The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Is Crowdsourcing Simply Democracy With A Snappier Name?
March 5, 2010, 6:02 am
Filed under: Comment

I’m going to be a bastard here, but could you answer the question I’ve posed with a simple ‘YES’ or ‘NO’.

I know few things are in black and white, but all things considered, do you agree with my statement or not.

Whatever your response, thank you – I’m hoping it will give me a bit of clarity regarding an issue that’s been bothering me for a while.

67 Comments so far
Leave a comment


For starters, in democracy everyone gets an equal vote and can change things every term. Also people are prepared to die on pursuit of democratic freedoms, less so for crowdsourcing freedoms.

Comment by John


in as much as they are both an illusion of people power, and really only allow you to choose the color (out of prechosen colors) with which you can color between the lines the powers that be have already drawn up..

benevolent despotism, it’s the only thing that will save us…

Comment by niko

I’ve just heard a lovely analogy about the sad realities of democracy …

“Would you like to be a sheep voting on what to eat for dinner with 2 wolves?”

The irony, is in modern democracy, you don’t even need 2 wolves to skew the results, just one rich and powerful one.

Comment by Rob

everyone sticking to the one word brief then. proves how shit briefs are and how bollocks m&c one word equity concept is.

dodds makes an impassioned fucking speech about the the true meaning of democracy even if it reflects a completely different fucking time based on modern democratic elections but most of the fuckers who scream about crowdsourcing havent got the depth of a fucking puddle so theres no fucking way theyd even understand what dodds is saying let alone agree with him so campbell my democratic answer (which is slightly more important then every other fuckers democratic answer) is yes.

is that the answer that unlocks your incredible sulk?

Comment by andy@cynic

A cynical yes, agreeing with Niko,

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

cynical yes? youre on the right blog then.

Comment by andy@cynic


Because the way many fans and “experts” speak about crowdsourcing has no resemblance to John’s more defined explanation of democracy (and Andy’s comment about the way modern democracy manifests itself).

Comment by Pete

No – it’s more like communism. Illusion of fraternity, but overseen by a dictatorship

Comment by Simon Kendrick

Everyone has made interesting and valid comments but placed in a corner and forced to choose I would respond in the affirmative.
Is there anything wrong with that? Is there anything wrong with adopting a crowdsourcing/democratic approach to business, or do I to assume you will be explaining all at some point in the future?

Comment by George


depends how you realise the ideas of democracy and crowdsourcing though, doesnt it.

Comment by peggy

What’s democracy? I thought I knew but Simon’s description sounds just like the system we have here but he called it by that red commie bastard name.

Will the CIA be knocking on my door?

Comment by Billy Whizz

the kgb billy, the kgb. but on simons door.

Comment by peggy

thats my fucking boy billy.

for all the sick fucks out there, billy is not a boy i fuck or a boy i fathered. perverts.

Comment by andy@cynic

What’s no mean? I’ve only ever heard yes, mainly from hot chicks in bars around 2am.

You didn’t need to clarify Andy but I’m still glad you did.

Comment by Billy Whizz

reading all the comments maybe campbell should ask:

is crowdsourcing simply the realities of how modern day fucking democracy is conducted and executed with a snappier name?

is crowdsourcing simply focus groups with a snappier name?

have to do everything for that boy. near 40 year old boy. but at least he doesnt wear slippers.

Comment by andy@cynic

now i would almost say no. also to number 2. blogs are an example of crowdsourcing though, on a small scale, from my pov. id call them democratic. does anyone see blogs as some sort of open focus groups also? thats too much for my brain now. ha.

Comment by peggy

I’m not really going to say much so I can hear everyones comment – however I do think blogs are far less democratic than whatever supposed definition of crowdsourcing is.

Not because of the scale – because in many cases, I’d say certain blogs “reach” more people than many of the supposed sample sizes for crowdsourcing [Hmmmn, “sample size” and “crowdsourcing”, they just shouldn’t be in the same sentence should they!?] … but as I’ve been banging on for ages, the problems with a lot of blogs is they attract individuals/groups who share similar views and so the ability to get breadth of opinion is severly limited.

Except on this blog. Obviously. Ha.

Andy, that ‘focus group’ re-articulation is hysterical, but for the point of this exercise we’ll give that a miss.

