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Information, Technology, and Innovation: Resources for Growth in a Connected World by John M. Jordan

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CHAPTER 11

Crowds

The Internet is remarkable for its ability for convene groups of people. These groups, which we will call crowds for the sake of convenience, can get work done in two basic ways. The first of these, commonly called crowdsourcing, takes big tasks and divides them among a large number of usually voluntary contributors. Examples would be Amazon Mechanical Turk or Flickr's tagging mechanism to generate words to describe photos. The second function of crowds is to process information with market mechanisms. This function was popularized by James Surowiecki's book on the wisdom of crowds.1

Crowdsourcing: Group Effort

Perhaps the most extraordinary of Linux founder Linus Torvalds's discoveries was not technical but psychological: Given a suitably hard but interesting problem, distributed communities of people will work on it for free. The first decade of the twenty-first century has witnessed the growth of crowdsourcing to include several defining artifacts of the Internet, including Amazon, Facebook, Flickr, and Wikipedia.

Crowds can do amazing things. England's Guardian newspaper was playing catch-up to the rival Telegraph, which had a four-week head start analyzing a mass of public records related to an expense-account scandal in the House of Lords. Once it obtained the records, the Guardian could not wait for its professional reporters to dig through 2 million pages of documentation and still publish anything meaningful. The solution was to crowdsource the data ...

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