Web Wonders

Isn’t the interweb great?  We do so much so fast.  How in the world did we ever live without it?

One of the great things it does is change our economy, like putting some businesses out of business; as in bookstores and video stores.  I download books and videos when I want them.

Can you think of anything else?

How about temporary jobs?  Or the minimum wage?

What? you say?  How can this be? you say?  Ahh, here’s how it works.

I have a job that requires someone to enter data into a special database; for instance, responses to questions about political feelings.  This data is in the form of a handwritten cards, 100,000 of them.  I can go through the stack by myself, one at a time, or I could hire someone to do it with me.  Even so, all these cards will take months, and many tens of thousands of dollars.

Or, I can digitize those cards (easily automated and cheaply done) and put the images on the internet.  Then I could recruit everyone on the internet who wants to make some money, offering them 10 cents for every digital card that they record.  For someone who works hard, maybe they can make $20 an hour.  For someone who only does a few, maybe they make $1.  But if I recruit a thousand people, and they each spend an average of a few hours to record 100 cards, it has only cost me $10,000.  Best yet, the entire encoding project has taken only a few hours overall.

This is crowdsourcing, and its potential has only just begun.  You may have already been a participant without knowing; by interpreting funny symbols on a website in order to enter an order, you may have also been helping translate an old document that has been recently scanned.

And how does this impact our study of behavior, my fellow students?  It is changing our behavior, it’s changing our society, and how we interact with each other.  And as astute students, we need to watch this carefully in order to better understand these changes.

So, what’s next for crowdsourcing?

Listen to the internet.


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