Jeff Howe on the Pros & Cons of CrowdsourcingPosted: March 28, 2011
Last Friday, my Reinventing the News class had the opportunity to hear from Jeff Howe, a journalist and professor at Northeastern University, on crowdsourcing. Howe has been a journalist for 15 years, has written for U.S News & World Report, The Washington Post, and is now a contributor for Wired Magazine. In 2006, he gained popularity for writing an article about the rise of crowdsourcing, and later wrote a book on the subject in 2008.
Photo of Jeff Howe courtesy of ernohannink via Creative Commons
It was interesting hearing Howe’s perspective on crowdsourcing, which is the outsourcing of tasks to a large, undefined group of people with hopes of getting results. The way I see it, instead of asking one person, or a group of people to do something, crowdsourcing invites everyone to do it, thus gaurenteeing better chances for results.
Howe went over the pros and cons of crowdsourcing in a journalistic sense: The pros are, more people can help get the job (or reporting) done. If you (the journalist) invites an audience to participate, they most likely will take up the opportunity to share what they have to say, or get their message out there. Crowdsourcing can facilitate discussion or debate on a subject, can help locate and find sources, as well as provide tips, clues or background information. Crowdsourcing can help journalists locate trends throughout communities, without actually traveling to these communities, thus making reporting easier.
However, the cons of crowdsourcing are that there is the possibility others, or audience members whom you have outsourced information or questions to, taking over your story or perhaps getting information out first. Crowdsourcing can help increase pressure or competition for journalists, as well as turn an ordinary citizen into a journalist.
How also discussed the topic of Twitter, and how that is also a means of crowdsourcing: Someone can post a tip, a fact or bit of information, and another person who sees this post may be able to take it and run with it. He also recognized the way Twitter is changing the way many people get their news, and even gave us a few suggestions on who to follow to better find newsworthy information.
To learn more about crowdsourcing, or just more about Howe in general, take a look at his blog–it seems all the great journalists have one these days!