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HELSINKI SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS (HSE)

Department of Marketing and Management

THE FLIRT MODEL OF CROWDSOURCING


Planning and Executing Collective Customer Collaboration

Marketing
Master´s thesis
Sami Viitamäki
Spring 2008

Approved by the Council of the Department ____ / ____ 20____ and awarded
the grade_______________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________

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ABSTRACT

Innovative businesses worldwide are increasingly engaging customer collectives and


integrating their customers closely to their operations and decision-making processes
through crowdsourcing, soliciting an open invitation to participate in business
activities.

I set out in my master’s thesis build a framework for open collaboration with digital
customer communities – recently termed crowdsourcing – and as a result, the FLIRT
model was built. The model is proposed as a functional framework for identifying and
understanding the key elements for engaging digital customer communities for
company goals.

The current thesis is building on previous discussion on collaboration in business by


recognized authors such as James Surowiecki and Chris Anderson illuminating the
wider phenomenon around digitalization of consumption and the culture of
participation that this encourages. Quite naturally, I am also tapping firmly to the
academic discourse surrounding modern, open customer collaboration as conducted
by e.g. Füller et al., Ogawa and Piller, von Hippel, Jeppesen, Prahalad and
Ramaswamy, Lakhani, Nambisan, Bouras and many others.

The current thesis aims ultimately to act as a unifying theory for researchers, but one
that has solid practical applicability as a comprehensive handbook for marketing
managers and executives at large traditional companies but also entrepreneurs and
actors working with web native startups that are born directly to global competition
and also global customer collaboration.

The empirical part of the thesis consists primarily of netnography gathered from
public online discussions by industry experts, consultants, researchers and
entrepreneurs, and secondly of thematic, illustrative case examples drawn from the
most talked about crowdsourcing companies at present.

The results show that the FLIRT model indeed is a relevant, valid and timely way of
approaching the challenges posed by wide-audience customer collaboration utilizing
digital channels – or crowdsourcing – as it is now commonly known.

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TIIVISTELMÄ

Innovatiiviset yritykset kautta maailman ovat kääntäneet katseensa tiukasti


asiakkaiden entistä laajempaan, täysin avoimeen osallistamiseen niin operatiivisessa
toiminnassa kuin päätöksenteossakin digitaalisten yhteisöjen ja yhteisönkaltaisten
palvelujen kautta.

Päätin Pro Gradu -tutkielmassani keskittyä rakentamaan viitekehyksen avoimelle


asiakasyhteisöjen osallistamiselle (kansainvälisesti tunnettu nimellä crowdsourcing)
ja tämän työn tuloksena FLIRT-mallini syntyi. FLIRT-malli tunnistaa ja auttaa
ymmärtämään avainelementit, joita hyödyntämällä digitaalisten asiakasyhteisöjen
osallistamisen perusedellytykset on mahdollista ymmärtää.

Tämä tutkielma rakentaa aiemman ymmärryksen päälle nojautuen laajemman,


kulutuksen digitalisoitumisen ja osallistumisen kulttuurin valottamisessa
tunnustettujen kirjailijoiden, kuten James Surowiecki ja Chris Anderson, töihin.
Luonnollisesti pohjaan vahvasti myös modernia, avointa asiakasosallistumista
tutkivaan akateemiseen kirjallisuuteen sellaisten tutkijoiden kuten Füller, Ogawa,
Piller, von Hippel, Jeppesen, Prahalad ja Ramaswamy, Lakhani, Nambisan, ja Bouras
töiden kautta.

Tämä tutkielma tähtää lopulta olemaan eräänlainen kokoava teoria, jolla on kuitenkin
erittäin vahva sovellettavuus käytännön toimintaan. Pääkohdeyleisönä ovat alan
tutkijoiden lisäksi markkinointipäälliköt ja johtajat perinteisissä, suurissa yrityksissä,
mutta myös yrittäjät ja muut toimijat pienissä mutta jo globaaleissa web-natiiveissa
yrityksissä saavat siitä hyödyllisen käsikirjan.

Tutkielman empiirinen osa koostuu pääasiassa netnografiasta joka on toteutettu alan


asiantuntijoiden käymien julkisten online keskustelujen tutkimuksella ja toissijaisesti
käytäntöä valottavilla case-esimerkeillä joilla selvitetään spesifimpiä haasteita ja
miten alan tämän hetken johtavat yritykset niihin vastaavat.

