Crowdsourcing, according to Wikipedia “is a neologistic compound of "crowd" and "outsourcing" for the act of taking tasks traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing them to a group of people or community, through an "open call" to a large group of people (a crowd) asking for contributions.” This act of outsourcing a crowd can be used for many different purposes. The use of crowdsourcing can have both positive and negative effects, but if used in an appropriate way it can be very powerful.
The article “10 examples of how crowdsourcing is changing the world” from The Social Path contained examples of how crowdsourcing can have an extremely postive impact. The author describes 10 different sites that use crowdsourcing to help with a variety of tasks like scientific research, marketing products and assisting with various projects. The crowdsourcing efforts to assist with scientific research are extremely powerful and can have a tremendously positive impact in the world. Harnessing the power of potentially millions of people can help further research much quicker than any supercomputer. This type of work has the capability of saving lives (Fold.it) or helping us all have a greater understanding of the world around us (BioMapping).
The Seattle Times article on the use of Google Wave to assist in the investigations of the Lakewood officer shooting described an interesting use of technology to help solve a problem, but had the potential for some very serious negative repercussions. The amount of real-time information regarding the suspect and crime available to the 500 Wave participants was astounding. Fortunately the participant level was quite low. Once Google Wave, or other tools like it, hits mainstream and is available to anyone this kind of journalism has the potential to lead to some serious problems. People interested in swift justice and prone to vigilantism would have location and suspect information at their fingertips. Criminals could take advantage of areas that are temporarily chaotic because of events relating to another crime and would have information for ideal areas to target. It will become very important for media and law enforcement to use these connecting tools in a responsible manner so that their use doesn’t cause additional harm.
Crowdsourcing has tremendous potential to have a very positive effect on the world. Since these connecting technologies are still relatively new it will take some time and practice to ensure that they are utilized in a responsible manner.