December 2007 I wrote about the early successes of Galaxy Zoo (read the Pro-Am revolution reached astronomy). Ever since I have been subscribed to their newsletter to be kept up to date on the great stuff they are doing there. The story so far has been thrilling.
The original Galaxy Zoo was launched in July 2007, with a data set made up of a million galaxies imaged with the robotic telescope of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. With so many galaxies, the team thought that it might take at least two years for visitors to the site to work through them all. Within 24 hours of launch, the site was receiving 70,000 classifications an hour, and more than 50 million classifications were received by the project during its first year, from almost 150,000 people.
Many projects are now underway using this data; you can read about the first few in our list of papers published and in progress, on the Galaxy Zoo blog and below. We’ve been successful in getting time on professional telescopes to follow up many Galaxy Zoo discoveries, too; the list currently includes the Isaac Newton and William Herschel Telescopes on the island of La Palma in the Canaries, Gemini South in Chile, the WIYN telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona, the IRAM radio telescope in Spain’s Sierra Nevada, the Swift and GALEX satellites, and the Hubble Space Telescope.
One of the most exciting discoveries from the original Galaxy Zoo was something we never expected. Hanny Van Arkel, a Dutch schoolteacher and Galaxy Zoo volunteer, posted an image to the Galaxy Zoo forum and asked “What’s the blue stuff below?” No one knew. The object became known as the “Voorwerp” — Dutch for “object”. To date nobody knows what the “voorwerp” is. The mystery deepens!
This form of crowdsourcing delivers productivity that would otherwise not be possible. Also the serendipitous outcomes would never have been reached. What strikes me is the growing community and its traction. By showing early successes more budget and cool data can be used which feeds the passion of the community. It’s an upward spiral! Crowdsourcing proofs to be sustainable at Galaxy Zoo. Organizations could learn a lot about the way the crowd is engaged.
If you’ve seen this video before, you’ll probably like seeing it again. If it’s a first, I am happy to have shared this piece of entertaining truth…
In our work with CreativeCrowds we are really working in this space. It’s impossible to start stuff like “crowdsourcing” if you are not open for dialogue!
Halfway 2009 is a great time to evaluate and look ahead. Thinking about the state of the art of crowdsourcing I can’t help but notice that this must me the time that crowdsourcing is getting less hip and more productive. Working at CreativeCrowds we get regular requests to speak about crowdsourcing. The people we talk to are changing. More boardrooms and more operational people are catching the vibe of engaging crowds in dialogue and co-creation, not just innovators and marketers.
While the incrowd is moving on to the next hype I feel that crowdsourcing is not yet productively put to action by organizations. Apart from some American successes, and some local cases, I must say I am disappointed. If you’d ask me two years ago, I thought we would be much further.
Gartner has been around. Their hype cycle is proven to be the normal curve of hypes reaching maturity and becoming productive. It’s the dip! So as we walk through the valley of the shadow of disillusionment, we can rest assured that we’ll get out and reach productivity soon! What follows now is “the slope of enlightenment”.
The slope of enlightenment is now. To give you some insight in what that Enlightenment means in Holland:
- Sara Lee is co-creating with the community of redesignme.
- The community of solvers ‘Battle of concepts‘ has gained momentum and puts the crowd to work for cold hard cash from large corporates.
- TomTom gaining competitive advantage with millions of map corrections from the crowd.
- A telecom provider developing games within a dutch gaming community (that’s a plug).
- Government uses Nings and Linkedin to engage people in their digital strategies.
- The list goes on…
Most of the things happening now are campaigns, not integrated in the company. But these projects will form the bases for productivity later on. In my vision this is a state in which companies have engagement of external people in their DNA, maybe even to the extent that it becomes hard to tell whether ‘external’ exists. My pep talk would be what you need before the last ‘col’ when cycling through the alps:
May 15th this blog will be participating in the 24 hours of innovation.
“The 24 Hours of Innovation is a non-stop, online marathon of innovation initiatives around the world. The 24 hours are divided in time slots, each one featuring an exciting innovation initiative ranging from an innovative auction to product launches, start-ups and creativity sessions. Participants range from large co’s (f.e. Pfizer), global thought leaders (f.e. Henry Chesbrough) to innovation programs in Uganda.”
Fellow blogger Philippe (OpenInnovators) invited me to contribute a ‘half time pep talk’. 2009 is almost halfway which makes for a pefect evaluation moment. Where are we now and where will we be in 2010. Of course crowdsourcing will be the theme of the post. What are your thoughts on the state of the art of crowdsourcing? Mail me or reply to this post to give me some input!
