As we keep mentioning here, crowdsourcing is the next big thing. I know we may sound like a broken record but it’s true. Crowdsourcing is the future, there’s just a lot of frustration about crowdsourcing because a lot of people think that it’s already happened while a significant number of people say that it hasn’t fully manifested itself and there isn’t really an implementation yet that fully displays all of crowdsourcing’s full potential. In fact, according to some crowdsourcing critics, it is already here and it’s not a big deal. They point to Facebook. Be that as it may, there is one technology space where there is a darth of crowdsourcing. We’re talking of mobile apps. If you think about, a mobile app should be fertile ground for crowdsourcing. There’s nothing like a huge number of people with distributed computing power namely their smartphones collaborating and being coordinated from distributed locations to solve problems, to produce products, to manipulate content, so on and so forth. As it turns out, there are a few apps that nibble at the edges of this crowdsourcing potential but on the whole, it’s missing.
The purely crowdsourcing app is missing. This is surprising because the alternatives suck.
Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is too Unwieldy
Mechanical Turk is a distributed outsourcing platform where people do simple tasks for very small amount of money. How small? We’re talking a few pennies, if that, but interestingly enough there are a lot of takers for Mechanical Turk. Many people who are taken in by the novelty of the Mechanical Turk are those who just don’t have much to do or live in countries where the exchange rate makes it worthwhile for them to do an action even though the payout is a few cents. Remember, pay-to-click (PTC) programs are quite big in developing countries. They are complete joke in the United States and Canada but in places like India and Southeast Asia, pay-to-click programs are huge. In fact, some people make quite a good living from pay-to-click programs because they earn when they refer other people to such programs. Be that as it may, Mechanical Turk and similar types of crowdsourcing programs are just too unwieldy. They’re not very flexible; they are also web-based so you don’t really have much latitude as to the kind of actions that you can perform.
Sadly, Not Everyone Has a Smartphone
This is the biggest drawback to mobile-based outsourcing and this is probably the biggest explanation why there’s darth of crowdsourcing apps. If you want a product designed through the feedback of several million people, then you need several million people with the time, inclination and means to participate. The means obviously is a smartphone and large chunks of the developing world don’t have smartphones.
Cheap Android Phones to the Rescue
The next frontier follows this formula: cheap android phones + cheap labor + high exchange rates = the new crowdsourcing frontier. Crowdsourcing is coming; it’s just a question of when. It’s not a question of “if”, it is indeed a question of “when”. One of the pieces of the puzzle that needs to fall into place is the massive proliferation of cheap Android phones. Thanks to the fact that Google doesn’t charge money for the Android OS, more and more cheap phone manufacturers are getting in on the action. I wouldn’t be surprised if it reaches the point where you have disposable phones like the old Nokia phones but using an Android technology in the very near future. Once you get to that Nokia level of smartphone distribution then the big dream of crowdsourced apps will take several steps forward to becoming a reality.