Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Applying Crowdsourcing to Family Life Education

Based on Jeff Howe's book on Crowdsourcing, here are some brief applications of his ideas to family life education.

1. Pick the right model of crowdsourcing. Crowds can help provide wisdom about family life, they can help create the content or educational process of family life education, they can rate family life educational material on matters of relevance, importance of helpfulness, they can contribute financially to the work or some combination of all of these strategies. (More about models of crowdsourcing applied to family life education.)

2. Pick the right crowd. Howe suggests that a good crowdsourced site has 5,000 active participants, but they need to be engaged in your work. Designers of family life education websites needs to design for specific audiences. Too often family life education web designs don't have a specific audience.

3. Offer the right incentives. Howe writes, "With few exceptions, the most important component to a successful crowdsourcing effort is a vibrant, committed community" (p. 282). Fostering and sustaining a community of interested partners means creating a process that rewards the community of users. What types of rewards do parents or family members want to receive for participating? A chance to help, a chance to share with others, what? (Other notes of community building. )

4. Crowdsourcing is not cheap or easy. One of the myths of crowdsourcing is that the web designers have less work to do or it takes less money to foster community-based web development. Not so says many who have done this work.

5. Crowdsourcing is a partnership between good management and the participants. Crowds don't self organize and manage. Good crowdsouring models are most effective when they have good leadership. That is, when there is a model that provides easy direction and opportunity for contributing.

6. Find the right level of contribution. Howe writes, "any task worth doing is worth dividing up into its smallest components" (285). Effective crowdsourcing is finding an appropriate-sized unit of contribution that is manageable for someone to do and provides a building block for the overall project. (See my comments on microlearning. units.)

7. The crowd is likely to produce a lot of junk. It is naive to think that crowds will only create wisdom and great products or that all members of the crowd will have the same talents. Effective crowdsource development means having a way of finding the best material and fostering the best talent for the specific jobs you need. (See more about the impasse of Sturgeon's Law.)

8. The crowd will also contribute some value. There are people who will help you build more effective and useful family life education websites.

9. If you are lucky enough to develop a strategy that involves a crowd... listen to them. Trust their guidance.

10. "Ask not what the crowd can do you for, but what you can do for the crowd" (p. 287). I am sure that Howe put this last so that the potential website developer would be left with this one thought. For crowdsourcing to work you have to find a project that you think is valuable and that the crowd thinks is valuable. The more the project serves the needs of the crowd and provides them with engaging, interesting, rewarding, and meaningful opportunities the better chance you have of success. Family life education is ideally suited to be built on a crowdsourced model-- there are long traditions of people gathering to share advice, stories, and troubles and a mutual help ethic of trying to assist one another in the complicated task of making families work.

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