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Crowdsourcing: Good or bad?

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  • Crowdsourcing: Good or bad?

    Why do you guys think crowdsourcing is good? Do you think outsourcing, the practice of substituting cheap foreign labor to cut costs, is good? I take it the main argument against outsourcing is that it takes away potential jobs from domestic workers.

    Crowdsourcing is similar in a certain respect. It is the practice of substituting cheap amateur labor and one time contracts to cut costs. Instead of hiring people for an R/D department and paying them a salary with benefits, the work goes to random individuals for their one time efforts--almost always at a cost that is far less than staffing a regular department for the duration of the project. This can cuts costs for the company significantly but it also can mean the loss of potential full time jobs for skilled workers.

    A reply would be that it's not really taking away jobs from people, since companies that crowdsource are usually start ups or small businesses and never had those full time positions or are large companies with those full time positions already. In the former case, nobody was fired since nobody was hired in the first place. In the latter, it's rare that the company fires many people to replace their work by crowdsourcing. But, this reply misses the point. The point against outsourcing is not just that people are laid off or fired. It's that potential skilled jobs for domestic workers are going overseas to foreign workers, thus leaving a pool of skilled workers unemployed or overqualified for jobs they have to take. So, whether people are actually fired and replaced by the outsourced jobs is not the point--although that would be the most direct way in which potential jobs for domestic workers are replaced. That startup or small business normally would have to staff some full time positions if they didn't resort to crowdsourcing. That large company normally would have to staff more positions to finish that particular project if they didn't resort to crowdsourcing. The argument against crowdsourcing runs along these lines. It's the potential jobs for skilled workers that are being, in essence, staffed by unpaid or low paid amateurs.

    Another reply would be that while outsourcing takes away income from domestic workers and gives it to foreign workers, crowdsourcing doesn't necessarily do that since domestic workers can still receive a payout from crowdsourcing. But, again this reply misses the point of the objection. The heart of the objection isn't that foreign workers are taking the regular income from domestic workers. The objection is that the result of outsourcing is that potential jobs for skilled workers are not being actualized. The work that would have been done by them are being sourced to cheap labor. Crowdsourcing, like outsourcing, does just that.

    And, still another reply might have it that outsourcing is worse than crowdsourcing, since crowdsourcing is thought to result in products that are better and more innovative than a traditional R/D department might come up with. The idea is that it is more likely to find a good idea combing a huge mass of people rather than from a limited number of employees. This is perceived to result in a benefit for the consumer, whereas outsourcing does not contain this benefit. Suppose that is true and the consumer benefits from crowdsourcing, and crowdsourcing is better than outsourcing because of it. This is not a reply to the objection. The objection is not that crowdsourcing and outsourcing are on a par with respect to who benefits and who loses. The objection is that what's problematic at the heart of outsourcing is also at the heart of crowdsourcing. So, to say that crowdsourcing is, overall, not as bad as outsourcing is no reply to the objection that both of them take away potential jobs from skilled domestic workers.

    I take it most people here consider outsourcing to be a bad thing, but, it appears, so far, that people here like the idea of crowdsourcing. If you think the argument against outsourcing is good, why not this parallel argument against crowdsourcing? If you don't think this argument against crowdsourcing is good, why not the parallel argument against outsourcing?
    Last edited by sordavie; 08-16-2007, 12:01 PM.

  • #2
    Re: I put this in for my own 21st squad

    Kinda wierd, but you answered you own question to a point. I own a small web desing company, and when I started this business I hired telecomuters in various parts of the country. Unfortunately they were not producing, or justifying how much I was paying them, and I actually lost money on projects becuase of it. So I hired 7 guys in Russia, and I paid them almost what I would pay someone here. The were very proficient, fast, and detailed oriented. The language barrier was pretty difficult, but we worked through it. So sometimes you have to look outside the box, or in the case your own country, to find what you need. I had a choice: not feed my family, or outsource overseas.

    I am glad that I picked the overseas option.


    • #3
      Re: Crowdsourcing: Good or bad?

      This thread was split off from this one:
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      • #4
        Re: Crowdsourcing: Good or bad?

        In general, this sounds more like an issue of corporate structure and not so much a worker's rights thing. In general I think you will see more long-term benefits by building an efficient and well-maintained team with happy, motivated skilled workers than by using strictly temporary contract workers. But that model is obviously not going to work with every business or even every team. If "crowdsourcing" works for your business model, go right ahead. In an earlier age of labor disputes this approach might be called simply hiring temps, and before that, hiring scabs, but I'm not sure what a white-collar scab would look like.

        I think that any major corporation that decides to dissolve an established, experienced department purely to bring in a cheaper workforce will very quickly find out just how effective or ineffective that strategy is. See Circuit City vs. Best Buy.
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        • #5
          Re: Crowdsourcing: Good or bad?

          I think there is a lot more to the message that moxmax just gave us:

          Crowdsourcing doesn't seem to care at all where you are, just so long as you actually do what you're being paid to do. In America, it seems like the people he hired were more attuned to a laid back sort of angle when it came to telecommunication, while those he hired in Russia were not. Perhaps this has something to do with the American mentality towards work expectations as well as telecommunication? I like the idea of crowdsourcing because its going to give everyone, everywhere, with the same skills, the chance to compete to be the best.

          The danger of that, of course, is that it is going to completely erode the expectations of productivity from individuals of countries where they are not used to the idea of working that hard.

          Sheesh, I sound like I'm talking about outsourcing though. I digress, let me turn to the real issue of crowdsourcing: loss of long-term employment. It seems that this is becoming a very big issue as of late, and I can certainly see why. The US Department of Labor expects my generation to have had on average about 14 jobs by the time we reach age 38. It seems that our technological pace is moving along so fast that jobs are converging/becoming automated at an ever increasing rate. The new jobs, however, require skills that haven't been truly even defined yet, and probably won't be before another new style of job catches on. The one thing that is certain, however, is that less and less people are going to be needed to do these jobs and only the most qualified, from a pool now of international size, are going to be those few elect.

          I'm getting the impression that outsourcing and crowdsourcing are going to become very synonymous, very soon, and it is going to make a lot of people, and economists, very angry.

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          • #6
            Re: Crowdsourcing: Good or bad?

            Ideas, mission and vision are what creates jobs. Crowdsourcing is just that from any angle. In most business models that I can think of crowdsourcing is helping create many more jobs then are being lost because of it. The only people who are suffering are people who make a living using intellectual property. Mainly programmers and artists.
            Crowdsourcing is closer to the opposite of outsourcing. With crowdsourcing you are bringing work in and outsourcing you are taking work out. With the small exception of some R&D departments, I think it's comparing apples and oranges. Most companies are currently using the help of the public to help solve their problems.


            • #7
              Re: Crowdsourcing: Good or bad?

              Originally posted by Zephyr View Post
              I'm getting the impression that outsourcing and crowdsourcing are going to become very synonymous, very soon, and it is going to make a lot of people, and economists, very angry.
              Why should it make economists angry? That's like saying an astromical finding would make astronomers angry. They're scientists (or should be). Their job is to try to discover the laws that govern human trade.

              Perhaps you mean the meddlesome economic "planners" who try to dictate the laws of human trade, the ones who do the economic equivalent of declaring that pi is exactly 3.
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