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The Verdict - Did I Get "Crowdsourcing" All Wrong?

And do you (probably) have it wrong too?

Crowdsourcing – Did I get it all wrong? And do you have it all wrong too?

Jack's Challenge
In my last article, I talked about how TopCoder Founder Jack Hughes told me that I missed the point about Crowdsourcing, and that I got it all wrong.

He then challenged me to “come out to TopCoder Open 2011 and see what it's really like - and make up your own mind”. It takes some confidence to make that kind of challenge - it would have been a bit embarrassing had I come to the TopCoder Open, spoken to everyone and then written about how Crowdsourcing software development is a stupid idea that will never go anywhere.

What I Saw and Did
I spent a lot of time observing the competitions at the TopCoder Open 2011. I saw intense, intelligent and creative developers, architects and designers from all over the world compete in a variety of different kinds of software-related contents (design, algorithms, coding, testing, etc.).

I had a chance to observe competitor behavior, speak with participants (i.e. competitors) in the “Open”, with executives from companies that use Crowdsourcing to help them solve problems, and heard from Rock Stars (I can't think of a better word) such as Dean Kamen (DEKA Design), Nick Donofrio (IBM Fellow) and Dr. Karim Lakhani (Harvard Business School), and spoke with TopCoder's Jack Hughes, Jim McKeown and Clinton Bonner at length.

I really felt like I got a 360-degree perspective on things. I definitely learned a lot – not just about Crowdsourcing but also about how innovation and creativity “happen”.

The Verdict
So... did I get it all wrong? Did I miss the point completely?

No. I did not “get it all wrong”.

I got it almost exactly 50% wrong. I'm not terribly proud of that score – a 50% typically gets an a grade of “F”.

But, if I were to grade myself on a curve, that would raise my score to something at least mid-pack and probably better. That shows how grading on a curve can be terribly flawed – for example, what if I were to say “I trust Congressman Smith far more than I trust most politicians”. Seeing as I don't trust politicians or Congresspeople at all, giving Mr. Smith a B+ on the Congressional Trust Scale means very little (if anything).

Did I miss the point completely?
I have to say, I missed the most important points. The ones I didn't miss were the ones that weren't very important.

I'll give myself a 25% on that exam. Again, a mid-pack score if I put it on a curve.

And You?
Realistically, I got a LOT wrong. It wasn't simply an issue of facts or concepts – it was one of perspective and frame of reference.

Odds are you've got it wrong too.

How can I say that? Well, my opinions, assumptions and pre-conceptions didn't come out of nowhere. They were drawn from what a lot of “experts” said or wrote, and were based on a lot of “traditional wisdom”.

So, What's It All About?
What is Crowdsourcing all about? What points did I miss completely? Where was I wrong and where was I right?

I anticipated that I would have a simple answer to those questions. That I would be able to attend TCO11 and come away something short and succinct.

Well, that didn't happen. The subject is a lot bigger than I originally realized.

I'm not sure it's possible (or even desirable) to sit down and type 1,024 words (the length of a typical Sys-Con Media article) and answer the questions I sought to answer.

I'll have some “thinking time” today at the airport and on the plane back to Austin, TX. That will give me time to organize my thoughts so I can do this topic justice. Hopefully I have time to write over the weekend so I can get the first article out the door for Monday.

Earlier Articles in This Series
Earlier articles in this series (in order, starting with the first one published) are:

More Stories By Hollis Tibbetts

Hollis Tibbetts, or @SoftwareHollis as his 50,000+ followers know him on Twitter, is listed on various “top 100 expert lists” for a variety of topics – ranging from Cloud to Technology Marketing, Hollis is by day Evangelist & Software Technology Director at Dell Software. By night and weekends he is a commentator, speaker and all-round communicator about Software, Data and Cloud in their myriad aspects. You can also reach Hollis on LinkedIn – linkedin.com/in/SoftwareHollis. His latest online venture is OnlineBackupNews - a free reference site to help organizations protect their data, applications and systems from threats. Every year IT Downtime Costs $26.5 Billion In Lost Revenue. Even with such high costs, 56% of enterprises in North America and 30% in Europe don’t have a good disaster recovery plan. Online Backup News aims to make sure you all have the news and tips needed to keep your IT Costs down and your information safe by providing best practices, technology insights, strategies, real-world examples and various tips and techniques from a variety of industry experts.

Hollis is a regularly featured blogger at ebizQ, a venue focused on enterprise technologies, with over 100,000 subscribers. He is also an author on Social Media Today "The World's Best Thinkers on Social Media", and maintains a blog focused on protecting data: Online Backup News.
He tweets actively as @SoftwareHollis

Additional information is available at HollisTibbetts.com

All opinions expressed in the author's articles are his own personal opinions vs. those of his employer.