How Bringing “Sourcing” Back to the “Crowd” Can Translate into “Funding”

Crowdsourcing existed way before Jeff Howe famously neologized it. (How’s that for a fancy word for giving a name to something that didn’t exist before?) Now crowdsourcing has a permanent place in our popular lexicon—and that’s got to tickle Jeff Howe to no end! Wouldn’t you like to say you invented a word? Does it up his pay grade? Does he get invited to do Ted Talks? These and other questions take up too much of my time…..

As a little primer, let’s remind ourselves about how crowdsourcing works. Example: Just this morning I emailed a bunch of friends requesting names of acupuncturists they could recommend. They’re (hopefully) going to use their experience and contacts to help me find my dream acupuncturist at the perfect rate, location, bedside manner, etc. So now all I have to do is sit back and wait for the recommendations to come dribbling in.

The genius of using the Internet, or course, is that while my email went out to a few select friends true crowdsourcing uses the power of the Internet to disseminate requests and to deliver back a slew of germane leads.

Sites like eLance and oDesk and Mechanical Turk crowdsource workplace freelancers—also known as virtual assistants, since they could be located in the other hemisphere, which means not only will you never meet him or her (let alone be sure of their true gender) but you’ll probably not ever speak in real time.

Sittercity crowdsources child and pet sitters. I have used them to great success, finding a terrific, caring person to hang out with our dogs when we need to go out of town (thanks, Ingrid!) and so have my in-laws for their little Westie.

The design industry was an early adopter to crowdsourcing. Sites like Crowdspring and 99Designs have been matching clients with experienced web, logo, and graphic designers to varying success. I say “varying” because  most require that professionals work “on spec” and that can be a sticking point. But as a former writer who pitched editors regularly—and by “pitch” I mean I had to have a fully fleshed out story including sources before I got the thumbs up or down—I’m used to this. (I didn’t say I liked it.)

But the point is this is not new. Here, however, are some new industries enter the playing field and, flawed or not, I think it’s about time.

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Crowdsourcing Medical Diagnoses

Crowdmed.com is a long time coming. It’s a site that allows people with medical conditions that have perplexed the medical establishment to present their symptoms to the crowd for solving.

Crowdmed was started by Jared Heyman. His sister Carly had a condition that went undiagnosed for too long, much to the family’s frustration. As a means to help her—and also test out his medical crowdsourcing theory—he posted her symptoms on his site and….guess what? She got a diagnosis! You can read the story here.

There are two ways to participate. You can either submit a case, or you can suggest diagnoses—no medical degree required. To me, that’s not crazy; that’s simply utilizing the power of the crowd. (And the New York Times has had a successful column called Diagnosis that does exactly the same thing to great success.) Though crowdmed is very new, there are already many case studies you can read about.

Here’s where the “funding” part comes in. According to their site:

 Once you’ve proven your capabilities in making smart suggestions and point assignments, and have received good peer and patient ratings, you can fully participate in all cases on the site and earn even more rewards. . . Medical Detectives who contributed to these suggestions are awarded points, status, and even cash compensation from those patients offering it. But the greatest reward for most of our Medical Detectives is knowing they’ve helped people get their lives back.

Crowdsourcing Fashion and more

Crowdsourcing fashion ideas seems like a natural. I wrote a piece about Betabrand a while back. You can read it here. While their business model always included getting the thumbs up from the crowd before turning a mockup into a finished product, they recently added a crowdfunding component: submit your creations and if they are successfully funded you can earn up to 10% of the profit.

Reddit, the iconoclastic, glorified message board, recently launched redditmade which they say:

Allows users to create almost anything you want on, whether it’s a hat, sticker, glass, or something super specially customized and unique. We’ll help you make it happen! Want to make a T-shirt? You can create your design and make your campaign go live in just a few minutes. Creators get to decide how many they want to sell and for what price. They then have 30 days to reach their goal. If enough people pledge to buy production begins. Creators can receive all the profits, or they can donate them to any other person or cause you want.

According to its site, “Reddit is differentiating its service from existing ones by privacy features – managing all payment processing, item production, and shipping itself, user information never needs to be handed over to the project creator.”

That’s just for starters. Here’s an Entrepreneur article that delves into crowdfunding fashion further. Or just google “crowdfunding” and “fashion” and see what goodies come up.

Crowdsourcing Video Expertise

I talk to clients all the time who are perplexed about whom to hire to help them create a pitch video. Just a couple of days ago it was reported that two companies—one US-based, the other European—got smart and combined their expertise to “offer platforms that enable videos to be created for brands by a combined community of more than 120,000 film makers, writers, editors, and small production companies.”

The merger, called Vizy, asks individuals, brands or agencies to submit a proposal of needs. Participants must then present a creative summary or storyboard ideas for review. Vizy chooses the filmmakers to create completed videos and offers performance testing of submissions. Clients only pay for the videos they end up using.

No question, crowd dynamics is here to stay. So is this a good move for crowdsourcing in general and the crowdfunding industry specificually? I’d love to hear your comments.

Another question to readersQ5l0Jp

As a purveyor of information about crowdfunding, how am I doing? Am I delivering information that you care about? Are there gaping holes that you have been holding out hopes I’ll get around to filling? I don’t get a lot of “unsubscribes” but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. I personally continue to accept blogs and newsletters in my in-box that I immediately send to the trash, just because I don’t want to offend by unsubscribing. I hope that’s not the case…but I’m here for you, so tell me what you need and I will try my best to accommodate you.

Case Studies? You are aware of my column on Crowdsourcing.org, right? It’s called Rose Recommends and each week I cover a single campaign created a brave soul who is willing to be critiqued in the hopes of getting it right—and helping others.

More Q & As? I really do try to interview people who’ve been wildly successful at crowdfunding. But timing is everything and they often so busy fulfilling their campaign promises a sit-down is hard to come by. But I keep trying.

Platform profiles? I hope this isn’t want you want, because there are so many other sources for these type of reviews and I try to keep my content to the kind of information that doesn’t look like it just came off wholesale rack, if you get my drift. I want to provide specialty-grade material. Think Stella McCartney vs. Target. 😉