Tulokset osoittavat, että FLIRT-malli kokonaisuudessaan on relevantti ja


ajankohtainen tapa lähestyä modernia, laajaa ja avointa asiakasosallistamista ja sen
mukanaan tuomia haasteita.

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IV
LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES
TABLES

Table 1. The Benefits of Virtual Customer Research (Dahan & Hauser, 2002) 10
Table 2. Summary of customer participation in driving company action 25
Table 3. The foundation works of the FLIRT Model and their respective areas of
contribution 30
Table 4. Alternatives for collective customer commitment (Ogawa and Piller
2006) 40
Table 5. Summary of the FLIRT model – FOCUS 59
Table 6. Summary of the FLIRT model – LANGUAGE 59
Table 7. Summary of the FLIRT model – INCENTIVES 60
Table 8. Summary of the FLIRT model – RULES 60
Table 9. Summary of the FLIRT model – TOOLS 61
Table 10. Trust hierarchy and social media (Avenue A Razorfish, 2007) 70
Table 11. Types of revenue in crowdsourcing projects. 72
Table 12. Sales targets and channels in different crowdsourcing communities 73
Table 13. Different kinds of organizational challenges recognized in the FLIRT
model 77
Table 14. The different scopes of crowdsourcing 81
Table 15. Community and time orientation in crowdsourcing 90
Table 16. Some intrinsic incentives in the FLIRT model 104
Table 17. Some extrinsic subjective incentives in the FLIRT model 106
Table 18. Some extrinsic objective incentives in the FLIRT model 108
Table 19. Four ways to manipulate the crowd (Wired 2007) 117
Table 20. The realization of propositions – FOCUS 132
Table 21. The realization of propositions – LANGUAGE 133
Table 22. Realizations of propositions – INCENTIVES 134
Table 23. Realizations of propositions – RULES 135
Table 24. Realizations of propositions – TOOLS 136
Table 25. Previous academic work and the Focus element of the FLIRT model 153
Table 26. Previous academic work and the Language element of the FLIRT
model 155
Table 27. Previous academic work and the Incentives element of the FLIRT
model 156
Table 28. Previous academic work and the Rules element of the FLIRT model 158
Table 29. Previous academic work and the Tools element of the FLIRT model 159

FIGURES

Figure 1. Categorization of communities (Orava & Perttula, 2005) 19


Figure 2. Traffic development of Wikipedia.org (Alexa) 41
Figure 3. Traffic development of the once popular subservient chicken
marketing site (Alexa) 42
Figure 4. Consumer creation on select Web 2.0 services (Hitwise 2007) 78
Figure 5. Cross-examining Scope with the constraining attributes 83
Figure 6. Ringside startup’s initiative failed because the scale of activities to
undertake was too large 84
Figure 7. Kathy Sierra’s description of the declining benefit of increasing
customer control 85

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Figure 8. Cross-examining Scale with the constraining attributes 86
Figure 9. Cross-examining Depth with the constraining attributes 91
Figure 10. Naked & Angry front page 95
Figure 11. Gene Smith’s model of types of social interaction on the web 96
Figure 12. Sonera’s Itekki Tekisin -campaign with the fictional board of judges 100
Figure 13. A LinkedIn page with the profile completedness bar on upper right 110
Figure 14. List of quality standards on iStockphoto’s site 112
Figure 15. Basic walkthrough at iStockphoto 113
Figure 16. Instructions and tips on iStockphoto 113
Figure 17. List of decline reasons of Threadless 114
Figure 18. Dein Design’s design contest hosted on Flickr 119
Figure 19. Threadless’ proprietary service 120
Figure 20. Svenskafans video contest as a hybrid service 121
Figure 21. Amazon’s visual bookshelf on Facebook 122
Figure 22. Dell’s ideastorm 123
Figure 23. Lego Digital Designer 125
Figure 24. Red Bull’s Art of the Can happens online but the sculptures are real 126
Figure 25. The FLIRT elements according to their strategic level 138
Figure 26. The FLIRT elements and sub elements in the FLIRT framework 139

