Crowdsourcing, Freedom, and Anonymity


[This post originally written for publication in the Ledface Blog]

The Wisdom of the Crowds

When James Surowiecki published “The Wisdom of Crowds” in 2004,  he presented several experiments and anecdotes to note that a diverse collection of independently-deciding individuals is likely to make certain types of decisions and predictions better than individuals or even experts.

It is not difficult to miss the importance of  the word “independently” in the sentence above. This post reflects on the need of trust and freedom to create the conditions where individuals can independently contribute to a co-creation process.

Collective behavior is not Collective Knowledge

I have a lot of interest in politics, influence, social media, behavioral economics and other areas of study on how people can influence each other through organizational structures and create patterns of collective behavior. But “herd behavior” is not necessarily a good expression of individual or collective choices.

We buy and sell stocks at the wrong times based on headlines. We spend the week working on things we don’t enjoy so we can earn the weekend to do what we love. We adopt certain behaviors because that is just the proper thing to do. What we decide, buy, do,  or choose is influenced by our social context and that is just a fact, neither good or bad.

Governments, companies, universities, armies and other modern organizations have become very good at creating environments that uses social factors, ego and extrinsic rewards to express organizational patterns, where successful leaders can use power/financial/reputation structures to get groups of people acting in a coordinated fashion.

Freedom and decentralization is requisite for Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is not simply breaking work in pieces for efficiency. It is not organizing and managing people to achieve a stated goal.

Crowdsourcing is about harnessing the human potential in every individual so that we can aggregate and express knowledge that is larger than what any individual can express.

To achieve that, we need to create a trusted environment where people can express their independent opinions. We need to remove the social, organizational, financial pressures to create true freedom of expression for every individual.

The Ledface Challenge

In an ideal co-creation environment, anonymity is one way of  creating that freedom of expression. But it also comes with a challenge: anonymity removes ego from the co-creation process (which is a typical reward for social behavior), requiring the system to offer some other intrinsic rewards for its participants.

This is the challenge the startup Ledface is tackling to create a crowdsource-based personal assistant.

Final Thoughts

Ego (need for personal recognition) and extrinsic rewards (do something you don’t like to earn freedom elsewhere) are two proven driving forces for action, but relying on them will earn you “survival of the fittest” results, not collective intelligence.

While we recognize the value of those systems, we believe that, to achieve true crowdsourcing results, we need to build an environment where co-creation happens with individual freedom, independence, and is driven entirely by intrinsic rewards.

Marcio Saito’s (@Marcio_Saito) interest in Collaboration and Co-Creation originates in his early involvement with the Open Source Software community in the early 90′s. He writes about Social Media and Collective Intelligence and is a co-founder and advisor toLedface, a startup using Crowdsourcing to create a new kind of Intelligence.
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One thought on “Crowdsourcing, Freedom, and Anonymity

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