Crowdsolving in Action: From Wikipedia to Firefox

by Dinesh Ganesarajah


From restaurant reviews in Yelp to traffic information in Google Maps, crowd-sourced information has become more and more integrated into the websites, apps and other technologies that we use every day. In all of these cases, the information collected from users requires low thought on the part of the users submitting the information. However, in the aggregate, this information provides high value.

According to Techopedia, “Crowdsolving is the idea that many individuals can come together to provide collective solutions to problems”. Crowdsolving is more complex than crowd-sourcing. With crowdsourcing, each individual user is providing a piece of information that can be easily summarized or selected from, with crowdsolving each individual user is building on the work of others.

With crowdsolving, each new user participating in providing a solution needs to take account of the other contributions that have already been made by others and think about how their contribution can uniquely add further value to the whole.

Academic research is the standard-bearer for crowd solving

For centuries, scientific researchers have been conducting experiments and sharing their results through academic publications. This allowed researchers to learn from the results of others, and in turn, develop new experiments that could contribute to the overall knowledge pool. While the model of academic research and publishing has not fully transitioned to take advantage of Internet technologies, the model is still very much alive. There is ferocious competition among academic researchers to advance their field and make an impact, ultimately to earn recognition in their field, or perhaps more widely through a Nobel prize.

While academic research may not yet have transitioned to using new technologies, software development has flourished as a crowdsolving process that works well on the Internet.

Software, being a product that consists of coded text stitched together to create experiences on our computers and smart-phones, is a natural candidate for having  large numbers of people across the world come together to work virtually to solve a problem. Since the dawn of the Internet, communities of software developers have come together to work on building software together. These projects range from the Linux operating system now used in many corporations to Firefox web browser.

Wikipedia is perhaps the single largest online crowdsolving project

Wikipedia’s mission is to empower people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license, for the purpose of disseminating that information effectively and globally. While on the surface Wikipedia may seem like a platform on which anyone can edit any page, in reality, an army of administrators moderate the most visited pages to ensure adherence to quality.

Crowdsolving is complex, comparative to crowdsourcing. Nevertheless, as technology breaks down barriers, academic research, open source software development, and Wikipedia highlights the opportunities that will emerge for crowdsolving in the future.

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Dinesh GanesarajahDinesh Ganesarajah has overall responsibility for managing PreScouter. He previously managed the new media project portfolio at the BBC, assessing business opportunities and managing a process that shaped the BBC’s multi-million dollar budget for new media projects. Dinesh holds an MEng in Computing from Imperial College London and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, where he was a McCormick Scholar. Follow @prescouter

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