Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Future is the Crowd


This is a video that I've seen a few years ago, but I happened to just suddenly casually think about it again and the part that got me really, really interested is from 7.28 onwards.

A lot of people are coming out and saying that the future is "big data", but I think that the future is in the power of crowds. People like to use the word crowdsourcing, but I think that crowd technology is more all encompassing.

In the video, the examples he gave about Apache servers, Linux OS and Wikipedia are classic examples of open-sourced collaborations.

However, I do not think that open-sourced collaborations are the only way to tap into the power of crowds, as recent development in "crowd technology" has proven.

Ironically enough, I realized this when I was watching CNBC about a month ago (ironic because CNBC is fos). They were talking about Airbnb and Uber and that really got me thinking.

Both Airbnb and Uber are basically the exact same business model, but applied to a suitable industry and carefully managed to adapt so that they could succeed. They both did the same thing and created the same thing.

1) The assets that they are capitalizing does not belong to them (belongs to the individuals in the crowd)
2) The assets are not being fully utilized by the individual
3) The "slack" in capacity is able to be defined and sold
4) Consumers see value in the "slack"
5) They create a gathering point / marketplace to help individuals sell the "slack" and consumers purchase it


Let's break it down by company. Airbnb first:
1) Assets being used but not owned by them: Living space / houses / rooms
2) Assets not being fully utilized: Vacation home / spare rooms / travelling for extended periods
3) The "slack" can be sold: Living space and duration of stay is clearly defined and can be customized
4) Value of the "slack": Prices are lower to commercial offerings and options are flexible to personal needs
5) Marketplace: A website is born allowing users to list free spaces they have to people who want to rent those spaces


Now, Uber:
1) Assets being used but not owned by them: Cars
2) Assets not being fully utilized: Time when car is not being used for primary purpose
3) The "slack" can be sold: The time and convenience of private transportation
4) Value of the "slack": Prices are lower to commercial offerings and can be easier to obtain service
5) Marketplace: An app is born allowing users to offer rides to people who are willing to pay for it

Both Airbnb and Uber are really, really, really good business ideas in my opinion. They have managed to monetize something that could not have been monetized before. They are asset-light because they don't own the assets, they also don't need to maintain the assets or have large costs for upkeep. They have created a marketplace for themselves that serves a need while they pretty much just risklessly collect commission from establishing and keeping the their marketplace the #1 place for "buyers" and "sellers" to meet.

Can you think of other examples of "crowd technology"? The crowd-funding arena is a prime example with too many examples based on geography. Crowd-lending is slowly becoming a thing, but essentially it works based on the same principles.

If you actually broaden your search and also look for crowd technology that doesn't involve money, you will find some interesting things.


Ushahidi, as introduced by this TED talk, is an information gathering crowd sourcing project to help collate, curate, prioritize and manage important data and news. This was used in many crisis situations and they use the crowd to help them. All they did was to establish a place for the crowd to gather.


On a lighter note, some of you might know that I am learning another language. While I am taking classes, the power of the internet as a supplement to classroom learning is amazing. Lang-8 is a website that allows users to use the power of the crowd to help with language learning. An individual can go on the site to either learn a new language, or correct work submitted by users that are learning his native language. The more an individual of the crowd corrects work by other users, the higher the odds that someone will check his own work. Essentially, you are getting a horde of native speakers to correct your spelling and grammar in exchange for effortlessly correcting simple sentences.

The outcome of crowd technology does not purely have to be for profits. As long as the users of the crowd gathering service is able to benefit by helping each other, it creates a surplus in the system. Without the gathering point, there would be no such exchanges happening, at least no where on the scale made possible by these market place creators.

I think that the future is in the crowd, which involves all of us. I am excited for the future to see what other things in our lives can crowd technology be applied to. We live in exciting times people, exciting times, I tell you!

Does anyone have any interesting examples of crowd technology? Does anyone want to invite me to a start-up that involves crowd technology? Haha!

1 comment:

  1. https://www.prosper.com/welcome/how-it-works/ - lending direct to borrowers. Used to be direct, seems like a bank is now involved...

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