] sharing of power between an organization and the public makes crowdsourcing distinct from similar creative processes,” he explains, putting Wikipedia in another box, namely that of commons-based peer production. But I guess it’s an endless debate…
Lebraty and Lobre conclude with some thoughts about the future of crowdsourcing, which they see follow the route of maker movement. “Crowdsourcing results in the suggestion of ideas that mist then be transformed into products,” they explain, stating that the downstream of the process still suffers a discontinuity, but that “two new technologies – 3D printers and laser-cutting machines – [have] changed the game.” We’ll see if that really happens, but chances are high that 3D printing will have an impact in the future!
I think the conclusion about the final steps of production (i.e. manufacturing) could have referenced one company that involves the crowd almost end-to-end: Quirky (which has just entered France, by the way). But either way, this book is a useful contribution to the growing literature about crowdsourcing… and one more book on my shelf!