Crowdsourcing II: 10 Interesting and Varied Crowdsourcing Examples

Crowdsourcing II: 10 Awesome Crowdsourcing SItes

Are you ready to learn some more interesting crowdsourcing examples?

A few weeks ago, when we started exploring crowdsourcing together, I promised at the end of that article that I’d continue on the subject giving you some more examples (mainly to save from writing war and peace on the subject in one mammoth article).

So here it is – and I’m going to do that via some simple research.

p.s. if you want to learn more about what crowdsourcing is and have a bit of background to this article, go and read the previous article on this subject first.

I’m off skipping around the internet and looking at various Crowdsourcing sites to give you (and me) more of an idea about just what can be and what is being done on the subject.

The Obvious Example: Google

By the way, I’m deliberately not including Google on my list, but if you think about it, Google (as in their primary function, the Google search engine) is probably the biggest and most successful example of crowdsourcing out there.

Think about it: armed with your search query, the Google search engine crawls the entire internet processing all that information and then presents you with an ordered list of information (ordered generally by currency and relevance) which best matches what you’re trying to find. Now that’s crowdsourcing.

In actual fact, for speed and efficiency, the process is really a short-cut version of the above – Google crawls the internet first, builds an ‘index’ which it can search faster and then pulls the results to match your query from that index – but in concept it’s the same thing as above.

So, anyway, even though Google is a great example of crowdsourcing and should probably be #1 in my list, it’s not in my list, I’m not even going to make my 10 Examples 11 to make room for it, I just thought I’d mention it separately because it is a huge example but one most people know about already.

We’re Just Scratching The Surface

As I just said, I didn’t want the previous article to be toooo long.

Buuuut, even here, we are still just scratching the surface.

I’ll tell you why…

I reckon you could go back in time and find plenty of examples of crowdsourcing from some years ago. In fact, one of the earliest examples is the making of the Oxford English Dictionary which had contributions from volunteers resulting in over 6 million submissions over a period of 70 years.

However… advances in technology have made it quicker and easier than ever to communicate, collaborate and share information and whereas we can find potted examples from the past such as the Oxford English Dictionary example, we can find numerous examples all around us today.

In this article I’m not going to attempt to categorize the examples, but I’ll just throw a few at you to show you what’s out there and get you thinking. In case you were wondering though, there are categories we could look at and these are broadly ‘crowdvoting’,crowd ‘wisdom’, ‘crowdfunding’ (this one’s quite a big area), ‘microwork’ and ‘design/creative crowdsourcing’. I’ll leave it to you to decide which of the examples below fall into which categories ;-).

My 10 Interesting Crowdsourcing Examples

So here we go. I’m going to hop off this page any moment and start looking around for some more crowdsourcing examples. Back in a minute. I’ll throw any that don’t make my top 10, or that get demoted into a ‘The Rest’ section below so that you can get a very brief idea of what else is out there too, but as usual, let’s not let this get too long…

1. Amazon Mechanical Turk (

Mechanical Turk ScreenshotAmazon’s Mechanical Turk is one of the first crowdsourcing sites to be created and now one of the biggest. It is termed ‘a marketplace for work’ and simple matches via internet technology tasks which can be organized and performed by a ‘crowd’ with people who wish to be part of the ‘crowd’ performing those tasks. Tasks or projects are organized into HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks) and performed by Workers who choose them from a list. You can also of course post HITs to get results from workers.

Sometimes the human brain is better suited to a task than a computer – in these cases the tasks can be outsourced to Turk. There are currently around 50,000 ‘Human Intelligence Tasks’ (HITs) available for its freelance workforce, fees per task range from a couple of cents to $30 with Amazon taking a 10% commission.

Though this platform is well established, it has been criticized as some of the fees are so low as to be under the minimum wage, even for countries like India.


2. Crowdflower (

Crowdflower ScreenshotInstantly hire millions of people to collect, filter, and enhance your data.

Crowdflower is a crowd sourcing site which offers data analysis and processing solutions. The interface allows the user to upload data, questionnaires or instructions for people who will be working on that data and a sample set of correctly processed data (‘Gold’ data) which can be used for validation and to improve the quality of the results which come back.


3. Microtask (

Microtask ScreenshotHuman powered document processing.

Microtask takes forms which are scanned, faxed or photgraphed with a mobile device and crowdsources the entry of the handwritten data in those forms. For added security, the system splits the forms into sections so that no individual entering the data has access to a complete form.

A useful service if you have lots of manual data entry to do from handwritten forms.


