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Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business Paperback – Sep 15 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business (Sept. 15 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307396215
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307396211
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 259 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #381,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"An informed and enthusiastic guide to the new collaborative creativity."
Times (London)

"A welcome and well-written corporate playbook for confusing times."

"An engaging mix of business, sociology, organizational theory, and technology writing and fits the mold of Malcolm Gladwell’s perennial bestseller, The Tipping Point."

“While small groups have often been the foundation of great performance—think SWAT teams and Skunk Works—Jeff Howe has made the compelling case for the power of far larger communities of interest. He shows in Crowdsourcing—with rich illustrations from Google and InnoCentive to Threadless and Wikipedia—that the right community with the right incentives can often invent, write, and run research and business initiatives more effectively and less expensively than traditional enterprise.”
—Michael Useem, professor of management and director of the Leadership Center at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and author of The Go Point: When It’s Time to Decide and The Leadership Moment

“Beyond the wisdom of crowds is the work of crowds, a powerful and transformative source of creativity and an economic engine that defies traditional rules. Jeff Howe’s guide to crowdsourcing—to use his perfect coinage—is insightful, fun, and indispensable to those who want to understand, or participate in, this amazing phenomenon.”
—Steven Levy, author of Hackers and The Perfect Thing

“Jeff Howe has captured a complex and vital change in the business landscape: in the next few years, your customers could become your collaborators, or your competitors. His ability to weave story and strategy together makes Crowdsourcing a readable and indispensable guide to this new world.”
—Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody

From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

JEFF HOWE is a contributing editor at Wired magazine, where he covers the entertainment industry among other subjects. Before coming to Wired he was a senior editor at and a writer at the Village Voice. In his fifteen years as a journalist, he has traveled around the world working on stories ranging from the impending water crisis in Central Asia to the implications of gene patenting. He has also written for U.S. News & World Report, Time magazine, the Washington Post, Mother Jones, and numerous other publications. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and children.

From the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If you have been paying close attention to the subject of crowd sourcing, this book will contain few surprises. But you just might pick up an insight or two that will make the book of much value. That was my experience.

While much of the book covered things I know in more detail than Jeff Howe describes, I began to see connections between how one aspect of crowd sourcing could be combined with other aspects to make more progress more rapidly. I intend to apply those insights into my global project for increasing the rate of global improvements by 20 times.

Ultimately, crowd sourcing's significance is determined in the battle between the tendency of crowds to contain wisdom and the average results of crowds to be lousy. If you use crowd sourcing to get lots of ideas, you also need to rely a lot on crowd sourcing to get rid of the junk.

Although Mr. Howe claims to be taking a journalist's approach to the subject, he comes across as more of an advocate than an observer. In particular, he fails to capture the ways that prolific production of content can overwhelm the accuracy of crowd sourcing votes. Highly ranked contributions often reflect popularity and the crowd's agreement with the conclusions more than the quality of the production. As a result, you can often end up with something that looks like what a lot of undisciplined teenagers would produce.

Yet, even that problem can be solved by adding a layer of expert evaluation to the more popular entries. He mentions that point in passing, but misses its significance.

For a book that aims to describe the fundamentals of how crowd sourcing will be used by business, the conclusion section is pretty limited and abstract.
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Format: Paperback
If you want to read one book about how to harness the power of the crowd’s knowledge, this is the book. Lots of solid examples, good insight, solid conclusions.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars 36 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Overall Treatise on the Influence and Power of Crowdsourcing Sept. 20 2009
By John Possumato - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
From the positives of crowdsourcing and in its influence on business (the creation of Google with citation information being a key example) to its "dark side" of mob rule and mass mediocrity (the creation of Google can be used as the same key example), Howe very effectively explores by analysis and representation the phenomena of crowdsourcing as its "hyper fueled" by the World Wide Web. Howe effectively outlines the transformation that crowdsourcing on the Web has created, from business and the means of production, to information distribution, to finance, what factors caused this transformation and where this may lead in the future. Finally, Howe projects the future, when the "digital natives" (those children now coming of age in the Internet era), supplant the "digital immigrants" (the rest of us), and, reminds us of the Pew Internet & American Life Project study that determined that, as of 2007, 93% of all American 12 to 17 year olds are regular Internet users, and, of those, 64% are creating content among themselves on the Web, and finally, the majority of those content creators are creating content in crowdsourcing, social network type environments. All and all, this is one of the most worthwhile books on the every expanding, and talked about, topic, and is a "must read" for anyone interested in the emerging crowdsourcing evolution.
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Framework for Contribution Business Models Aug. 9 2009
By Mt. Lebo - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Easy and entertaining read with great examples of how contribution / crowdsourcing models are making an impact on businesses and web-based business models. It stimulates thinking about how these concepts may be applied to any range of contexts, and the power of the collective contribution.

It is organized from a historical perspective to the present with a look to the future, and discusses vivid examples in each section.
5.0 out of 5 stars Crowdsourcing Dec 17 2008
By Thomas Ingram - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are few book that actually exceed your expectations, this is one of them. If you are at all interested in the future, and trends and how you might find you place in it, I would recommend this book.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book in the vein of Wisdom of Crowds Dec 24 2008
By S. Sutton - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a good book that essentially makes the point that the public at large really makes the decisions that affect business. The Wisdom of Crowds is a book that covers most of the same ground but in a better theoretical means.
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Defines the dynamics that will drive the future of commerce Oct. 17 2008
By Mark P. McDonald - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Every significant trend requires a book that defines its key concepts, pioneers and rational. Crowdsourcing is that book for the application of social and community capability to business and society. Jeff Howe has created a readable chronicle of the early adopters who use crowds to replace experts. Coupled with James Surowieck's "Wisdom of Crowds" the two books will be used in corporate offices and marketing teams to look at how to engage crowds in the future.

