Web 2.0 led to many phenomena that changed our lives and crowdsourcing is definitely one of them. But if you are considering going the crowdsourcing route to get your development work completed (or any other work for that matter), then take minute to consider the pros and cons.

Crowdsourcing, Outsourcing and Wikinomics

First, it was outsourcing. Then outsourcing branched into crowdsourcing. According to one of the most popular definitions of crowdsourcing, as defined by Jeff Howe, crowdsourcing is “the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call.”

So what is the difference between outsourcing and crowdsourcing? With outsourcing you choose one person/company to do the job, while with crowdsourcing everybody who wants to -- and qualifies, of course --can take part. You may also be asking, what about the difference between crowdsourcing and wikinomics?The answer is quite simple. While crowdsourcing involves compensation, with Wikinomics, money doesn't generally change hands. 

Advantages of Crowdsourcing

There is no doubt that crowdsourcing has become very popular, and there must be a reason for this. In fact, there are numerous advantages but with only three listed below, it still becomes clear just what this business model has to offer.

  • Numerous ideas from numerous people: A large pool of participants leads to more ideas, which makes it likely that among the flood of ideas there are some especially smart ones.

  • Cheap: Similar to outsourcing, crowdsourcing is used to cut costs. When you don't have to employ people and pay them a wage, whether they are working or not, it definitely lowers costs. 

  • Fast: Basically, if you use crowdsourcing to get a job done, it will take less time to find the right person to do the job -- in fact it could be almost immediately. The pool of potential pros for the job is large, and chances are that somebody will be available right away.

Disadvantages of Crowdsourcing

In addition to its advantages, crowdsourcing certainly has a downside as well. Here are three of them.

  • Quality could be questionable: When you hire numerous people to do a job, it could easily lead to lack of consistency, even if they are pros. If you aren't lucky enough to hire the professionals, then what you might get could make your worst nightmares pale by comparison.

  • An unreliable way to get a job done: Since often crowdsourcing is done on a “Best effort” basis, you can't count on the fact that you will automatically get what you need, when you need it. If quality and deadlines are not of paramount importance for a particular task, then these two disadvantages are no issues for you.

  • Confidentiality: The fact that you post your task on the Net for everybody to see is enough to blow any confidentiality away. Of course, you can post a very detailed task description without revealing any (or at least not much) confidential information. Still, for many vital projects, the lack of confidentiality with crowdsourcing is too much to accept.

The disadvantages of crowdsourcing are quite serious but for many projects they don't matter at all.

Only you can decide if the advantages of crowdsourcing outweigh the disadvantages, but hopefully this information has provided you with a few things to add to your consideration when making your decision.