Thanks for all the comments so far – especially the explanations of your response, some I agree with, some I think are living in the ‘purist’ [and sadly, not strictly true] category … but it’s all very interesting and I hope some more people respond, but to those who already have, thank you.

Peggy, just got your e – will be writing back very soon.

Comment by Rob

No. Democracy dilutes one great idea down to its most mediocre; it’s about finding the lowest common denominator.

Crowdsourcing is more about getting as many ideas as you can and identifying the best one (or perhaps using them all). And not paying for them.

I get the feeling ad agencies love it so much because it feels like we’re playing client in a pitch: “work as hard as you can, day and night, for a month, give us all your ideas for free, and we might choose to pay one of you, but only if you’re better than absolutely everyone else who’s done the same.”

So it’s more like theft and laziness by a different name. Or the perfect approach to project management. Take your pick.

Comment by eskimon

What I find especially amusing about ad agencies love of this method is that basically they are ultimately doing themselves out of a job – especially on the increasingly-less-rare occasion, the ideas of the ‘people’ are way better than the ideas of the overpaid, overpampered, overegoed creative community.

Comment by Rob

Oh … and hello, wonderful to have you pop by but your cred is going to take a super sharp dip now. Sorry.

Comment by Rob

It would vary on the definition of crowdsourcing you’re using though wouldn’t it Rob?

What the ANDYs did with their Jury – Yes.

Whatever eskimon is describing – No.

What eskimon has described is unfortunately what the author who coined the term had in mind. Send your problem/brief to a ton of people, have them all work individually on it, and only pay one of them.

I think: Collaboration > Democracy > Crowdsourcing

I am not sure where dictatorship fits in that equation 😀

Comment by rafik

I think it depends on your deifition of democracy, in that sense both John and Niko are right.

But in regards to adland, isn’t crowsourcing typically building a platform that allows consumers to do the work for you?

Based on most of those examples I’d have to say my answer to your quesiton is no.

Comment by Age

You see that’s the thing I’m finding amusing … the definition certain people have for crowdsourcing is opposite to what others have.

If it’s the ‘sourcing ideas from the masses’ version I would say that is quite similar to companies putting out a tender … because there is always a ‘goal’ that needs to be achieved.

If it’s the ‘actions of the people’ definition, I’d say … well, I’ll leave that up to you to guess, but the point is there are 2 different interpretations out there and regardless of whether someone has written a book or put it in wiki or spouted it at conferences, the fact there is not one single, clear and concise definition speaks volumes … unless the creator of the term is waiting for the masses to respond with the answer, ha!

Comment by Rob

My first question was going to be what definition of crowd sourcing did you have in mind when posing the question because both the definitions above have been given to me recently.

If the former I would say it has little resemblance to any form of democracy. If the latter, then I would be in agreement.

Both definitions appear to be new names for established ways of conducting business.

Comment by Lee Hill


One is a political form of government where (supposedly) every one has an equal say (one person, one vote). The second is attempt to get free ideas with the illusion of involvement and collaboration where a dictator (rob) decides which is the right answer

But interestingly, Rob is using crowd sourcing to help him decide what crowd sourcing is? Has it helped or just confused everybody even more.

Comment by martin

But regardless of the definition, are we in agreement it’s a new term for an old practice … or am I missing something?

Comment by Rob

And hello matey!

Comment by Rob

Hello rob, you have stirred up a stack of shit with this one. Nobody has a clue what democracy is or crowd sourcing.

Comment by martin

Which is part of the point I’ve been musing over … but not the main one.

But that’s coming. Oh yes.

[Cue: Evil Laugh]

Comment by Rob

Stop it Lee … you’re ruining my future rant.

Comment by Rob

Following you on twitter is like the cheat sheet to this blog sometimes

Comment by rafik

Following me on Twitter is sad. 🙂

Comment by Rob

Oh and about to talk to Sarah – at youknowwho. Any news at your end or is she waiting on you this time, hahaha!

Comment by Rob

It’s in her hands, I sent her 3 youknowwhats a day after our call. I’m guessing it’ll take some time to get an answer as she’s not the only one making a decision. Not really expecting to hear anything till next week at least.

Your post about value the other day was really interesting in that respect…

Comment by rafik

Oh yes, it’ll definitely take a bit longer given she’s trying to get the global guys in USland to cough up too.