Executives, marketing professionals, and product managers should read both books to better understand how to tap into this resource. However, do not expect a recipe book, specific solutions, or a road map to crowdsourcing.

Readers will find the book very descriptive and illustrative, which is strength, but its analysis and recommendations are a weakness and hence the reason for a four star review. I still highly recommend this book, but recognize that it comes from a journalistic tradition, rather than a hard core business book. Given the subject matter, I believe that the journalistic approach is more fitting to the subject.

This book is recommended to gain an understanding of this phenomenon, pick up examples and stories, and gain a new vocabulary. Strategists, executives, and marketing types will find examples that they will need to think about in order to gain the answers they are looking for and need.


The book focuses on describing how to crowds are creating new sources of value than the specific ways to tap into that value. Chapters 1 through 5, the first half of the book, concentrates on providing examples of the crowd sourcing phenomenon. The second half focuses down on the impact of crowds to economic and business organization.

Chapter 1: The Rise of the Amateur - discusses the shifting balance between individuals with deep expertise and communities of interest. These differences and the increasing amateur access to information and collaboration are changing the playing field in multiple disciplines for the better.

Chapter 2: From So Simple a Beginning - traces the rise of crowd sourcing back to the open source software movement. Howe details the early history of open source software, an interesting tale, as well as its basic principles of self responsibility, community contribution, and breaking large problems into small units. Howe describes the start of Wikipedia, SETI and the USPTO's use of open software approaches in the chapter.

Chapter 3: Faster, Cheaper, Smarter, Easier - looks at the results that come from employing diversity and crowds to solve complex problems. Examples here range from desktop publishing, viral video, and music. In each case, the shift from centralized to distributed production results in the transformation of markets and the creation of new opportunities.

Chapter 4: The Rise and Fall of the Firm - puts together the principles of the first three chapters and describes their collective impact on modern business and market structures. Howe uses readily accessible examples, like CincyMoms, to illustrate how open access; amateur interest and aggregating intelligence upset traditional markets and organizations. This chapter is well researched and may be the best of the book as it bridges between academic studies (Benkler's "The Wealth of Networks') with real life examples.

Chapter 5: The Most Universal Quality - discusses the role of diversity and the power of crowds to aggregate diversity to match or out perform experts in many different situations. This chapter is the most like the Wisdom of Crowds as Howe explains both socially and mathematically how a crowd of amateurs can be more accurate than an individual expert.

Chapter 6: What the Crowd Knows is an extension of Chapter 5 and concentrates on the channeling of crowd wisdom into collective wisdom through prediction markets and other types of solutions. The chapter also introduces the idea of Marketocracy as a means to find talent in a crowd based on their results rather than their resumes.

Chapter 7: What the Crowd Creates focuses on the creative aspects of communities that require a different set of solutions to the aggregation of collective intelligence. These chapter discuses the notion of user-generated content and its dynamics based on tools, incentives, rewards, and ownership. It dives deep into the operation of iStock as an example of a company that harnesses the creations of a community.

Chapter 8: What the Crowd Thinks recognized the power of personal expression in terms of participatory decision making, reviews and visibility. Howe points out that about 10% of a community provides their opinions and views, setting the tone for the overall community. However those opinions operate as a significant filter for the community. BTW, Howe points out that Amazon reviews are an example of this - so welcome to the crowd. This chapter focuses on phenomenon such as American Idol and Digg as illustrations of crowd opinions.

Chapter 9: What the Crowd Funds is a short chapter that discusses the application of crowd sourcing principles to finance with applications such as peer-to-peer lending, micro-lending and Barak Obama's appeal to large numbers of small individual donors.

Chapter 10: Tomorrow's Crowd highlights the rise of the digital native and the fact that people growing up today expect to work more collaboratively than their parents. This chapter explores how this next generation works, multitasks and collaborates. These traits are largely explained through changes in the media industry, which makes sense since digital natives are currently the target audience in that market. It's just a matter of time before they are the target audience in every market.

Chapter 11: Conclusion - the rules of Crowdsourcing summarizes the book, wrapping its ideas into a few simple and powerful rules:

1. Pick the right model from among collective intelligence, creation, voting, or funding.
2. Pick the right crowd from the participants to the people who will influence and usher the crowd.
3. Offer the right incentives to the crowd that are often expressed in recognition rather just money.
4. Keep the pink slips in the drawer - crowdsourcing is not outsourcing
5. The dumbness of crowds, or the benevolent dictator principle - crowds need leaders who influence
6. Keep it simple, break it down - give the crowd something each individual can work on, yet can aggregate into something great.
7. Remember Sturgeon's Law - 90% of what is created is crap so you will need to allow the crowd to separate the cream from the crap
8. Remember the 10 percent, the antidote to Sturgeon's law - related to #7 that the crow can do the sorting in a democratic and open forum better than the experts.
9. The community is always right
10. Ask not what the crowd can do for you, but what you can do for the crowd - a crowd forms and is most effective when it sis working on something it wants.

Crowdsourcing is among the foundational books for the next generation of commerce, whether you call it Web 2.0, Social Production, or Crowdsourcing, - this book describes the core principles and examples of the way we will work in the future.