This Week in Crowdsourcing – 3 Things to Know

August 22, 2014 Ben Kerschberg


This week was great in terms of A+ coverage of crowdsourcing and related topics. Here are three articles you shouldn’t miss.

(1) Can we predict the outcome of Supreme Court cases?

Let’s see what our friends over at Vox have to say about the matter:

Three scholars — South Texas College of Law’s Josh Blackman, Michigan State’s Daniel Martin Katz, and Bommarito Consulting’s Michael Bommarito —  have built a model that comes close. As Blackman noted in a blog post announcing the model, it “correctly identifies 69.7% of the Supreme Court’s overall affirm and reverse decisions and correctly forecasts 70.9% of the votes of individual justices across 7,700 cases and more than 68,000 justice votes.”

The link above goes to the scholars’ article on SSRN.

Ben’s Take: Supreme Court prognosticators will tell you that it’s an uncertain science at best and that the house almost always wins, so to speak. The collective wisdom or fractious divides within the Supreme Court and its nine Justices are difficult for even the best appellate litigators to discern. Why is this important? For example, financial institutions that have a position in a party to a case — or, for that matter, in any company that might be affected — sit on the edge of their seats waiting for these opinions to be handed down. This is high stakes business.  Imagine that a global investment bank has a $100 million position in Company X. Through data science — and particularly predictive analytics, i.e. running algorithms against huge data sets to infer actionable intelligence — it can predict with 62% certainty that Company X is about to lose a landmark Supreme Court case. Does the bank liquidate its position? Who knows.

(2) The real drivers of innovation.

Lisa Earl McLeod of My Journal Courier (Jacksonville, Illinois) posted a thoughtful piece about innovating for good causes. She used as her examples two innovators that one might not have put in the same bucket, but it turns out that they have something special in common. McLeod writes of Alexander Graham Bell and Pherrell Williams:

(Bell)’s wife was deaf, as was his mother. He had conceived of the idea of “electronic speech” while visiting his mother in Canada. Bell’s Noble Purpose was to help the deaf. His endless experiments with hearing devices eventually culminated in Bell being awarded the first U.S. patent for the telephone in 1876.

The telephone wasn’t invented because Bell sat in a room trying to figure out how to make money. He was trying to solve a problem for people he loved.

(Williams): Going back and listening to Stevie Wonder songs and Steely Dan songs, you’d see that Donald Fagen had a purpose. He had an intention. Stevie Wonder was really singing about something. He was trying to say something. Pharrell says now he wants his music to lift people up.

Shifting from ego to Noble Purpose has resulted in Pharrell’s most popular work to date. You can’t listen to the radio for more than 20 minutes without hearing “Happy,” and the 24-hour long-form video is a creative breakthrough.

Ben’s Take: I read about amazing crowdsourcing projects that push the envelope in ways we might not imagine. Work on the International Space Station; Asteroid Hunting; paradigm shifts in immunogenomics at Harvard Medical School. The number of “think big” projects is long, both in terms of our work with the government and clients such as DARPA; HP; Honeywell; eBay; Ferguson; Facebook; and Otis Elevator, which used crowdsourcing to build a CRM application that changed the way it communicates with customers, solidifying Otis’ status as an industry leader.

(3) The enterprise meets crowdsourcing.

Heather Clancy over at ZDNet wrote a really nice piece that prominently mentions Appirio and its community. Clancy’s piece is divided into three sections: (i) enterprise adoption of crowdsourcing; (ii) so called “rocket science” challenges that the Appirio community takes on regularly; and (iii) intra-enterprise projects aimed at knowledge sharing. The first interests me most. According to Richard Swart, a researcher at U.C. Berkeley and author of a World Bank report about the trend:

About a year ago, the amount that companies were starting to raise started dramatically increasing. We started seeing big companies (leverage crowdsourcing). The common theme is engagement and market awareness. Something that helps align their project with social good, while leveraging crowd wisdom.

Daily crowdsourcing news tends to focus on two things: startups leveraging the model in order to tap into talent with a price model to which they would not otherwise have access; and “save humanity” projects. In some cases, they overlap, as do commercial projects mentioned by Swart. There’s much more to the story. Appirio has worked with companies such as those mentioned above. These companies have a variety of goals, including: (i) innovate quickly (ii) using the wisdom of the crowds. As traditional consultancy models fall by the wayside, these clients will have the opportunity to leverage cloud-powered open innovation platforms to gain access to experts all over the world. Within five to ten years, every enterprise — from the Fortune 100 to ambitious startups — will be at a severe disadvantage if they’re not looking outside their four walls to solve their most difficult problems.


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