Web 2.0 & Crowdsourcing: From Sideshow to the Big Tent?

by Rick Goossen

What is Web 2.0? Is it a sideshow for small companies or a worthwhile strategy for the mainstream? KPMG hosted a session last night in Vancouver on The Corporate Adoption of Web 2.0. The evening session introduce some of the core concepts behind Web 2.0 for an audience that may be familiar with the terms but not with the core principles and whether they have value for large companies.

One featured speaker was Mike Sikorsky, CEO, Cambrian House, Calgary who addressed, “How crowdsourcing is changing the way companies do business.”

Sikorsky, in his inimitable style, explained the difference between two ways to tap into the crowd: “implicit” is by people clicking on links and “explicit” which is by deliberately voting in response to a posed question. Thus, people may be contributing to the wisdom of the crowd without being aware.

He distinguished different methods of pplication: from tapping the wisdom of crowds (which can be quite passive), to participation (which requires a crowd of interested people) and commerce (where there is some potential to make money). Sikorsky gave examples of larger companies (such as Starbucks) that are integrated crowd participation into their websites.

Another speaker was Leonard Brody, a partner of Vancouver success story, NowPublic, who focused on “The truth about user generated contents and the future of news.” Brody gave his customary candid and insightful views on his sector and the web in general.

He noted that the news business has been devastated by the internet. The challenge for traditional news organizations, such as newspaper chains, is that the source of news is no longer controlled. Brody explained how it’s all about eyes and ears and experience. For NowPublic the assumption is there is almost always somewhere to record the news when it happens. Their objective is to build the next generation of Reuters/AP.

In this fast-changing environment it is hard to define new companies. NowPublic is a good example. They are often referred to as a “citizen journalism” site. Brody points out that this is a term invented by journalists. He explained that NowPublic is not in the news business - they are instead a “global news intelligence network.” They have cracked the code on how to gather information.

NowPublic functions because society has evolved from a “witnessing population” to a “participating population.” People are involved in the process. Brody notes that, “The events of our time will be captured by amateurs.”

Another insightful comment was that our society has gone from “hyper local” to “hyper personal;” in other words, geography is not the determining factor in what people are interested in. Instead, they want news that relates to their interests. As an example, Brody cited Facebook which dominates news feeds—people only get the news that they think is important.

One of the issues that come up around Web 2.0 is to determine why people are involved. Brody admitted that if it was just about money, then the tasks of companies would be easer. However there are varied motivations. The list according to Brody: money (this is the smallest); vanity and ego; discussion about a specific issue; accidental bystanders; and people who are simply nuts (the last was a crowd favourite).

This KPMG event session is a positive development that reflects how web principles are seeping into the mainstream. This is a standard method of the diffusion of innovation. The new ideas typically appear on the fringes and then work their way into the mainstream. This is the path to “intrapreneurship”—innovation within larger organizations.

As with innovation generally, it may be a game changer in some contexts and in others it can be an additional tool. As I point out in ePreneur, Web 2.0 principles, such as crowdsourcing, may be the basis for a company (such as Cambrian House or NowPublic), but they can be a strategic tool of implementation for other companies.

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

NowPublic is a participatory news network which mobilizes an army of reporters to cover the events that define our world. In twelve short months, the company has become one of the fastest growing news organizations with thousands of reporters in over 140 countries. During Hurricane Katrina, NowPublic had more reporters in the affected area than most news organizations have on their entire... more

Cambrian House
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Launched in 2006, Cambrian House began as a crowdsourcing community using a wisdom of crowds based approach to discover new business and technology ideas. Today, Cambrian House equips other enterprises to adopt open innovation using its Chaordix™ crowdsourcing platform. Chaordix is the global standard in crowdsourced market intelligence. Chaordix uses the power of crowdsourcing to help the... more

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Rick Goossen

Rick Goossen

Rick is a lover of Web 2.0 and author of e-Preneur: From Wall Street to Wiki and Entrepreneurial Excellence: Profit from the Best Ideas of the Experts.  He has focused on entrepreneurial strategy, finance and growth for over 20 years as a serial new venture founder, a strategic advisor to high-growth companies, a lawyer, a researcher, an author, an educator, and a professional public speaker.... more

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