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Crowdsourcing : A Harmful Trend

Crowdsourcing is a sourcing model in which individuals or organizations obtain goods or services including ideas, voting, micro-tasks and finances from a large, relatively open and often rapidly evolving group of participants. In the words of Jeff Howe, an editor at ‘Wired’, “Simply defined, crowdsourcing represents 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. This can take the form of peer production (when the job is performed collaboratively), but is also often undertaken by sole individuals. The crucial prerequisite is the use of the open call format and the large network of potential laborers.” Here to explain the trend, Perspectoverse's Srishti Choudhury.


Despite its advantages as improved costs, speed, quality, flexibility, scalability and diversity, one must consider the more dire prospects of this seemingly beneficial trend.

Crowdsourcing does not leave much room for confidentiality. Crowdsourcing challenges, like almost anything on the internet, can be accessed by almost everyone. This is a concern for companies who have highly sensitive information linked with the problem they are trying to solve. It publicizes their ideas, allowing competitors to steal them. It is therefore advisable to restrict information within companies in order for safety and deserving candidates to be acknowledged.

With crowdsourcing, the chances of plagiarism increase manifold. Some may even plagiarise inadvertently. Cross checking the hundreds of thousands of entries is a time consuming affair and might even require a separate department. Taking legal assistance is, especially for start-ups, an economically demanding process. This issue is not unique to crowdsourcing, but even difficult to restrict and penalize given the number of people involved.

Intellectual property rights are a potentially disastrous disadvantage if not managed properly. Typically, intellectual property rights belong to the inventor of the idea, which means companies need to ensure the intellectual property rights of the winning idea are transferred to them upon completion of the challenge.

Interestingly, the main disadvantage mirrors the main advantage: cheap labour results in less credible products compared to professionals. One pays professionals for their expertise, experience and dedicated spirit, but buys labour for completing simple tasks. Any task considered above simple is risky for crowdsourcing.

With crowdsourcing arises the issue of management. In most cases, companies may have to manage a large scale of workers, which pretty much wastes a lot of their time for control instead of a solution. Besides, it is difficult for collaboration between crowd members as the competition is intense.

Worst of all, there is usually no contract in crowdsourcing. Workers can resign anytime they want, and the design can be misused later.

As previously mentioned, crowdsourcing is best suited for simple tasks. For instance, crowdsourcing is an excellent option for web designers and designers, in general, to get some usability feedback on their work before letting it out in the open. However, if a company needs a new logo, hiring a professional designer is a better option. For startups who cannot afford such professionals, they could place a competition on the crowdsourcing site to get the product at an affordable price.

In view of these disadvantages weighed against the advantages, one may surmise that crowdsourcing does more harm than good. It is impossible to curb competitive tendencies which in turn leads to plagiarism, mismanagement and similar issues. Misuse of original work is a problem not properly addressed right from school which is why it finds its way into every aspect of professional life later. In order to applaud those who exert themselves to produce quality work and security of the organisation, it is, in my opinion, prudent to be vigilant when something is crowdsourced.

Written by Srishti Choudhury

Illustrated by Aishwarya Saraf


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