Week 1 Status Update from the Crowdsourcing Project

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About a week ago, 15 students from all around the world set out to work on Mozilla Labs’ Crowdsourcing Project – with the aim to create a next generation crowdsourcing platform. In the first phase of this project, the students broke into three teams, each with a specific objective. Here are their status reports after week 1 of the project:

Team 1 “Status Quo”: Analysis of current Design Challenge(s) (by Jan Dittrich)

Setting the foundations for the future of crowdsourcing at Mozilla a group of students from all over the world currently analyses crowdsourcing. For doing so, we split in three teams. The one I am in takes a look at the past efforts of Mozilla to involve people with a focus on design and UX: The Design Challenges. Since Spring ’09, Mozilla announced several challenges focusing on different topics, from chromeless browsing to social contacts in the browser. Until today, more than 1000 people participated.

The “Past Challenges analysis”-Team is taking a closer look at these past challenges. Soon a to-do list was set up which we collaboratively wrote. We started our work by collecting and reviewing resources like an analysis of past challenges conducted by Mozilla and an overview about possible good and weak points in the past challenges. An idea which emerged soon was to create a questionnaire for former participants. For doing so we set up page to brainstorm a set of questions.

An important part of the process of working together are the weekly team meetings: They offer the possibility to get feedback from Pascal, to ask participants who deal with other topics for an opinion and most importantly to discuss the focus for the upcoming week’s work with your teammates. The group I am in decided e.g. to focus the questionnaire on getting to know what motivated former participants in the past challenges and the deadlines for getting it ready to be send out — just a few minutes ago I had a look on our page and saw that two other teammates commented on the selections of questions. So after chatting tonight (at least in my timezone!) I think we will have the questionnaire ready to be send!

Team 2 “Best Practices”: Analysis of other (successful) Crowdsourcing Initiatives (by Coleman Foley)

Now that we have compiled a list of relevant crowdsourcing projects, we are fleshing out each entry by seeing how they score on a variety of metrics. From there, we are further condensing and making sense of our data by making a list of best practices. Both these lists are editable by anyone in the group, I should note. Perhaps the crowdsourcing project we are learning the most from is the one we are all participating in—the “crowdsource crowdsourcing” project. I have learned that while decentralization is good, some direction is nice, too. Each of our group’s chats have been most productive when we followed even a loose agenda. Fortunately, every body in our group has come through at some time with some leadership at the right time.

In our first few days, we established a great deal of breadth, adding many projects to our list. Now we are getting into a few projects in more depth focused on best practices in their services. One is Threadless, which gets t-shirt designs from its active community. Another is Quora, the new social question and answer service that is still in private beta. Threadless has showed us the value of structure. Every week it picks that week’s best designs and rewards them. It also puts on themed contests, like comics or coffee, which keep things fresh. Quora has showed the trade-off between quality and quantity. While it has a lot better answers and less spam than Yahoo Answers, it also has far less content. We will continue to learn about these projects and our own. Coeval we will figure out best practices and metrics of already existing crowdsourcing projects to see how they mesh with the other team’s findings on Sunday.

Team 3 “Theory”: Key learnings from theoretical body of knowledge

As you may know, we are part of the group for the new Mozilla Labs’ project “Crowdsource Crowdsourcing”. The project’s aim is to build the next crowdsourcing platform by learning existing theory, analyzing current best practices, developing ideas and, of course, experimenting.

We are a group of students with heterogeneous profiles, universities and countries: Ajay Roopakalu, Piyush Kumar, Chao Xu, Peter Organisciak and Euge Ortiz. We come from different areas like computer science, engineering, mathematics and design.

We call ourselves, quite creatively, “Team 3”; this is apt because we do, after all, work as a team. We are responsible for for the theoretical aspect of the project, examining the body of crowdsourcing knowledge. We all come from different disciplines, so is our mission to make sure that we all know what we are talking about and that we are going in the same direction. In our write-board you can find discussions about theories and concepts of crowdsourcing, open innovation, motivation, collaborative work, among others.

Right now we are analyzing, discussing and putting everything together in order to have a solid base for the next phase, and that is the brainstorming phase. Our next step is to communicate our work with the big group and then to the community.

We are all excited about this project, the Design Challenges are a great way to involve participants and encourage their creativity and innovation. Crowdsourcing is a tool, and by building it right, we can use it to great ends.