While ABN Amro is tmissing the poin, Kiva.org is the living example of the joy that money can bring. Traditional banks are dealing with money, Kiva is dealing with passion. Stories like this short movie are a great example (via):
I stumbled upon a great webdesign project that took place in the past two years. The insight the project offers is very useful when thinking about crowdsourcing; its even a crowdsourcing project itself!
The project is called Vormator and is all about the above eight shapes. The designers participating in the project have this set of shapes and a set of rules as a starting point. The goal of the project is to show the importance of limitations on creativity. The results of the contest show that even with a large number of limitations, a surprising variation of outstanding graphics is possible.
In this respect Vormator shows large similarities with “learning to love you more” an art project I covered last year. I’ll requote: “The best art and writing is almost like an assignment; it is so vibrant that you feel compelled to make something in response. Suddenly it is clear what you have to do. For a brief moment it seems wonderfully easy to live and love and create breathtaking things”. (beautiful not?!)
Huh, why is this important to crowdsourcing?
In my work at CreativeCrowds one of the most important learnings is about the balance between abstraction and concreteness: the boundaries you give crowds. The amount of creativity you can expect out of a crowd is very much dependent on striking this balance right: finding the sweet spot.
An ‘open call’ for ideas, like with Dellideastorm is simply too open. The creativity of ideas will not be deep enough. If however Dell would define their questions to the public more carefully, adding more boundaries, creativity and quality of ideas would increase. On the other end of the curve (I think it’s a left-skewed curve) you can be too specific, leaving too little space for creativity. However, the risk of too little boundaries is more urgent.
Goosegrade is a new service that allows blog readers to suggest edits to blogs. Bloggers that don’t have editors (they don’t) can now trust on the crowd to do that job. “As a blogger, I was used to receiving e-mails from conscientious readers saying it’s ‘its’ not ‘it’s’,” explains John Brooks Pounders (c0-founder). “The idea sort of grew from there.”
It seems the things that need incentives are all covered: “All pages begin with a gooseGrade of 100 – a perfect score. Each time a reader suggests a correction, the writer’s gooseGrade is lowered. When the writer takes action – that is, when they choose to either accept or decline the reader’s suggestion, the writer’s grade is restored,” Pounders explains. “gooseGraders – that is, readers who suggest corrections, are also awarded a gooseGrade, based on the percentage of times writers choose to accept or decline their suggestions, which discourages gratuitous correcting,”. Another promising entrant in the crowdsourcing scene!
A rock star is not someone who takes the temperature, who gauges the marketplace before he creates his “art”. A rock star is someone who needs to create and is willing to tolerate the haters along with the fans. He’s someone who incites controversy just by existing. That’s what we lost in the dash for cash. Unique voices. I’m not saying we haven’t ended up with some pleasant music, but it just hasn’t hit you in the gut, it’s the aural equivalent of Splenda, it might do the trick, but it’s not the real thing. The real thing grabs your attention, drives down deep into your heart and lodges itself there. A rock star doesn’t follow conventions, doesn’t go disco or add drum machines just because everybody else does. A rock star exists in his own unique space, and if you met him you probably wouldn’t like him. Because he tends to be self-focused to the point of being narcissistic. Because he cares. He needs to get his message out.
Steve Jobs (and thus Apple) is a rockstar. Some rockstars are rockstar. But the rockstar-way is only one way to do things. This blog explores the bottom-up side of things; the groundswell that changes how companies work. Not crowdsurfing but listening to, conversating with and facilitating your customers. As a reader you should know we don’t cover the rockstar story: we think crowdsourcing rocks.
Clay Shirky came up with a word that solves the problem of explaining the essence of crowdsourcing: “cognitive surplus”. This is the unused potential of the minds of 6,7 billion people. Social media is unlocking this potential. Technology allows us to be creative and productive instead of consumptive. Or as Shirky puts it:
We watched I Love Lucy. We watched Gilligan’s Island. We watch Malcolm in the Middle. We watch Desperate Housewives. Desperate Housewives essentially functioned as a kind of cognitive heat sink, dissipating thinking that might otherwise have built up and caused society to overheat.
And it’s only now, as we’re waking up from that collective bender, that we’re starting to see the cognitive surplus as an asset rather than as a crisis. We’re seeing things being designed to take advantage of that surplus, to deploy it in ways more engaging than just having a TV in everybody’s basement.
The embedded video is his appearance at the Web2.0 conference earlier this year. Although it is not that productive to just sit and watch it, I think it’s 15 minutes well spent.
In the advent of publishing Jeff Howe’s Book “Crowdsourcing”, Crown publishers made a nice trailer about the book. Jeff gave us a copy already so before the launch date August 26 we will write a thorough summary.