4. 99designs (

99Designs ScreenshotI already mentioned 99Designs in the first post on crowdsourcing, but they have to be in my list of 10 sites because they implement crowdsourcing really well.

In short, 99Designs works like a contest, you submit a brief and determine a fee for the contest winner (minimum is around $150), then sit back and watch the crowd go to work. Once you have all of the responses back, you can simply choose the design you like the best.


5. Kickstarter (

Kickstarter ScreenshotKickstarter, is (at the time of writing this article) the biggest website for funding creative projects.

It has raised hundreds of millions of dollars, despite a business model which requires the person applying for the funding to reach their proposed monetary goal in order to acquire the money (i.e. it’s all of the money to start the project or no money at all, with the ability to raise the funds therefore cleverly forming part of the validation process for which projects actually go ahead).


6. Chaordix (

Chaordix ScreenshotChaordix seems to be like a crowdsouring consultancy offering crowdsourcing solutions mainly in the area of market research and intelligence to businesses and governments.

Chaordix uses the power of crowdsourcing to help the world’s leading companies and organizations gain actionable insight and … leverage unique crowdsourcing techniques and technology to drive market research, brand loyalty and innovation. (from their about page).


7. Crowdrise (

Crowdrise ScreenshotCrowdrise is an online fundraising platform for individuals, charities and events.

It’s a well laid out and intuitive platform, like all good crowdsourcing solutions providing a common place for people to come together and pool their resources – in this case the information and admin around various events and the funding raised for that event.


8. Poptent (

Poptent ScreenshotPoptent enables collaboration between a vibrant community of filmmakers, actors, comedians, grips, animators and more who are connecting to each other and to companies that want to pay them for their talents to create advertising, commercials and branded messages for the Internet age.

The idea is to exploit new ways to reach their consumers and create new audiences (via the use of crowdsourcing). They are finding exciting possibilities that save them both money and time while staying just ahead of the curve of competition. It could be that in this area in particular (advertising & media) the ‘crowd’ is not only following the latest trends but also setting them.


9. Utest (

Utest ScreenshotPretty much every type of testing you can imagine, done for you via a crowdsourcing solution.

Testers are chosen from over 50,000 qualified testers in over 180 countries. Testing begins in minutes and you can review details about bugs and progress in realtime via an online dashboard.

The site is well laid out and offers plenty of help and explanation including some useful short videos such as this one (1min 35 seconds) showing how functional testing works.


10. Ponoko (

Ponoko Screenshot“Make, sell & buy almost anything.”

Last but not least comes Ponoko.

Wait a minute – did I tell you that I didn’t put these in any particular order? Well I didn’t. This might just be the one I find the most interesting. It’s a make anything platform!

Bringing together makers, designers, suppliers and consumers, it allows shoppers and conceptual product designers to bring their ideas to life, however random they may be. You can take a picture of a rough sketch, upload it, and wait for designers to tell you how much it would cost to have made for real, you don’t have to wait for stock or worry about materials, you can tweak and adjust, do this for yourself… I could go on but probably better for you to take a look at their about page which is one of the best about pages I’ve seen though mainly the 2nd half of it is where it gets interesting.

From their site, Who is using Ponoko? …

The designer – Jeff is a trained designer. He already knows how to get his ideas made and doesn’t want traditional manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers clipping the ticket on the way to market to the tune of at least 50% (and up to 95%). He uses Ponoko to get in front of customers directly – anywhere in the world. And by making, selling and delivering his products through Ponoko, he can concentrate on developing new ideas rather than managing a business.

The maker – Sue is a maker from way back. She makes costume jewelry, badges and other cool stuff. Sometimes though, she finds it hard to get the materials she wants – and she doesn’t have the tools she needs to cut out the intricate designs she would love to make. With Ponoko, she can design delicate pieces made from a whole range of materials – and add the finishing touches herself to create truly individual pieces.

The buyer – Martha wanted a new lamp for her living room, but the ones she saw in the big lighting stores all looked kind of the same – and the cool designer ones were way out of her price range. She bought a light box direct from a designer on Ponoko. It’s got a unique story behind it – she’s pretty sure none of her friends will have one like it – and it cost a fraction of what she would pay in a design store.

I might have to take a closer look at this one.

Weird name though.

