People Have the Power


…sang Patty Smith in the far 1988.

Apparently after less than 20 years her dreaming in- her– dreaming started to become reality.

In June 2006 The Wired magazine published an article written by Jeff Howe, The Rise of Crowsourcing.

Thanks to the development of Web 2.0, many discussion groups and networks of people with common interests peeped up.

Web 2.0 is the network as platform, spanning all connected devices; Web 2.0 applications are those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: delivering software as a continually-updated service that gets better the more people use it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users, while providing their own data and services in a form that allows remixing by others, creating network effects through an “architecture of participation,” and going beyond the page metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver rich user experiences.” (O’Reilly, 2005)

Photographers, directors, software developers, artists, musicians, psychologists, social workers, engineers, designers and many others- either professional or not- came up in the Web with dozens of communities.

Howe underlined that “distributed labor networks” were ”using the Internet to exploit the spare processing power of millions of human brains.” (Howe, 2006)

opensource_logoIn a few years hundreds of user-generated content platforms born, like Forums, Wikis, Blogs, Video Sharing Platforms, APIs and the powerful and comprehensive Social Networks.

The creativity of the word citizens discovered a place where it could improve itself, be spread and shared.

“Welcome to the age of the crowd”, Howe said.

The Open Source movement is a clear example of the power of the shared knowledge.

In 2004 Steven Weber, in his The Success of Open Source, defined its rules:

  • Source code must be distributed with the software or otherwise made available for no more than the cost of distribution.
  • Anyone may redistribute the software for free, without royalties or licensing fees to the author.
  • Anyone may modify the software or derive other software from it, and then distribute the modified software under the same terms.” (Weber, 2004)


When the Multiuser, Multitasking, Portable and Open Operative System Unix started to be diffused worldwide, as it was massively used by programmers, its creators Richie and Thompson found a programmers’ manual to be necessary. And they fixed its first version with an innovative feature: it listed “each subprogram with an owner, the person principally responsible for writing and maintaining that particular block of code”. (Weber, 2004)

(For the entire history of Open Source see Weber, 2004, p. 20.)

It could be clear to understand that Unix inspired the Open Source Initiative.

On February 28th, 2008, in Palo Alto, California, during a strategy session and after a brainstorming the “open source” label was created, originally suggested by Christine Peterson, after the release of the Netscape (see also Mozilla Foundation) source code.

The conferees underlined the intention of creating and improving the source code by participating in an engaged community (OSI, 2012). According to that, Howe asserts that “the open source software movement proved that a network of passionate, geeky volunteers could write code just as well as the highly paid developers at Microsoft or Sun Microsystems” (Howe, 2006) . It underlined the power of connected people.

Year by year the Open Source trend spread itself by the Internet thanks to the massive number of programmers and tech-people who embraced  its thoughts, and many new collaborative communities came up.

If at the beginning all these active web-based groups of creative, expert and professional people were not considered by most of the industries, the power of those people was so evident that even the old- line businesses started to look at them.

“For the last decade or so, companies have been looking overseas, to India or China, for cheap labor. But- at that time –  it didn’t matter anymore where the laborers were – they might have been down the block, they might have been in Indonesia – as long as they were connected to the network. The labor wasn’t always free, but it costed a lot less than paying traditional employees. It was not outsourcing; it was crowdsourcing. (Howe, 2006).

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One of the first examples of this new kind of community was iStochphoto, a website used for free image-sharing used by a group of graphic designers: a marketplace for the work of amateur photographers.
To come out with a definition, looking on the Crowdsourcing Blog, at least two should be considered:After that a lot of online based companies grew up, some more open than others, like Wikipedia, and some focused on business, like eBay. All those initiatives have in common their core: the Users’ Content. Without it, they couldn’t exist.

  1. The White Paper one: “the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.”
  2. The SoundByte one: “the application of Open Source principles to fields outside of software.

According to the Blog, Crowdsourcing could also take the form of peer-production (when the job is performed collaboratively), but is often undertaken by sole individuals. The crucial prerequisite is the use of the open call format and the large network of potential laborers.

But why nowadays this concept is crucial?

Ross Dawson, in his Getting results from crowds, says that “Implicit in the idea of crowdsourcing is the ability to create value that transcends individual contributions, crystallizing collective insights through structured aggregation. For example competitions, prediction markets, idea filtering, and content rating are all mechanisms by which collective contributions can create better outcomes than individuals or small groups”. (Dawson and Bynghall, 2011)


Every kind of marketing could benefit from using a crowdsourcing strategy.

Furthermore, In Dawson’s vision the Web 2.0 generated tools to create valuable, emergent outcomes from mass participation: this means that now for everyone there is access to technologies, structures and platforms which can convert the ‘wisdom of crowds’ and collective intelligence into reality.

In those days of economic  crisis, companies are forced to minimize their expenses and to optimize the time of their production. Crowdsourcing could be a key to survive the economic crash. People now really have the power.

Nevertheless D’Artagnan fist told us: all for one, one for all.


3 thoughts on “People Have the Power

  1. faupia says:

    In your post “people have the power” is equivalent to “consumers have the power”. Anyway, do you not agree that “people” has a meaning wider than “consumers”, i.e. the power you write of is bounded into market system and does not extend itself to social and/or political system as in Patty Smith’s aim?

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