The Idiot's Guide to Crowdsourcing

Trada was started because our CEO Niel Robertson (@nielr1) knew it was easier for a crowd of experts to create PPC campaigns than for someone like Niel to run it. Crowdsourcing has continually picked up speed as a solution for businesses, non-profits and individuals. Last year, Trada was approached by Aliza Sherman to take part in her book, “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Crowdsourcing” to help others realize the potential of crowdsourcing.

We have an interview with the author Aliza to help businesses understand the depth and scope of crowdsourcing and further understand how it can be used beyond PPC.

We’re giving away TWO copies of the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Crowdsourcing. Just leave a comment answering the question, “What do you think the future of crowdsourcing is.” We’ll pick the comments with the best answer on Wednesday, July 13.

Below our interview with Aliza:

Complete Idiot's Guide to Crowdsourcing1. Small business owners are often pressed for resources – time and money. What innovative ways have you seen companies use crowdsourcing to make their company successful?

I think all of crowdsourcing tends to feel pretty innovative right now, even when running something as “simple” as a design contest which isn’t a new concept but the technology of crowdsourcing platforms are facilitating a more streamlined process for it.

I’ve heard from a lot of small business owners who have used crowdsourced design contests to develop a logo for their startups including Cold Ocean Seafoods in Alaska –  (she used and as I researched the book, I also used a crowdsourcing site called Prova for my Mediaegg logo. While not an extremely fast process, it was really affordable – about 1/3rd of what I might pay directly to a designer going the traditional design route. I was also able to involve my friends and fans in voting for their favorite design which was an easy step and helped inform my final choice.

The concept of using crowdsourcing for small businesses is still pretty new and there is a lot of confusion and misconceptions about what it is and how to leverage it. I hope my book can clear the air and provide some practical information to guide small business owners and nonprofit organizations in particular for everything from crowdfunding to crowdsourced translation and transcription to microtask work to product input and feedback, etc.

2. Crowdsourcing as a business format has evolved beyond logo design. What companies do you think are changing up the market?

I totally agree that there is way more to crowdsourcing than logo design, but I also think the adoption of crowdsourcing processes still has a lot of room to grow amongst small business owners. Right now, most business owners I speak with either say “Crowd-whatting?” or “Yeah, I’ve heard of crowdsourcing but have no idea what it is or how to do it.”

In terms of innovative companies doing interesting things in the crowdsourcing space, I love what Quirky is doing to crowdsource ideas for new products then get the community to vote on product ideas, take the best ideas to prototyping and eventually to production and sales. This builds on what Threadless has been doing for a number of years in the tshirt design space and even they have expanded into accessory products and art.

I’m even more impressed with the non-businesses uses of crowdsourcing principles to gather important information such as tracking protests globally via or tracking potential drug fraud via There are also social good oriented crowdsourcing services such as Samasource that provides microtasks to refugees in refugee camps and that connects creative professionals with small creative tasks to help nonprofit organizations and causes.

And I’m fascinated by the crowdfunding phenomenon from Kickstarter to Crowdrise to IndieGoGo.

3. How do you think people and companies can use social media to crowdsource their solutions to current problems they’re facing?

I think social media is best used as fuel for the engine, even though I outline using Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for crowdsourcing, I tried to make it clear that social networks are not great places to properly crowdsource. They can, however, be the sources of your “crowd” or the driving force to push people toward your crowdsourcing project. I try not to mislead people in the book by saying “go crowdsource on Facebook,” and instead said “you can tap into that crowd but might be better off carrying out the actual crowdsourcing process somewhere else.”

There are a few apps and tools for each of those networks, however, that can act as crowdsource-like features such as a voting app for your Facebook Page. Primitive compared to the platforms that are out there that better integrate crowdsourcing features. There’s a fairly new platform – – that lets you build your own crowdsourcing site that looks promising.

4. What surprised you about crowdsourcing when you started into this book?

When I first started working on this book, I didn’t realize how quickly the crowdsourcing industry would coalesce. While working on the book, the first CrowdConf was held, organized by Crowdflower. And the Crowdsortium was announced. And so many new companies came out of the woodwork and the more established crowdsourcing companies began getting more exposure. The Daily Crowdsource started publishing regular news about crowdsourcing. The word “crowdsourcing” started showing up in more mainstream publications. I think a major transformation has occurred in the last year alone, but it is just the beginning.

As I interviewed people in the crowdsourcing industry, I was struck at how everyone had their own ideas of what crowdsourcing is and should be, their own best practices, etc. so even as the industry is growing, it is also going through growing pains. I like the thinking being done by in terms of coming up with a crowdsourcing taxonomy.

5. What do you see as the future of crowdsourcing?

I think that the adoption of crowdsourcing practices will continue to be slow in some areas until there is more clarity and consistency about crowdsourcing that the layperson can understand. The industry itself is barely 5 years old, if that, given that Jeff Howe only put a name to a trend he saw back in 2006 and only more recently have companies launched solely around offering crowdsourcing services, tools and platforms.

There is tremendous room for growth and adoption of crowdsourcing tactics and techniques by any business owner – but people just need a better understanding of what crowdsourcing is, how to engage in it or even how to hire someone to help them with it, how to measure results, and how to reap the benefits of it. Hopefully, my very basic introduction to crowdsourcing will be useful in helping to increase understanding.

(Photo credit to Maya Bisineer)

4 responses to “The Idiot's Guide to Crowdsourcing”

  1. Patty

    I believe in the future crowdsourcing will empower educated, skilled workers to make a living by working remotely from around the world.

  2. Iri

    Interesting article. I believe many will find this information valuable. Personally, I am quite on the fence regarding the use of a crowdsourcing site for a logo design. It is still a touchy issue for most designers who said that crowdsourcing is a no-no for obtaining a logo design. I have tried crowdsourcing before and I know the risks involved but it comes within the territory. But there are other no-frills logo design websites online such as,,, etc. which are actually great in getting a professional logo design at a fraction of the price and minus the risks of crowdsourcing (plagiarism is one of them). Seeing that there are no consultation services, the price is significantly lower than that of conventional design firms. For instance, I have tried and the experience was indeed a positive one. I managed to get my business logo design at an affordable price and the turnaround time was great as well. Highly recommended. Although crowdsourcing for logo designs could be a bane for some, many find it to be a viable alternative to get a fast logo on the cheap. It all depends on the individual…

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  4. Scott

    Any true professional in any field will not begin work on a project without a price agreement and a deposit in-hand. Graphic designers are contract workers… what you get at crowdsourcing sites are desperate amateurs who lack the experience and portfolios to compete in the professional marketplace. Students, newbies, wannabes, low-ballers, etc. I seriously doubt if anyone who goes to a site like that for a logo will agree to do what they are asking these designers to do… work for free in the slim hope that a payment will come. Try going to several restaurants and ordering meals from each, but only PAYING for the one you like best. It’s bad business. The effect on skilled professionals in the field is that their work is now devalued overall. I would discourage anyone from using these contests of mediocrity.

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