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Mark Sears

Dec 1, 2011

Great ingredients + Great recipe + Great chef = Crowdsourcing success

Living overseas in a developing country has brought a lot of new challenges and changes for our family. One of them is how we cook and prepare our meals, there just isn't a lot of frozen, canned and other processed foods available. My wife has learned how to work magic with flour, sugar, butter, salt, etc for baking everything from scratch and turning garlic, onions, spices and other vegetables into a fantastic meal. We even have a fresh pasta roller now - it all seems pretty rustic and labor intensive but in some way it has been yet another really refreshing advantage of escaping the rat race.

I often get a phone call in the office asking to pick up ingredients on the way home and I am learning that there is a direct correlation between how fresh and high quality the items I buy are and how fantastic the meal turns out. Vegetables are not imported so whatever is in season, whatever is grown locally is available, that is it. The flour is not produced in huge quantities but from store to store and even bag to bag there can be a difference in quality. So selecting good ingredients has become a bit of an art, you can't just grab a can with a nice label and know it will be consistent.

Where I am going with all of this is that we are seeing very similar things in our world of crowdsourcing and CloudFactory. There seems to be a lot of companies that are focusing on creating platforms that do everything to weed out the bad work and bad workers. In fact one of our competitors said at a recent conference, "We are building a platform that doesn't matter how bad the workers are. We can get good quality from any worker, no matter how bay they are". Now we all know what they are getting at, but beyond majority vote, gold standard, reputation systems, machine learning tricks, probability, dynamic decision making, etc, etc .... there is still the matter of having good workers. Even master chefs with tried and true recipes are not going to be able to serve fantastic meals with rotten ingredients - it just doesn't work that way.

Crowdsourcing quality often comes down to a few things:

  1. Find smart & motivated workers (great ingredients!)
  2. Provide clear instructions & task forms
  3. Match tasks to the qualified workers that enjoy those tasks
  4. Use gold standard, majority vote and other fancy techniques for quality checking
  5. Give easy tools for the chefs to design and create workflows
  6. Make it simple to integrate into their business and applications (API)

These are things we spend our days (and often nights) at CloudFactory on. Working with our early clients and continuing to develop more than a platform but a full solution for crowdsourcing that is bigger than the sum of its parts (Solutions team, API, CLI, GUI, Backend, Worker Interface, Workforce, etc, etc).

One of the most exciting developments is our new Workforce team that is preparing to start our next round of formal trials with our model for recruiting, training, testing, equipping, managing and multiplying cloud workers in developing nations. We don't believe the best way to find workers is just putting up an open webform for anyone to sign up online. We don't believe working alone in the dark with no accountability leads to good results. We are taking a different, hands-on approach to building up our workforce that when matched with the most innovative cloud labor platform will bring even better results for our clients.

This is why I believe social enterprises can be so successful. It isn't the poverty here in the Majority World that should be focused on, but instead the potential and opportunity of human potential yet to be unlocked. As we strive to bring transformation to the lives and communities of 1 million people in developing countries, we believe that a workforce of talented and motivated individuals will rise up to help crowdsourcing finally reach its full potential. These individuals are the raw ingredients that need to be carefully chosen and arranged as part of a great recipe to ensure success. And like every really good meal there needs to be that added extra ingredient of love. Sure, it is cheesy. But the best meals truly are the ones my wife makes with love that I can literally see and taste in the details. Similarly, great companies are more than best practices, policies and procedures, they are made up of talented people and a culture that can't always be explained with math and algorithms.

 

The ultimate crowdsourcing challenge?

Crowdsourcing

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