VI
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Abstract ....................................................................................................................... I
Tiivistelmä ................................................................................................................ III
List of tables and figures ........................................................................................... V
Table of contents.....................................................................................................VII
1. Introduction ........................................................................................................1
1.1. Background....................................................................................................1
1.2. Objectives of the study ..................................................................................2
1.3. Research Design ............................................................................................3
1.4. Key concepts..................................................................................................4
1.5. Structure of the Study ....................................................................................5
2. Customer Participation, Open Collaboration and Co-creation .....................6
2.1. Traditional Market Research and its Shortcomings.......................................6
2.2. Lead users ......................................................................................................8
2.2.1. Lead User Performance ...........................................................................9
2.2.2. Innovation Toolkits .................................................................................9
2.3. Modern Research Methods ..........................................................................10
2.4. Towards an Open Collaboration and Co-Creation Paradigm ......................11
2.4.1. Digitalization of consumption and the Long Tail..................................11
2.4.2. The Wisdom of Crowds.........................................................................12
2.4.3. Digital Communities and Social Networks ...........................................15
2.4.4. Crowdsourcing ......................................................................................20
2.5. Founding collaboration and co-creation concepts behind the FLIRT model21
2.6. Summary: Customer Participation and Collaboration .................................24
3. The FLIRT Model of Crowdsourcing.............................................................26
3.1. Introduction to the FLIRT model.................................................................26
3.2. Focus............................................................................................................31
3.2.1. The Constraining Attributes ..................................................................31
3.2.2. The Defining Attributes.........................................................................38
3.3. Language......................................................................................................43
3.3.1. Social Objects........................................................................................44
3.3.2. Social interaction ...................................................................................45
3.3.3. Organization presence ...........................................................................46
3.4. Incentives .....................................................................................................47
3.4.1. Intrinsic incentives.................................................................................48
3.4.2. Extrinsic subjective incentives ..............................................................49
3.4.3. Extrinsic objective incentives................................................................51
3.5. Rules ............................................................................................................52
3.5.1. Rules of access and initiation ................................................................52
3.5.2. Rules of interaction and conduct ...........................................................53
3.5.3. IP transfer & legal issues.......................................................................54
3.6. Tools ............................................................................................................55
3.6.1. Platform .................................................................................................56
3.6.2. Tools of creation....................................................................................57
3.6.3. Tools of monitoring and action .............................................................58
3.7. Summary of the FLIRT model.....................................................................59
4. Methodology......................................................................................................62
4.1. Research Methodology ................................................................................62
4.1.1. Illustrative Case Examples ....................................................................62
4.1.2. Netnography ..........................................................................................64

VII
4.1.3. Netnography in the current thesis..........................................................65
5. Findings .............................................................................................................68
5.1. Focus............................................................................................................68
5.1.1. Business Needs......................................................................................70
5.1.2. Customer Participants............................................................................73
5.1.3. Organization capabilities .......................................................................75
5.1.4. Scope .....................................................................................................77
5.1.5. Scale ......................................................................................................82
5.1.6. Depth .....................................................................................................87
5.2. Language......................................................................................................92
5.2.1. Social Objects........................................................................................92
5.2.2. Social Interaction...................................................................................95
5.2.3. Company presence.................................................................................97
5.3. Incentives ...................................................................................................101
5.3.1. Intrinsic Incentives ..............................................................................103
5.3.2. Extrinsic Subjective Incentives ...........................................................104
5.3.3. Extrinsic Objective Incentives.............................................................106
5.4. Rules ..........................................................................................................108
5.4.1. Rules of access and initiation ..............................................................108
5.4.2. Rules of interaction and conduct .........................................................111
5.4.3. Intellectual property and legal issues ..................................................117
5.5. Tools ..........................................................................................................118
5.5.1. Platform ...............................................................................................118
5.5.2. Tools for creation and contribution .....................................................121
5.5.3. Tools for the company.........................................................................126
6. Discussion and Conclusions ...........................................................................130
6.1. Theoretical Contribution............................................................................131
6.2. Managerial Implications ............................................................................138
6.3. Limitations and Ideas for Future Research ................................................140
References ...............................................................................................................142
Books, Articles & Research Reports ...................................................................142
Online Articles.....................................................................................................150
Empirical Material – Blogs, Presentations, Videos, White Papers, etc. URLs ...152
Appendices ..............................................................................................................153
Appendix 1. Previous literature and the FLIRT model .......................................153

