Crowdsourcing – An Introduction

Claudia Scheba

Interview with Mag. Thomas Gegenhuber, Institute of Organization and Global Management Studies at Johannes Kepler University (JKU).

If you had five words to describe crowdsourcing, what would they be?
Crowdsourcing is distributed problem-solving.

What is the origin of the concept? Where does it come from?
The term crowdsourcing is attributed to the Wired Journalist Jeff Howe. He defines “(…) the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally) large network of people in the form of an open call”. But the concept of crowdsourcing is not new. The „Wanted Signs“ that were used to distribute information about alleged criminals in the United States, the first architecture competitions in the 1401 in Italy or the Longitude Prize are all examples of crowdsourcing. The key difference is that the World Wide Web makes it easier to mobilize a large set of individuals.

If I want to become a crowd worker, where do I have to apply?
Apply is not the right term, you can basically sign up on any website. The questions is: What kind of work interests you? If you want to help identify galaxies or analyze cyclone data, I suggest you check out For an overview of different crowdsourcing platforms look at:

Do you think that crowdsourcing is per se bad?
No. Certainly crowdsourcing raises questions of distributive fairness and other ethical and societal issues. I think some of these issues can and will be fixed in the future. In addition, one should not underestimate the capability of the crowd to bite back.

How would you define a fair crowdsourcing experience?
Nikolaus Franke, from the Vienna University of Economics and Business, likes to say that crowdsourcing is not free beer. Fair crowdsourcing addresses the issues of distributive and procedural fairness. Promising pioneers are Quirky (product development platform, where multiple users get a share of the profits) and Jovoto (innovation and design contest site, which uses a fairer variant of a winner-takes-all contest).
In which cases would doing a crowdsourcing task for free be eligible?
Be eligible from what viewpoint? Generally, my take is that tasks that contribute to the common good (such as in the case of do not require financial remuneration.

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Claudia SchebaCrowdsourcing – An Introduction

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