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My thoughts on defending crowdsourcing, inspired by Reddit
I know this is only interesting to folks in the specific business I am in (social news), so ignore it if you're busy with more important stuff like your life, the real tragedies of the last few days or the Kardashian-Humphris dissolution.
1. Spontaneous crowdsourcing efforts like the one on Reddit do not need our defending.
For two reasons.
Reason #1: Nobody involved with them gives a fuck about what a bunch of media pundits (like me) say. So it's not like they are going to abandon their passion for crimesolving (or whatever) unless we come to their aid. They do it because they enjoy being part of the story. That isn't going away.
Reason #2: Criticism will certainly make these practices and systems stronger. It will make their cultures more thoughtful and their software more powerful. The one thing that IS preferable is that the criticism be specific (eg., what specifically went wrong to make the leap to Sunil) rather than general.
2. Keep in mind that these practices are very very young. Yes, there are pre-Web antecedents, but in general, we're talking about only a few years of institutional memory.
They will continue to improve and this particular event is the biggest in the history of the practice. So it will be a huge catalyst for evolution. And just like biological evolution, most mutations will fail and the ones that survive will do so for reasons that are difficult to understand or anticipate in advance.
3. There's no need to admonish the professional media to stop hating on the crowdsourcing projects. For obvious reasons, it is in their economic self-interest to do so AND to increasingly exploit these systems if and as they become more predictably useful. That's totally fine.
Again, the only thing we might gently suggest is that they are specific about what they think did work or could work better. But even if they just want to hate -- that's fine, because the competition is very likely to drive the enthusiasm of crowdsourcing participants and innovators.
4. Lastly, the only reason I can think of being a 'defender' of crowdsourcing is if you're trying to raise money for a crowdsourcing project and you need to convince VCs that there's an imminent business success story to be found in them.
If that's what you're doing, say it. And if it is, stop. Bad idea. These communities may be many things, but they aren't good for-profit ideas. At least, not yet.