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1. INTRODUCTION
“The secret to getting ahead in the 21st century is capitalizing on people doing what
they want to do, rather than trying to get them to do what you want to do”
- Glenn Reynolds

1.1. Background

Consumers are increasingly taking part in the processes that used to be the domain of
companies and professionals (Anderson 2006). This is in large part facilitated by
cheap and fast access to information, production tools as well as distribution and
communications channels – predominantly the internet – but also other important
changes in consumer behavior, such as the rise of amateurism (Howe 2008,
Leadbeater and Miller 2004), are essential to the phenomenon as well. It is thus more
than merely the coming of age of the TCP/IP protocol that drives paradigm shift.
Instead, the informational economy is at its roots not about the internet but about the
basic structures of companies and labor markets and production – developments that
have been happening for couple of decades now and constitute a culture
fundamentally very different from the industrial economy as Himanen (2004, 422)
describes: enterprises are developing into informational enterprises in which R&D
and other symbol creation (e.g. marketing) are increasing in importance; labor
markets are becoming informational and the role of information processing is
increasing; growth is based on innovation (as opposed to based on the internet)

As a source of innovation, means of marketing communications and/or creators and


traders of content, customers and consumers in general are growing in importance and
drawing increasing interest from companies. One of the latest attempts in harnessing
the power of masses to company ends is called crowdsourcing.

Since the term ‘crowdsourcing’ has emerged only during 2006 and also poses a
concept genuinely different from previous well-defined customer-involving
frameworks, such as the lead-user theory (e.g. Hippel 2005), academic literature on
crowdsourcing specifically is scarce. Also, as many of the recent papers written on
crowdsourcing and co-creation focus on explaining certain areas, forms and ways of
using it, or solely its effects and benefits, there is a research gap that constitutes

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constructing a comprehensive step-by-step guide for companies being aware of the
phenomenon and possessing the required will and mindset to engage in
crowdsourcing activities but lacking the information and know-how on where to
focus, what initial steps to take and how to execute them. Constructing this kind of
normative guide is my primary concern with the current thesis.

1.2. Objectives of the study

The aim of this thesis is, through solid theory building in the first phase and industry
expert insight gained through extensive netnography in the second phase and
reinforced with illustrative case examples, to construct a common vocabulary,
framework and method for systematically approaching commercial efforts in the area
of crowdsourcing to be utilized by the academia as well as the executives and
management in R&D, marketing and business development.

As customers are at present increasingly overwhelmed by invitations to get engaged


by companies (McAlexander et al. 2002) worldwide, it is more important than ever to
focus such efforts carefully and effectively throughout the whole company-customer
end-to-end process in order to enable collaboration with customer communities and
avoid decisions that lead to the initiative not gaining lift, defection from the
community or conflict with it. For this reason, I decided to set out to build a
comprehensive model for crowdsourcing activity starting from the initial decisions
made by the company and ending with selecting and setting up the appropriate
(online) tools for desired action.

Main Research Problem: What are the key characteristics of widely known and
apparently successful crowdsourcing efforts?

Secondary Research Problem 1: Based on the main research problem, what are the
key initial planning steps for companies considering crowdsourcing activities?

Secondary Research Problem 2: Based on the main research problem and the
secondary research problem 1, what are the steps in executing the planned activities?

The current thesis places strong emphasis on community engaging and sociality
emphasizing modes of crowdsourcing. I have chosen this, in contrast to

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crowdsourcing projects that focus on outsourcing miniscule tasks to people without
facilitating any kind of community (such as projects on Amazon’s mturk or ‘gold
diggers’ in World of Warcraft’s virtual game world), since community facilitation
enables building deeper relationships with and among customers and thus is better
suited to the needs of marketing than simply utilizing the crowds for the execution of
routine tasks that are trivial and driven only by small monetary incentives.

1.3. Research Design

I set out in my study to research the topic of crowdsourcing very broadly and
wholeheartedly, starting up on a strategic level, continuing on with tactical decisions
such as message design and ending up with technical issues. As the concept is quite
fresh and still shaping, I felt the need to grasp the whole of the topic from a certain
viewpoint instead of focusing deeply into one narrow area. As a detailed quantitative
work is out of the question given the breadth of the subject, I will concentrate on
conceptual work and defining key issues in enough detail so that separate areas can
later be further researched and validated using more rigorous methods.

