I have been participating in the 2011 edition of the DISH, Digital Strategies for Heritage Conference in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. A common observation in many conferences is that there tends to be a certain concentration of ideas. Even if one of the conference themes this year was crowdsourcing, it was quite apparent that the impact of this particular phenomenon went far beyond the thematic choice. Crowdsourcing has become mainstream. Different businesses presented solutions and platforms for eliciting inout from the crowds and several heritage organisations presented crowdsourcing and open data based projects.
The practical examples show clearly that the approach has a potential to bring together in some cases crowds, experts and heritage resources, and more often resources and particular communities of interest. All crowdsourcing is not about crowds, but rather about community sourcing. The DISH award nominees including the winner, Digitalkoot project of the Finnish National Library and Microtask showed particularly well how varying approaches of crowd and community sourcing can engage very different types of audiences.
Even if crowd and community sourcing based have documented benefits in many showcased projects, there seems to be uncertainty about what the projects actually are about and why they work. The rather abstract idea of trying to create win-win situations for participants and crowdsourcers is certainly insightful, but does not really explain what these win-win situations are. Ok, everybody acknowledges that there are different types of benefits, but even that does not take us very far in determining what it is really all about, where are the limits of the approaches and why still the most of the projects fail and only very few become truly successful.