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Why the Taxonomy of Crowdsourcing Can Not Categorize Software Development

By cloudspokes In Uncategorized

Posted December 3rd, 2011

umbrella of crowdsourcing taxonomyThere has been a push lately, from sources such as crowdsourcing.org and the Daily Crowdsource, seeking to categorize what Crowdsourcing is. If people are finding value in categorizing the different ways in which you can accomplish something – whether task oriented, knowledge base driven or otherwise – then that’s a good thing. Understanding how external communities can accelerate your business is a primary first step in wanting to engage any company that Crowdsources.

One particular piece, created by Crowdsourcing.org, did a very nice job of combining real world examples within the defined taxonomy they are offering. They break work done via Crowdsourcing into 4 distinct categories. The below is directly from their recent article.

crowdsourcing.org article

Many companies that describe themselves as leveraging Crowdsourcing have a relatively easy time fitting what they do into one of these particular categories. For example the Gigwalk crowd performs micro-tasks. Gigwalk provides a way to alert dozens and possibly hundreds of potential workers in a geographic region of a “gig”, like snapping a few photos of a certain intersection. It’s efficient, certainly far more efficient than sending an hourly crew out to a location to perform the same exact task. This is called a micro-task because it’s fast and requires no specialized skill to complete. Again, for Gigwalk they fit neatly into this taxonomy of Crowdsourcing. For a formal report on Micro-tasking click here.

As we read through the aforementioned crowdsourcing.org article, it struck us that a taxonomy such as this would have a very hard time categorizing what TopCoder accomplishes. You may or may not know what we do. Through our global competitive community of more than 321,000 professionals – we don’t often use the term crowd – we create innovative software, algorithms that optimize business and scientific solutions and graphical digital assets. The further we studied the 4 different categories presented by Crowdsourcing.org, the more we realized that TopCoder competitions fit into all four categories presented, often all four being represented in a singular project because of the way we atomize the work into many competitions where various skills and skill levels are required to effectively compete.

linchpinSoftware development is the most important function of business because it integrates into everything. The full Software Development Life Cycle requires all four use cases laid out above while cutting across them. It’s probably the reason TopCoder was not easily categorized before and continues to not fit neatly into any one definition. To keep things simple, we call ourselves a community. Within the community there are unbelievably talanted individuals, some with hyper-specialized skills, others with more general skills. Instead of pigeonholing ourselves into a regimented taxonomy, we’d prefer to just say – Yes, within our Community and the myriad competitions run on our Platform, all four categories of the type of work and the type of individuals to perform that work, as defined by crowdsourcing.org, are represented. Because of this breadth of talent and the competition methodology that breeds outstanding outputs, we are able to truly transform how corporations approach work and how much they can accomplish over any given slice of time.

While we sincerely appreciate efforts to educate the masses on Crowdsourcing, such taxonomies like the above effort from crowdsourcing.org and the Daily Crowdsource’s Umbrella of Crowdsourcing can not categorize software development and maybe, that’s a good thing.

Image Credit: dailycrowdsource.com, linchpinwebdesign.com