June 30, 2011

How CrowdFlower powers crowdsourced labor

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Target audience: Nonprofits, social enterprises, NGOs, foundations, businesses, educators. This is part two of a two-part series on crowdsourcing. Also see:

• How nonprofits can use crowdsourcing to work smarter and save money

JD LasicaOne of the most fascinating phenomena in the Web 2.0 world the past couple of years has been the rise of crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing comes in a few different flavors (which part 1 covered yesterday). For nonprofits, social enterprises and businesses, the real potential for disruption comes when a global labor force applies itself to a crowdsourced project.

That’s where CrowdFlower comes in. Since my interview with founder-CEO Lukas Biewald at SXSW 15 months ago, the start-up has grown from 15 to 60 employees and is now headquartered in a spiffy second-floor space in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Mollie Allick, director of PR and events for CrowdFlower, talks about what crowdsourcing is and how nonprofits and other organizations can use the power of the crowd to advance their mission in this 4 1/2-minute interview at their offices. “We take large datasets and break them down into small tasks and distribute them to a labor force across the Internet,” she says.

Watch, embed or download the video on Vimeo

It’s not just about reducing costs. CrowdFlower was one of the partners in the collaborative mobile relief effort Mission 4636, which we wrote about following the Haiti earthquake last year. The short code emergency response communication system enabled earthquake victims in Haiti to get life-saving aid by sending a free mobile text message, which local volunteers translated as needed.

One important thing CrowdFlower brings to the party today is that they’re the organizers behind the biggest crowdsourcing gathering around: CrowdConf, to be held Nov. 1-2 at the Mission Bay Conference Center in San Francisco, geared to both industry and the academic sector. Last year’s event drew almost 500 people.

Crowdflower is also organizing smaller events in Washington, DC, New York, Boston and Austin, Texas. Other crowdsourcing events include ClickWorker, held June 15 in Berlin, and the Crowdsortium Symposium, held in May at Google.

Some of CrowdFlower’s nonprofit customers include the University of Southern California, the environmental media organization Dialogue Earth, Caring.com, a portal for aging parents, spouses and loved ones, Doximity, a mobile collaboration network for physicians, and the social good organization GVF, whose team has spent the last 10+ years developing a global system to prevent pandemics.

Keep your eye on crowdsourcing and see whether you might find a use for it in the months or years to come.


Helping Haitians via mobile, crowdsourcing & social media (Socialbrite)

CrowdFlower: Toward a world of crowdsourced labor (Socialbrite, 2010)

The Extraordinaries: Building the ‘micro-volunteering’ movement (Socialbrite)

Harnessing the crowd for social good (Socialbrite)

Is Crowdsourcing Really the Industry’s Dark Side? (Waxing Unlyrical)JD Lasica, founder and former editor of Socialbrite, is co-founder of Cruiseable. Contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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