Crowdsourcing: Sounds Great, but Hard to Do

min read

Crowdsourcing! Co-creation! Curation! It seems as if everyone is trumpeting the "Cs" as the future of publishing and content. Not ones to be left behind, we’ve been thinking about using crowdsourcing to create content for EDUCAUSE Review Online. With such a creative, thoughtful, and knowledgeable community, crowdsourcing seems a great approach to collecting the "best of" any topic. Of course, the first challenge is how to narrow proposed topics to something specific enough to make it easy for people to participate. Our first attempt was using Twitter to solicit ideas on how to achieve college affordability for students. With many thanks to the people who had suggestions and the many more who retweeted the request, we received too few responses. Perhaps our topic was still overly broad?

Failure is a critical component of experimentation, of course, so we’re trying again. This time we’re asking people to share the most popular mobile apps on their campuses, whether for events, maps, or anything else. Editor Teddy Diggs (@EDUCAUSEreview), @EDUCAUSE, and I (@EDUCAUSEeditor) have tweeted requests (and we’ll do so again) to share responses using the hashtag #EDUCAUSEero. Many generous folks have already retweeted the original message, and we’ve received several responses — for which I sincerely thank the responders. Still, we hope to get many more over the next few weeks. What else could/should we do to engage more of the community around mobile apps on campus? Should we host a Google+ hangout? (I do enjoy those!) Post on Facebook or LinkedIn? Consult people through relevant listservs?

What does our brief experience say about crowdsourcing? It sounds simple in concept, but in practice — like most things — it is really hard to do well. I think it’s hard to do well, even for interesting topics, because crowdsourcing asks yet another thing of people already busy with lots of higher-priority items on their list. As for crowdsourcing on Twitter — I sometimes go days without having time to check Twitter, and I’m worse on other social networking platforms. Maybe another, less just-in-time and more widespread approach would work better…

What do you think? How would you go about crowdsourcing information around an idea?

#EDUCAUSEero wants to know!