They’re very keen, really hope we can pull this off …

Comment by Rob

No – for the peperami crowdsource (@ idea bounty) client chose the best. In the comments section tons of people were pissed because the winners were ad pro’s who had worked on other unilever brands. But the VW Happy crowd source project, it looked as if everyone got a say. Google 10^100 seemed like a hybrid of the two types – sourcing for the best ideas, mashed it up together – and tried to please the mass ‘public’ – nobody individually won, but in a way everyone.

Comment by Jacob

So people got pissed because the winners happened to be people who worked in adland? They want democracy as long as certain ‘minorities’ were discounted from the mix?

Sounds very much like the US electrol role when Bush was in power.

Comment by Rob


Comment by Marcus

Crowdsourcing is a perceived democratisation of culture.

Comment by Marcus

No. Crowd-sourcing is like picking the football pools with your mates down the pub…

Comment by fernando

As I said, democracy … or the illusion of it. 😉

Comment by Rob


It’s a talent contest run on behalf of the undecided.

Comment by Chris

Or on behalf of those who have lost faith in the talent of their supposed expert partners.

Comment by Rob

Yes. First encountered it in the construction industry where they’d run out of product ideas.

Comment by Chris

When clients realise they are still paying their agencies shitloads of money to execute some other persons idea – an idea that they got free – then the shit will fly.

Oh hang on, no it won’t – most agencies sold the value of ideas down the river years ago … preferring to make their cash on things like ‘production’, ‘client service fee’ and every now and then, ‘pointless fee-justification planning’.

Cynical? Me? Ahem.

Comment by Rob

an obfuscated invoice is a joy to write. Got a tape measure for my trouble on that occasion.

Comment by Chris

No (stuck to the brief)

Comment by northern

And Andy’s really hung up about my slippers

Comment by northern

On the subject of crowdsourcing, it’s not democracy in the truest sense, the public rarely decides, their input is simply aquired for free, then someone else decides what to do with it. Plato certainly wouldn’t approve

Comment by northern

This is 100% correct.

Comment by Marcus


Comment by Willem van der Horst

So it’s just a posh way of putting things out to tender … or in ad language, an RFP.

And I’m very proud of you sticking to the brief NP, of course you ruined it by pointing out you’d stuck to the brief then added 50 subsequent comments, but still very commendable.

And I like those trainers … but then I like Birkenstocks.

Comment by Rob

Yes – I agree with Niko’s comments…

Comment by Rob Mortimer


Comment by Charles Frith

No. Again.

And no it’s not a way of putting things out to tender. It’s just a sop to the rise of social media and a desperate attempt to appear relevant and customer-centric (though of course the crowd does not necessarily comprise your customers).

Comment by John

I’m not saying it’s a way of putting things out to tender … I’m saying it’s similar to putting things out to tender.

Based on your definition of crowdsourcing, someone asks people for ideas based on a certain goal or platform … to which they respond in whatever manner they feel fits.

Whilst a tender may be more focused on the cost to deliver a particular task, there is still the opportunity for people to offer alternate methodologies to get the job done so as to ultimately bring their cost in lower.

Different. And yet similar.

Maybe the RFP is a better comparisson … but then that is still based on #1 version of what crowdsourcing is, there are people who have a very different interpretation – though obviously they’re wrong because Mr Dodds thinks its the other one. 🙂

Comment by Rob

You’re talking about the advertising’s diluted version of crowdsourcing.

The original crowdsourcing is wikipedia.


Comment by John

What you don’t realise John is what you’ve just said is actually part of the thing I’ve been musing about and getting angry about.

So thanks.

Comment by Rob

What you forget is that I am all knowing.

Comment by John

Yes, if you mean democracy in the sense that Nico described. No, in the strict sense á la northern.

Comment by Thomas Wagner

Interesting experiment in this coming elections – a whole party based around crowdsourcing as democracy.

Comment by TS

Comment by TS

Niko described – sadly – reality, NP and Doddsy described purity.

Oh dear, have I just started another nightmare? Ha.

Comment by Rob

What do i win

Comment by Niko

And a big “hello” and “welcome” to the new commentators … really nice to have you pop in. Excuse my rudeness, I’m late to be shouted at but I hope you come back soon so we can have a proper errrrm, chat.

Ta-ra all.

Comment by Rob

what’s that? can you crowdsurf to Chinese Democracy? sure, if you want to.. but it’s not a very good song!

Comment by lauren

Leave a Reply