The discussion about crowdsourcing is not likely to be settled any time soon. There are many disagreements about whether or not crowdsourcing is even ethical in all cases, or if it offers a win-win for both sides of the equation.
Whether you’re using crowdsourcing for labor, design, problem solving, funding or something else entirely, these questions can only be answered on an individual basis. What one person finds unethical the next will find to be a wonderful contribution to society. Your mileage may vary, and buyer or user beware might be a good thing to keep in mind when considering participating in any type of crowdsourcing.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of crowdsourcing:
Many choices – If you crowdsource something like web design, logo design, or anything creative, you will end up with many different choices that you may never have had access to without crowdsourcing. On the popular site 99designs.com you could end up with over 100 different designs to view and choose from.
Lower cost – Since you will only pay the “winner” of your contest for the work completed to your satisfaction, the cost is a lot lower. You won’t be paying someone hourly to come up with the design and then create the design. Instead you’ll pay one fee then choose the best one. People from all over the world will be entering your design contest based on your requirements. Many people in other countries do not need as much money per hour as another country might to earn a living.
Saves time – As was found by scientists trying to recreate the protein DNA for HIV/AIDS for 10 years without success, when you get a crowd to work on finding a solution it comes fast – in only 10 days in this case. Even for something like logo design, due to the many workers who will answer your call for work you’ll get the work done faster than normal.
Large pool of workers – You’ll have an almost unlimited pool of workers to do your tasks via crowdsourcing sites like Odesk.com, 99designs.com, CastingWords.com, crowdSPRING.com, and others.
Devalues work – Many people consider any work “on spec” to be unethical and unfair to the worker. Many people will be doing work that they’ll never get paid for since only one person or company can be the “winner” of the design or work contest. This can lower the overall value of this type of work across the board, making it harder for people in that field to earn a good living.
Amateur work – If you don’t know who you are hiring, you might hire someone who uses copyrighted images and passes them off as their own work. It’s imperative that you’re careful when using any outsourcer to do important work, especially via crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing for outsourcing is best used on inconsequential tasks like logos or legal work.
Loss of relationships – When you don’t hire someone personally to do work and talk to them, answer their questions, and ask questions, you lose some value in the relationship. They don’t know you, you don’t know them, there is less risk and therefore less incentive to do well.
Less credible – Buyer beware comes in when it comes to something like logo design. You never know whether or not the winning designer is using truly copyrightable graphics or not, whereas if you hire a specific company you’ll be able to know whether the graphics are legitimate or not.
However you look at it, it’s important that you research any company you get involved with in terms of crowdsourcing. Like with any type of thing you do with your small business, ensure that you feel good about what you’re doing and that it adds value to your company.