When it comes to journalistic working methods, are you familiar with “corpsourcing”? It’s like (or a part of) crowdsourcing, but journalists are using the “corporate staff”, instead of just the “crowd”, in order to gather information and collaborate with the sources.
As you all know, in journalism, crowdsourcing use to be the collaboration between a journalist (media) and a bunch of people (a crowd) who’s involved and engaged in the same topics that the journalist is working on. Or as Jeff Howe defined the term in general in the article “the Rise of Crowdsourcing” for Wired Magazine, back in June 2006:
“Crowdsourcing is the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated employee and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.”
But does crowdsourcing really work? Oh yes, if you’ve got the crowd’s attention and cooperativeness, it can help you in a way you couldn’t even dream of.
A popular example of crowdsourcing is how contestants were using the audience in order to answer correctly to questions, in that TV show “Who want’s to be a millionaire”. Co-founder of Rubber Republic, Chris Quigley, wrote about the phenomena in a blog post a couple of years ago. He got the inspiration from the book “The Smart Swarm: How to Work Efficiently, Communicate Effectively, and Make Better Decisions Using the Secrets of Flocks, Schools, and Colonies” by Peter Miller.
Chris says that “the book looks at how humans can learn from the collective intelligent behaviour of animals – in particular, how we can learn from animals (like bees and termites) swarm behaviour: i.e. how they manage to self-organise in such huge numbers”.
The bit Chris found particularly interesting was the discussion around harnessing the wisdom of the crowds; the fact that the crowd is more intelligent than the individual.
So when it comes to the show “Who wants to be a millionaire” it became quite obvious that you should use the audience in order to get the right answers. The audience was correct 91% of the time, unlike the experts who did it right only 65% of the time.
Another great example is the classic anecdote from the book “The wisdom of crowds” by James Surowiecki where “eight hundred people participated in a contest to estimate the weight of a slaughtered and dressed ox, at a country fair in Plymouth, 1906. And the mean of all eight hundred guesses, at 1197 pounds, was closer than any of the individual guesses (among them experts) to the true weight of 1198 pounds.
And if your convert this into journalism, check out this “advert for the Guardian’s open journalism, screened for the first time on 29 February 2012, imagines how we might cover the story of the three little pigs in print and online. Follow the story from the paper’s front page headline, through a social media discussion and finally to an unexpected conclusion”.
But “not all crowds (groups) are wise, like for an example mobs”. According to Surowiecki, four key criteria separate wise crowds from irrational ones:
- Diversity of opinion – Each person should have private information even if it’s just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts.
- Independence – People’s opinions aren’t determined by the opinions of those around them.
- Decentralization – People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge.
- Aggregation – Some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into a collective decision.
I doubt that the “corporate staff” meets all of these criteria, but it doesn’t really matters, as long as journalists don’t expect the truth and nothing but the truth from these people. But rather look at “the corporate staff” as a source who can shed some light over things they didn’t know and/or understood.
Mind you, I’m not talking about journalists ability to send requests to a group of PR-pros, like they can do on “Help a Reporter”, “Responce Source”, among others. With all respect for Peter Shankman’s and Daryl Willcox great services, but I’m talking about Surowiecki’s last mentioned criteria; the overall mechanism for “turning individual judgments into a collective decision”. I’m talking about all those mutual and collaborative processes beyond boundaries, between journalists and all kind of employees and corporate representatives from all kind of companies and organizations, resulting in reasonable basis for decisions, and further research.
I call it “corpsourcing” and – yes – that’s just an expression I recently came up with So don’t worry if you haven’t heard of it before, but do worry a little bit if you’re not being a part of that movement in the near future.