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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Crowdsourcing in the Small

I've said many times that probably the biggest changes for concept workers over the past few years is the incredible access to information and more importantly the incredible access to people. In Networks and Communities, I discuss the limits of search and how Evaluating Performance of Concept Workers leads us to needing to derive Value from Social Media. And when I discuss what the new skills are around knowledge work, I quickly arrive a the biggest changes being things like finding expertise, finding answers, using social media to find answers, and learning through conversation.

The common threads here are:



To me, the biggest work literacy gap is in this area. The new skill is...
How do we leverage networks and other forms of social media to access the knowledge and capabilities of other people?
And I believe that the Tilde Effect is full force here. Just four days ago, someone posted a question in a LinkedIn discussion group asking for feedback on the use of particular tools. They didn't get a response in the discussion group and had not thought to do a search for people to contact directly. And this is for someone who was posting their question in LinkedIn. They were on the precipice of being able to access exactly what they needed and yet didn't have the awareness, knowledge and skills to be able to tap into that beautiful people network.

New Term Needed

So here's where I need some help. When I discuss this concept, some people say, "Oh you mean crowdsourcing." On Wikipedia, which is pretty indicative of other definitions, crowdsourcing is defined as -
Crowdsourcing is a neologism for the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people or community in the form of an open call.
I have some issues with trying to apply this term to what I see happening.
  • "Crowd" - it implies large groups, often public, normally open
  • "Sourcing" - it implies that you are seeking resources for a business
Similarly, I generally don't like "Collective Intelligence" - that's the net effect, but not the individual action.

Instead, what I see happening is being done on smaller scales. It's individual concept workers reaching out to other people (known or not known), through networks or social media, to get help with their particular needs.

I've tried to come up with a good term for this. I've asked via Twitter for some help, but I still don't have something to call it. Some of the suggestions so far are:
  • PeopleSourcing
  • NetSourcing
  • PeerSourcing
  • PeopleNetKnowledge
Nothing has quite struck a chord with me. Certainly nothing as catchy as crowdsourcing.

Any suggestions?

P.S. - I'm doing X now. I'm reaching out to a network to get help. Maybe this is closer to crowdsourcing, but I think it's more X. And the fact that I've asked a few people and asked via Twitter suggests that I'm definitely doing X. What do you call it? Help!


Tony Hirst said...

You're trying to access "open expertise" aren't you?

Anonymous said...

For my money, stay away from InternalCaps; they just make a term look like it arose during the dot-com craze. I woke one morning to find that my employer, GE Information Services, had become GE Global eXchange. Small e, cap X = we are cool, baby.

And what about "smallsourcing?" It contrasts well with "crowdsourcing," which people think they've heard, and it doesn't take five minutes of explanation to show the difference. "Crowdsource, smallsource: differences? Discuss."

Michael Palko said...

I'll add "expert-tapping." Might not roll off the tongue, but might spur some additional terms

Tony Karrer said...

@Tony - interesting term - open expertise. That is what this is all about - people are offering up their expertise - opening it up.

That goes along with what @mpalko just suggested on twitter -

expert tapping

@Dave - I like smallsource - but source seems like a mercenary term to me.


A couple other suggestions I got -

Community Collecting
Network Reeling

and combinations of those.

Collective Intelligence via Open Expertise via Expert Tapping

We may be onto something.

John Zurovchak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Zurovchak said...


Thank you for articulating this important work literacy gap for knowledge workers. This is our biggest problem in my company. I have not been able to put it into words as well as you have here.

Regarding the new term for this activity, I can see using Peersourcing or Netsourcing, but they just don't capture the notion of tapping expertise using social media tools and online networks.

I'll need to keep thinking about this one...

Anonymous said...

A little less catchy in full but it is a TLA!

Personal Knowledge Network = PKN
Personal Knowledge Networking is, of course, the verb.

Given your problem I like this because it incorporates the notion that part of the literacy is to build the network(s) before it/they can be used. You won't only have one and the ideal case would be the skill and the tools to rejig the network according to demand.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, this is a concept in need of a neologism.

I don't have a verb, but I have a noun to suggest: CoP leverage is your degree of networked-ness in CoPs so that you can get answers when you need them.

CoP = Community of Practice, pronounced "cop" as in traffic cop.

Unknown said...

How about calling it "e-Work." Not to be mistaken for an eWok! But it is pulling strategically from virtual sources of knowledge and leveraging your findings to get a job done.

Anonymous said...

Two more suggestions from me:

Solution Mining
Answer Mining

Faraz Qureshi said...

Was initially going to suggest GroupThink but that has a negative connotation.

How about Group Smarts?

The task is tapping 'groups' of people to access their 'smarts'.

Paul Angileri said...

I must say that "crowdsourcing" is pretty catchy. It has a different context for me, in that I've always heard it applied to accomplishing work, as opposed to querying others for information. So to play on my last sentence, I would offer up the term "netquery". To me it fits the spirit of the information gathering activity. The only problem with my term is there are several software products out there called "Netquery", but this would not be the first time that a term was the name of something entirely different.

John said...

Re: New word: Hmmm, yes, what you describe is not crowdsourcing. Is it any different than what we did as far back as the ARPAnet list days? I do not recall a special word then or even in the USENET news heyday. I just recall saying, "I posted a question on comp.<whatever>." So maybe "postsourcing" is a fair mixing of the terms.

In general, what you describe is a posting function: to a linkedin group, twitter followers, blog readers or whatever. And of course, the replies are posted, too.

Bjoern Lasse Herrmann said...

how about:

social consulting -> socialting

Tony Karrer said...

I don't claim that this is anything new - but the scale of networks and accessibility of people is new.

Bjorn - I like social because it implies people but in a good way.

Social Knowledge Network

How about

Social Net Working

Anonymous said...

The drawback to "social net working" is that in print it looks like a typo. (I just saw a discussion on Wikipedia where someone asked if "anti" and "non" had become words on their own, because he'd seen "non American" and "anti British" with spaces, not hyphens.)

Another thought you're asking your network neighbors. Not a catchy phrase (or even a suggestion), just the idea: you turn to those who are virtually nearby, the way you'd ask people who are close to you physically or in terms of common projects in the workplace.

Paul said...

I guess I think that the term needs to be a single word, as adding spaces or additional words quickly increases complexity (as Dave notes), and quickly makes it much easier to mistake or not even catch in its context when put to use in a blog post or article.

Rethinking my own submission, "netquery" is a bit too ambiguous, and very IT-sounding. What about "soc(k)netting"? It abbreviates the common words being offered in the posts here, and may even generate curiosity by people wanting to know what a "socknet" is. If someone asks "what's a socknet?", we say, "well it's you using your social networks to generate answers to questions."

Bjoern Lasse Herrmann said...

Micro Concialting ;-)

Tony Karrer said...

What about

The Social Brain

and terms like

Social Brain Building
Social Brain Access


Cammy Bean said...

Don't throw out the term sourcing as being 'mercenary.' To me, sourcing is about going to the source of the answer -- right out to the people who know what you want to know.

Anonymous said...


Anthony said...

Hi Tony,

Reading through the long list of comments to your post made me realize this is a lot like brainstorming... particularly when people start commmenting on the comments, not only the original post.

So, how about "netstorm/netstorming" or "peerstorm/peerstorming"?

Tony Karrer said...

Anthony - that's only one example of crowdsourcing in the small - but love the term netstorming!