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Crowdsourcing and open source

May - 6 - 2009
Nicole C. Engard
Crowdsourcing

I am reading an awesome book right now – Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business by Jeff Howe. I has read through bits of the book a few months back while waiting for my hubby to pick up a new RPG :) and liked what I saw.

Howe talks about the movement we’re seeing on the web these days – the movement from a few experts working in their field to thousands of amateurs working in many fields. The book itself is well worth reading cover to cover, but the part that I’m clinging to is the correlation between crowdsourcing and open source.

Crowdsourcing has it genesis in the open source movement in software. The development of the Linux operating system proved that a community of like-minded peers was capable of creating a better product than a corporate behemoth like Microsoft. Open source revealed a fundamental truth about humans that had gone largely unnoticed until the connectivity of the Internet brought it into high relief: labor can often be organized more efficiently in the context of a community than it can in the context of the corporation. The best person to do a job is the one who most wants to do that job; and the best people to evaluate heir performance are their friends and peers who, by the way, will enthusiastically pitch in to improve the final product, simply for the sheer pleasure of helping one another and creating something beautiful from which they all will benefit. (p.8)

There are many great passages like this throughout the book and that’s why I’m recommending it to those who attend my open source classes as a way to learn about open source without having to read the techie books (which are also great – but sometimes hard for librarians to wrap their heads around) like The Cathedral and the Bazaar. In addition to learning about the community and philosophy behind open source, readers will learn to understand the way people are interacting with information on the web – and the fact that librarians aren’t the only experts out there – we need to start tapping into the knowledge and skills that are locked up in our patrons.


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