Thursday, January 12, 2012

Crowdsourcing motivations

Came across this nice list of motivational concepts that help power crowdsourcing efforts. Found here. Seems  many of these are, of course, powered by psychological concepts on human motivation and engagement, but also interesting to note a few of them fall into the realms of game mechanics and gamification of tasks, such as, leaderboards and badges. Of course, it is no real surprise when you consider that fundamentally the crowd is the same group of people in both cases, only in a different context of effort.

1) Monetary Compensation: The company outlines what you need to do to make money. You do it. You make some money (the amount varies widely). Rinse and repeat.
2) Points and Rewards (Non-Monetary Compensation): You do something good or you contribute in a certain way and you get some quantifiable but not directly monetizable reward. Many companies have some type of “points”. Keeping score matters here (see below for more on this). Sometimes these rewards in the end are monetizable either by exchange (turning them in for prizes) or indirectly monetizable (using points to get access to more of the system).
3) Leaderboards and Competitive Standing: Many companies let you know where you stand against your peers. Leaderboards usually reflect you standing using some other form of motivation (earned money, earned points, badges, etc.). What’s key is that you understand from the physics of the system you’re using how to positively affect your leaderboard status. Leaderboards are always public. This plays to people’s desire to compete publicly.
4) Badges and Goal Completion: The system you work with defines levels of achievement or specific goals to complete and you are awarded something (even just a graphical badge) that denotes your accomplishments. Necessary in this motivation (like leaderboards) is that the badges are publicly viewable (this is the boy scout badges concept and is basically the way Zynga learned to dominate the social gaming industry) and a core part of Foursquare’s philosophy.
5) Reputation: The system has some mechanism (usually a combination of all the other things I mentioned above) to help you express to others (and self evaluate) what your reputation is in the system. Foursquare uses the Mayor concept, Zynga uses a ranking system for player titles and Mahalo uses a martial arts belt system. All of these approaches make it easy for someone to understand that someone has a general standing greater or less than them.
6) Community: You can participate in and communicate with a community of similar people interested in similar things.
7) Collaboration: You can work collaboratively with other people on something larger than you could create yourself and the results are publicly (or at least partially publicly) on display. Your group effort is visible.

In another blog post, here are are some of the suggested things we are learning about crowds.

What we’re learning about the crowd:
1)    The crowd needs information about itself. Game mechanics has included this mechanism publicly, in the form of leaderboards, because it encourages people to compete with each other.
2)    The crowd needs information about its goals. These goals are applicable at both at the individual level and the group level. This is a very subtle point because crowd mechanics gets interesting when some individuals in a crowd are hitting the goal – but some are not.
3)    The goals need to be realistic. At Trada, the goal is an advertiser’s CPA. If this CPA is simply unattainable (you can’t get a 50% conversion rate to sales for visitors are your website on a $1000 product) then everyone loses. We’re learning a lot about making sure the advertisers’ goals are achievable as part of the “social contract” that exists between the crowd and its patron.
4)    There need to be known group incentives that are substantive compared to individual incentives. For example, a “group win” should not pay someone 1/100th of what they make when they win individually. As much as possible, the group win should be more lucrative than an individual win.
5)    Group wins, like individual wins, must reinforce a very small set of core incentive principles. In Trada, the CPA is king and almost all the rewards, achievements and levels are a reflection of this. Group rewards must be based on and reinforce the same core incentive structure.
6)    Groups must be able to anonymously socially regulate themselves. We call this the “shoulder tap” – a mechanism where someone in a group can effectively say to someone anonymously “please check your work, it’s way above the goal”. This form of social regulation goes on all the time around us. As a matter of fact, I’m writing this from the ‘quiet car’ on an Amtrak train to NYC. A “shhh” on the quiet car is an example of social regulation and in most cases is anonymous enough that someone in the group is willing to do it.
7)    There must be a rules-based regulator that can be called to enforce group behavior Any group must know that there is a 3rd party regulator (e.g. the SEC, Wikipedia administrators, CJ’s network quality group) that has the power to enforce, in a non-subjective and rules based way, final arbitration policy when someone’s behaving badly in the group (including the patron – e.g. the advertiser – in our model).
As I dive deeper into crowdsourcing, I am curious about the future of global collaboration and people sharing problems and approaches to solving those issues, especially large problems around health, environment and technology. I also like the idea of diversity of minds to generate different angles of addressing the problem being tackled. I think crowdsourcing has the potential to change how people work together and work towards the future of innovation. Of course, I appreciate it is not going to work in all instances, but I do think that for content generation and sense of community around issues and knowledge it is proving to very powerful. This investigation will be on going.

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