All About Crowdsourcing: Free Course Spotlight

The future is here and it's crowded. In this lecture from Stanford University's Human-Computer Interaction seminar, learn how companies are using online crowdsourcing to get tasks done.

Stanford University CS 547: Human-Computer Interaction Seminar

Today's lecture begins a series of lectures from Stanford University about the design of human-computer interaction. Stanford graduate and founder of CrowdFlower, a crowdsourcing company explains how his company and others are harnessing the world to get small tasks done. According to Biewald, the key to crowdsourcing is to offer workers small tasks that can be completed quickly. Many companies use crowdsourcing; Mechanical Turk is one of the most well-known companies that connected employers with potential workers from the cloud. The variety of workers is astounding - it ranges from security guards completing quick tasks during downtime to people in refugee camps. Biewald says that crowdsourcing is a trend of the future - decide for yourself here.

Course Overview and Minute-by-Minute Guide

Minute Description
6:56 Introductory comments end and guest lecturer, Lukas Biewald, is introduced
8:10 Lukas Biewald starts speaking
17:37 New lecture section: Outsourcing Online
20:57 New lecture section: Labor Pools
32:13:00 New lecture section: Issues with Quality Control
40:36:00 New lecture section: Ethical Issues
43:32:00 Questions and answers

Minute-by-Minute Course Notes

Rushed for time? Use this guide to find the most interesting parts of the lecture.

Minute Description
12:19 Discussion of how surveys can be used for crowdsourcing
15:00 Neat study about using crowdsourcing to create music
15:50 Discussion of study showing people's perceptions of airlines
19:07 History of crowdsourcing
19:51 Discussion of study showing pay vs. the perceived fun of the work
21:11 The story behind Mechanical Turk's name
22:58 Info on the demographics of people who do online tasks and why they do it
24:05:00 Reasons why people do jobs online
24:40:00 Discussion of pay rates
25:18:00 Details on locations of people working for companies like Mechanical Turk.
26:09:00 Discussion of companies that pay with virtual currency
28:40:00 Discussion of unique application of crowdsourcing
30:09:00 Info on ways in which game-like interface keeps people engaged
30:30:00 Discussion of reasons for businesses to use crowdsourcing.
32:50:00 Discussion of quality control methods
37:20:00 Info on worker quality
41:23:00 Discussion of some objections to crowdsourcing
42:31:00 Info on worker satisfaction

Lecture Question and Answer Session

Biewald took questions after giving his main lecture. The questions below are paraphrased; jump to the ones that most interest you.

Time Question
45:00:00 Is there a way to get to a random sample of people who are doing the work?
47:23:00 Is there any kind of intellectual or more sophisticated work that can be done with crowdsourcing?
50:00:00 You would expect more workers from countries, like India, where there is a bigger population than the U.S. Why are more workers from US and smaller countries like the Philippines?
51:05:00 Is there a way for sites to ask for volunteers and offer work without pay?
52:35:00 What's the tax situation for crowdsourcing, and what are the labor laws being followed
54:39:00 Why doesn't Biewald like conducting surveys via crowdsourcing?
56:10:00 Has Biewald thought of using ensemble methods for improving results?
57:15:00 With the unemployment rate so high, should people consider taking work via this method? How will crowdsourcing impact unemployment rate?
58:45:00 Is there actually money to be made for workers?
59:25:00 Can crowdsourcing bring work to countries where the minimum wage is already much lower than in the U.S.?
1:00:17 Where does Biewald think crowdsourcing is going?
1:01:28 Where is the industry going?
1:02:54 What's the trend in the types of tasks that will be available?
1:05:05 What are some of the advantages of crowdsourcing other than using software to manage tasks?
1:07:01 What is the Venn diagram of people who do work, people who are employers, and people who are both?
1:07:44 What commissions do crowdsourcing companies take from clients?
1:07:55 What are the ways used to keep suspicious people from doing work?
1:08:33 Can crowdsourcers take a variety of different tasks that are fun for short periods of time and switch them up to keep people engaged for longer (break up tasks into small bits)?
1:09:56 How does the quality of the crowd compete with individual skills?
1:11:01 How do employers decide price to assign to a task?

The Learn.org Rating: B+

This course provided an interesting look into a new trend social media and employment. Check it out if you're interested in earning money online or using crowdsourcing websites to outsource work for your company. If you're pursuing a bachelor's degree in business or an MBA, this course could be a great supplement to your regular studies. We gave it a B+ because it provided a mostly one-sided view of the crowdsourcing industry.

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