Other Crowdsourcing Sites I Looked At

Agent Anything – brings together two groups of people: Busy, hardworking people who don’t have time to accomplish all their daily tasks or who need an occasional hand (Clients) and College students who want to make some money but need to fit their work around class, practice and more (Agents). At the time of writing this and looking at the site, I didn’t find the site as intuitive as it could be as it’s really missing an ‘About’ link from the home page to tell you what it;s all about before you dive in. They’ve obviously tried to make a super-simple home screen – it’s perfectly safe to click on ‘Post A Mission’ to get into the site and then click on ‘How it works’ in the menu bar which then shows to find out more about the site. – I didn’t like it because most of the tasks posted on there just seem to be people trying to find a cheap way to get social media sharing or clicks on their pay per click adverts.

Uinvest – Crowdfunding site, similar to Kickstarter – one of the first crowdfunding sites but has been criticized for projects in the past providing incorrect information and delayed payments

Flickr – Why bother paying ridiculous sums of money for images when there is a perfectly good alternative in Flickr. Assuming you give the appropriate credits, images can be sourced for free or very inexpensively from the millions of high quality images available (the crowd in this case being anyone who has uploaded their image to Flickr) – just use the message service to contact the image owner.

Hubstaff Talent – a free directory for freelancers. Freelancers can create a professional profile that can be used to apply for jobs and receive messages from potential clients. Businesses are able to set up an agency profile where they can search thousands of contractors based on skill, location or category and directly contact the team member they believe would be the best fit – no middleman. Not only can Hubstaff Talent be used to help freelancers find work but it can also be used to assist businesses in finding freelancers by searching the profiles held on the platform.

Namethis – is a way of creating a 48-hour contest to find a brand name for your venture. NameThis has named over 700 new things over the last 14 months, but they are currently offline re-organising the site which they promise to re-launch soon. The way it did work is that the namethis community would suggest names, vote on the best ones and then fees paid to the best three ideas.

Kluster – I kept on seeing articles referring to a crowdsourcing site called ‘Kluster’ but it looks like they don’t exist anymore. Their tagline was “Everyone deserves a voice. The question is—how loud?” … obviously not loud enough.

Redesignme – I find this one a little confusing. The website is clean and looks good, they have experience and look credible but I find it a little generic and not too different to what you get out of the box with lots of social media platforms these days. So maybe their advantage is their experience particularly in crowdsourcing, or maybe there is more to this solution that at first glance. Their website states: At Redesignme, we have experience with building and guiding over 100 successful online community platforms for all kinds of different purposes. We love to share that experience with you. And if you are looking for the right technology then we can also supply you with state of the art community software. hmmm. Plus all the little faces in the picture on their home page (except 1) are sad faces – what’s that about?

Zooppa – “People Powered Brand Energy” – submit your own brand sponsored video contests and graphic design contests for cash rewards (similar concept to 99Designs)

OK peepsicles, I’ve had about enough of crrowdsourcing for now. I’m all crowdsourced out. One more final thought, then I’m done. I hope you found this useful…

Final Thought

As I said in the previous crowdsourcing article, Crowdsourcing is huge and most big companies these days have incorporated it into their process in one form or another – at the very least in gathering customer feedback.

If you’re in business, then you should as a bare minimum give some serious thought to how you can use crowdsourcing to involve your customer more, build a stronger relationship and create a better customer experience – because that’s what successful modern businesses are doing. Product (and Service) development is no longer an ‘over the wall’ endeavour but should involve the customer as much as possible.

… and maybe you can use crowdsouring in other areas too.

That being said, having looked here at a lot of different companies of different shapes and sizes, I’d say that for most companies – particularly for smaller companies, there’s still a long way to go to understand and get the most out of this concept (just look at the companies I found in my research that have come & gone or are ‘closed for maintenance’).

Very feasible these days but perhaps not as easy as it first seems to prevent mis-use of the platforms and solutions whilst providing a high quality yet economical solution.

What do you think?


Crowdsourcing II: 10 Interesting and Varied Crowdsourcing Examples — 18 Comments

  1. I think you should add Alegion to your list, a platform that allows customers to automate crowd labor distribution of work and assuring the quality of the work.

  2. Insightful review.
    You really come up with the ideal resources and Crowdsourcing II: 10 Interesting and Varied Crowdsourcing Examples | Lifes Too Good is certainly
    no exception to this rule!

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  3. There are some great crowdsourcing examples here, but I’m disappointed to see 99Designs. The definition of crowdsourcing is (paraphrasing from Wikipedia), “… obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people …”. The intention being that the crowd ALL contribute to an end result with mutual satisfaction. 99Designs and their ilk took this and twisted it, creating a warped version where many contribute, but only one is satisfied. There is a distinct difference between crowdsourcing and spec work, with 99Designs being the latter.

