Blog Post

Inside Word: What Crowdsourcers Can Learn From ‘American Idol’

The Inside Word is a weekly feature that looks at compelling industry debates and discussions unfolding on the blogs of employees at digital-media companies.

Poster: Kenneth Yeung

Blog name: The Letter Two

Position: Yeung is a freelance interactive producer, who also blogs for domain name registration firm Network Solutions.

Backstory: There’s been debate recently about how businesses can effectively use crowdsourcing — generally defined as outsourcing a task usually associated with one person to a group. LinkedIn, for instance, faced a backlash last month when it asked members if they would be interested in translating some of the site’s content into other languages. Many said no. In a blog post, Yeung presents American Idol as a model for effective crowdsourcing. American Idol lets viewers choose which contestants they want to stay on the show — but only after the choices have been filtered down — and the judges have given their own points of view. More than 100 million votes were cast during this year’s season finale.

Blog post: “You must build up trust and a relationship with the people you want help from,” Yeung writes. “American Idol has done really well because they have the judges telling the contestants and viewers what they think and they

2 Responses to “Inside Word: What Crowdsourcers Can Learn From ‘American Idol’”

  1. Kenneth Yeung

    Hi Ed – thanks for your comments. While I agree with you that American Idol is based solely on voting, I think there may be some misunderstanding what point I was trying to make. During the shows, the judges offer their critique but the "crowd" – the American public – is able to offer their suggestions to who they think should be the next winner.

    When I wrote this blog post, I looked up what the definition of "crowdsourcing" is and this is what I came up with:

    "A neologism for the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people or community in the form of an open call."

    I agree with your comment that if an entity (by which I assume you mean company) has an effective customer service analytics and feedback mechanism, they can respond to their customer demands. That's a very accurate statement and all companies should have something like that on hand. However, I'm not advocating the use of crowdsourcing to help make all the decisions in the company. My example of crowdsourcing using American Idol was just one situation where it was applicable. Not all companies are able to use crowdsourcing, nor should they.

    May I recommend my blog post for further discussion as I do go on about more business aspects relating to crowdsourcing and American Idol that may offer some thoughts?

    http://blog.thelettertwo.com/2009/06/27/what-american-idol-can-teach-us-about-crowdsourcing/

    Thanks again for your comment. I look forward to continued discussions about this topic.

  2. ed dunn

    American Idol is not crowdsourcing. It seems the buzzword "crowdsourcing" is being applied to the American Idol in a forceful manner.

    American Idol is based solely on voting.

    The concept of "crowdsourcing" sounds booty-backwards and irrelevant.

    If an entity has effective customer service analytics and feedback mechanism, they can respond to their customer demands.

    Let's entertain LinkedIn for example as I don't know the true details. If the consumer wanted LinkedIn in another language, they would have demanded it – why is LinkedIn "assigning a task" or "crowdsourcing" to their customers?

    Even if LinkedIn provides bad translation as original content, they should get data of negative customer response/feedback to know how to take corrective action.