crowdsourcing – and now for something completely different

It’s a quirky term – crowdsourcing – but it gets the message across. More bookishly, it’s called User Created Content. And how it can work for your small business is probably still an unknown issue.

BUT – here’s a local example. There’s a local Chinese restaurant that is trying, so, so very hard, to be *more* than a place you double park in front of on the way home to get some Lo Mein and Pot Stickers. Business was slow at the tiny restaurant and the owners wondered how to make themselves unique.

So, one day, in the window, in great big print, was the sign “We’re asking YOU to come up with combination plates – YOU will design the next menu!” For a place with little business, there were hundreds of responses – some by email, some by hand  written notes. Samples were put in the window and another notice went up “TIME TO VOTE FOR OUR NEW MENU!”

Now, to be fair, I haven’t seen the new menu and I’m inherently skeptical that it will be a *radical* change from the menu of yore – BUT – the point is, the restaurant owners did something so incredibly obvious – they asked their customers what they wanted. AND, they made an ‘event’ out of that question (unlike, say, corporate suggestion boxes in lunchrooms). The owners COULD have taken long looks at their menu, or driven around to other neighborhood Chinese take-out places and made notes, and they could have done the process by themselves. The ‘tried and true’ approach.  But they didn’t. They trusted the collective opinion of the people who were customers. They ‘outsourced’ the work to ‘the crowd.’

Hence, ‘crowd sourcing’

Just for fun, here’s another example of crowdsourcing at work. A couple of authors have been experimenting with planting a ‘seed’ of an idea for a short story – as a Twitter ‘tweek’ (so, there’s the 140 character maximum) and asking people to write and complete the story. The article about two of these experiments is here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/oct/23/authors-experiment-twitterfiction

AND, the bit-by-bit crowdsourced story, here:    http://bluekey.9mp.com/N2tqX

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