The Crowdsourcing Fallacy

Have a big problem... The crowd can fix it! Wait, will they??

Jake Orlowitz
A Wikipedia Librarian
3 min readOct 12, 2017

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Wikimedia Commons

It’s easy to look at projects like Wikipedia, Reddit, Duolingo, StackOverflow, or Zooniverse and think, we just need to take problem X, add some “crowd” to it (like a magic spell or recipe), and then boom: breakaway success.

If only it worked like that.

Most crowdsourcing projects, like most human efforts, fail.

Crowds are phenomenal tools because they’re made up of people, and people are the most important resource in any initiative.

But.

Your crowdsourcing effort will most likely fail if…

  • your crowd is not diverse.
  • your crowd all thinks alike.
  • their task is not clear.
  • their mission is not compelling.
  • the technical platform is poorly designed or overly complicated.
  • there are not continued areas for growth and engagement over time.
  • the interface and the organizers are not responsive to change.
  • the community lacks social moderation or healthy behavioral norms.
  • it lacks mechanisms to address technical abuse and human harassment.

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Jake Orlowitz
A Wikipedia Librarian

Internet citizen. Founder of The Wikipedia Library. Seeker of well people and sane societies. Read my book: welcometothecircle.net