    • Hi Steve,

      it’s an interesting point but if the result isn’t technically outsourced because it’s only coming from one chosen individual (‘the winner’) then surely the choice of design (coming from many individuals, i.e. the ‘crowd’) definitely is?

      the impression I got looking at the wikipedia page is that crowdsourcing is a fairly new phenomenon, quite loosely defined and above all there are many different types, ‘inducement prize contests’ being one of them – I’m happy to be corrected though. The other thing wikipedia mentions which I find interesting is that although calling it crowdsourcing is fairly recent, the concept has actually been around for ages…

      • Hi Alan

        No, the choice of design lies with the person/company commissioning it. The crowd have no part in the decision making. Sounds great for the commissioner, but there are many problems with getting cheap design this way. It’s not only the design world where this is happening either. It’s a great way to lower standards and have a negative effect on worth.

        Crowdsourcing as a concept has been around for a while and yes, the definition is loose, but the ‘inducement prize contest’ is still a perversion of what it was supposed to be.

        • Hi Steve,

          I get your point, but when I said choice, I meant the client is still getting a number of different options to choose from – i.e. from the crowd.

          Maybe at some point someone will tighten up the terminology and have a different term for things that are ‘truly’ crowdsourced from initiation to completion and things that are only crowdsourced for certain stages of a process…

          You touch on a wider point – that of quality: I’d say in a lot of instances, not just design work the quality has a completely different dynamic between any given task that is crowdsourced and the same task not being so. Take a look at the average job done on Mechanical Turk.

          There are perhaps certain types of work well suited to crowdsourcing where the overall quality is increased but I’d say on the whole, where the return on investment is bigger, the overall quality in absolute terms is generally worse than a more specialist approach.

          i.e. even with the emergence of sites such as 99Designs, there is still plenty of room for specialists to provide quality solutions direct to the consumer (such as yourself presumably) – they’re just different business models at the end of the day, that’s all…

  4. What a comprehensive list. Out of all of these, I’m only familiar with Amazon Mechanical Turk. Well, I also know of another site called Quirky which uses crowdsourcing. Users sign up and submit designs of things they’ve invented. The community of users look at the designs and vote on which ones they like most. When an idea gets enough votes behind it, the company (Quirky) manufactures and sells it. The person who invented it gets a percentage of the money made off the product. Sounds like a pretty good deal for those who get a lot of innovative ideas.

    It’s kind of crazy how many of these sites are out there. Makes me wonder how far crowdsourcing will go. I guess we’ll have to wait and see where the future will take it.

    • Yes, and I could easily double it!!

      I just heard yesterday for example of another crowdsourcing site which helps people who might need a voiceover (for a presentation, an audiobook, a ‘jingle’, a podcast…) – it’s a site called I don’t need that at the moment but it sounds pretty cool too – along the lines of 99designs but for voice talent.

      It’s a fascinating subject.

      I’ll have a look at Quirky (I like the name already 😉 … in fact that is a very interesting ‘gap’ to go for, I know of plenty of people who think that having a good business idea is all it takes and of course it’s not – there are also two huge areas in getting that idea into reality (production) and marketing that idea – looks like Quirky adds the 2nd and possibly a little bit of the third (?) … I’ll take a look – sounds interesting anyway.

      Have you had any quirky ideas yet?

    • Hey Tal,

      thanks for stopping by & for the comment – I am loving finding out about crowdsourcing – like you I already knew a bit about it but the ‘mix’ of stuff out there is interesting not just in terms of what’s there but in terms of how they’re doing & some of the challenges (which I hadn’t quite fully appreciated),

      best wishes for 2013 – I’m looking forward to seeing what you get up to…


  5. Alan,
    Love this comprehensive list. I’ve heard of 99designs and kick-starter and a few others but the majority i had not heard of. I liked the ponoko one the best too just because it’s so different than the rest.

    My husband is looking into hiring a designer for his book cover from 99designs. They are my second favourite in your list.

    • Yep, there are a few companies that definitely seem to have gotten it right and I’d say 99Designs and Kickstarter are right up there. Ponoko is my favorite too in concept though I don’t know how robust their service is – I plan to investigate further because it sounds pretty awesome.

      I don’t think it’s going to be too long in the future when people start having 3D printers in their houses and making all kinds of things for themselves via software you would currently buy…

  6. This was very interesting. I tried a crowdsourcing contest to make a video for an EC website; I described the process here:
    But it’s not a site of the type you’re describing here, but is nonetheless a little example of what one can get out of this kind of approach.
    carry on!

    • Thanks Curt,

      I’ll take a look at your article when I get a moment. Glad you found this one interesting – I find the subject rather fascinating…

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