Crowdsource

Crowdsource

Google gets the crowd to work

Crowdsource is a Google app that uses contributions from its users to refine the company's Internet services. By completing a series of brief microtasks -- most of them no more than a few seconds each -- users help Google improve the accuracy of its translation, handwriting recognition, mapping and other services. You can do as little or as much as you like, which is good news considering that these microtasks are really all there is to the app. View full description

PROS

  • Simple, clean interface
  • Contributes to effectiveness of Google internet services
  • Interesting behind-the-scenes peek at algorithm

CONS

  • Little depth
  • No incentive system

Crowdsource is a Google app that uses contributions from its users to refine the company's Internet services. By completing a series of brief microtasks -- most of them no more than a few seconds each -- users help Google improve the accuracy of its translation, handwriting recognition, mapping and other services. You can do as little or as much as you like, which is good news considering that these microtasks are really all there is to the app.

Using Crowdsource is simple: when you start, the app will ask you which languages you're fluent in. Once you've selected them, you can choose which task you want to help with. Once you've picked a task -- you can go back later and do others if you prefer -- you'll be asked to do a series of small jobs that help improve Google's algorithms. For instance, you might be asked to determine whether or not translations from one of your chosen languages are correct. You might be asked to transcribe text off an image or type in a phrase that appears in a handwriting sample. Most of these are simple (although the handwriting samples aren't always perfect), and each one only takes a few seconds.

The benefits

If you use any of the relevant Google services, such as Maps or Translate, you should immediately be able to see the benefit to users. Although Google's automated algorithms are very effective, they aren't perfect, and this app essentially harnesses the minds of its users to fill in the gaps. The result is -- ideally, anyway -- a better user experience for the many people who rely on these Google services every day. The app is an interesting example of how a company can use the distributed efforts of its users to improve its service for those users overall.

However, that's about it. The only reward Crowdsource offers is a little trophy displayed next to your name with your number of contributions next to it. You don't get anything for your work other than the feeling of satisfaction that comes from helping out other Google users. In addition, the microtasks are, unavoidably, repetitive and a little dull, although the fact that there are several different kinds of task available does help. Logging on every now and again to do the occasional task will be more enjoyable than trying to do long stretches.

Volunteering by app

Crowdsource is an innovative way for mobile users to contribute to the overall quality of some of the Internet's most commonly-used resources. The sheer scope of the project makes it interesting to see the resources that Google uses to refine its products. The app doesn't really provide any benefit for participating, either in terms of rewards or entertainment, which may limit its appeal to some people, but if you have some free space on your device and you'd like to help out the community at large, it's a simple, easy-to-use way of doing so.

Crowdsource

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Crowdsource