Exploitsourcing: Exploitative Crowdsourcing

I love crowdsourcing. I really do. I see some amazingly innovative, fun and creative things coming out of it. For it to work the leader of the crowd needs to give back equal or more what they get. I think it is a point where we need to identify what is good from the practice, and those using it to exploit their community. Exploitsourcing needs to be banned, at least socially.

An example of why this is needed for the longterm health of crowdsourcing:

I love business but hate pyramid schemes. I love the greater good but hate the subsection that exploits people. For me to love business, I must hope and do my part to keep the schemers out of the conversation. When I tell my friend “I’m starting a startup” they don’t think “he is going to screw me” or “he is going to screw others” because, for the most part, the schemers have stayed out of the startup game. Saying “I’m doing a startup” is not dirty, but could be if the exploitative practices were embraced or welcomed.

What would happen if it did?

Chicago I love crowdsourcing, and it is time to kick the exploiters to the curb and demand they stay as far from the name as possible. What they are doing is exploitsourcing.

If you ask 100 people to complete work for the chance of payment (logo contest anyone?), you are exploitsourcing.

I define Exploitative Crowdsourcing as:

Asking a community to individually complete custom work for the chance and main motivation of non noteworthy payment.

If you have found a way to exploit others, and they willingly do it, you have a short term win with a long term loss for both you and the community. If it becomes a norm for the greater community, you have built your mansion in the middle of a sinkhole.

I hate that there has to be reminders in 2010 to be good to one another, respect your neighbor and yes, people are watching.

  • Really like that last line… be good to one another, respect your neighbor, people are watching. Well written! …even if people aren't watching;)

  • Really like that last line… be good to one another, respect your neighbor, people are watching. Well written! …even if people aren't watching;)

  • Guest

    would http://www.mychipotle.com be considered Exploitative Crowdsourcing?

  • andrewhyde

    Looks like it gives back to the community more than it gets and isn't replicating a professional task (community passion and participation). So no.

  • Heard via @chiah that you gave a talk on this at Ignite SF. Hope to see video footage and/or slides on the web soon. As a designer/developer who feels mixed on the issue, I'd love to hear more of what you and others have to say and form a better opinion.

  • Loren Norman

    Hummmm, the 'logo contest' mention made me think! I assume you're talking about 99Designs et al. Correct me if not.

    I have fundamental questions about whether that is 'exploitative' or not. The capitalist in me says that no one would use such a service if it weren't valuable to them. I understand that it undercuts the dollar value we attach to graphic design here in the States and in highly developed countries, but isn't it clear that it pays a premium to (and indeed allows/invites competition from!) knowledge workers in impoverished nations?

    I'm conflicted on this, and it sounds like you've done some deeper thinking on the subject.

    P.S. I don't generally consider 'exploit' to be a purely bad word!

  • bitbutter

    “If you have found a way to exploit others, and they willingly do it, you have a short term win with a long term loss for both you and the community”

    Why is it a 'long term loss' for the community? Do you speak for 'the community'? are those who participate in these competitions not part of 'the community'? By 'long term loss' do you really just mean it's an affront to certain people's sensibilities that voluntary interaction they don't like, is happening?

    So called 'exploitation', when it involves voluntary interaction, as here, is 'exploitative' in both directions. Exchange is inherently exploitative. That's not a bad thing. Both parties to any uncoerced exchange believe that they are benefiting from it (not necessarily financially), otherwise they would not have used their time and resources that way.

    Seeking to prevent certain exchanges because you find them distasteful or tacky makes you an enemy of free association.

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  • Kat Clark

    Would yelp.com fall under this definition? Or perhaps not on principle, but yes considering the TOS.

  • andrewhyde

    It only meets 1/4 things in the definition, so no.

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