The research conducted in the current study is qualitative but I nevertheless aim to
construct a set of normative guidelines to follow when setting up crowdsourcing
operations. As regards the empirical study, I took the freedom to utilize my personal
experience in working with the subject along with the main empirical material,
namely the online discussions, presentations and articles as well as illustrative case
examples.

In the empirical part, my propositions will be examined through observing whether or


not industry experts discussing the topic online find relevant the same key factors that
I present in my propositions, and whether or not the manifestations of my
propositions are apparent in the activities of the companies selected to provide the
illustrative case examples.

A majority of my empirical material is produced through a form of netnography


conducted among industry professionals and leading thinkers. By utilizing numerous
blogs as source of input to my research, focusing more on the most voiced and
recognized contemporary thinkers on the blogosphere – and also including other

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sources than blog posts, such as videos, slide presentations and podcasts – I have
gathered a solid body of evidence on how this current phenomenon is being slowly
given form through collaborative observation, discussions and research. In order to
further detail my research, I also utilized illustrative case examples of selected
pioneering companies to sharpen the image I have drawn. For this I utilized
companies that are widely considered as exemplary in many ways when it comes to
customer collaboration and open working models.

1.4. Key concepts

Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is a business model where the company outsources to its customers or


other non-professionals specific parts of its activities that are traditionally executed by
the company itself or professional outsourcing partners. In the current study I focus
specifically on crowdsourcing activities that utilize communal and social activity to at
least some extent. In the context of this thesis I use also the terms ‘wide audience end-
user engagement’ – deriving from Antikainen’s (2007) Wide Audience End-User
Requirements Elicitation) – or ‘collective customer collaboration’ – expanding from
Ogawa and Piller’s (2006) Collective Customer Commitment – synonymously with
the term crowdsourcing, since the mentioned works discuss essentially the same
phenomenon.

Collaboration and Co-creation

Despite the etymological relation to the term outsourcing, crowdsourcing usually, and
especially in the B2C area, focuses on building something together with customers
instead of simply outsourcing tasks to them, thus aiming to strengthen their ownership
and loyalty for the company/brand in question. This is why I use the terms
collaboration and co-creation constantly with and in place of the term crowdsourcing.

The Wisdom of Crowds

A concept according to which an open and diverse participant group will always,
given certain preconditions, outperform a closed and limited group in activities that

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require some form of problem solving. Crowdsourcing relies largely on this premise
in justifying the opening up of business functions to the public.

Social Media

Social media is a collective term for all media that facilitate active participation,
commentary and collaboration in contrast to passive consumption. Most forms of
social media are present in the internet but in a broad sense this covers also
participation encouraging media formats also in traditional media. Social media is the
main medium through which crowdsourcing is executed. Most prominent
manifestations of social media at present are blogs (e.g. Wordpress and Blogger) and
microblogs (e.g. Twitter and Jaiku), social networks (e.g. Facebook and MySpace)
and more recently social activity aggregators (e.g. Friendfeed). It is important to note
that also social services set up by companies in the sole purpose of engaging their
customers – from participative campaign sites to full-fledged social networks –
belong to the domain of social media. At the time of finalizing this thesis in the
Spring of 2008, interest in especially social search and social shopping is on the rise.

1.5. Structure of the Study

The current study runs through in four main phases. First I will take a look into the
broader arena of customer participation and co-creation through digital channels in
Chapter Two. After this, I will in Chapter Three build my FLIRT model in its basic
form in the theoretical part. After describing the research methodology and empirical
material in Chapter Four, I will then use the material gathered to strengthen my
propositions and enrich the model, building the FLIRT model to its final form in
Chapter Five.

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2. CUSTOMER PARTICIPATION, OPEN
COLLABORATION AND CO-CREATION

Companies strive to develop and produce exactly what customers want and when they
want it - with no risk of overstocks. Such a situation is difficult to reach and even
more difficult to maintain, given the heterogeneity of customers needs, the micro
segmentation of product categories and quickly changing preferences. Customer
participation in business activities is hardly a novel phenomenon. However, the mode
of interacting directly and openly with a wide customer base has recently come to the
reach of most companies and is now utilizable with more customer segments. This is
because digital media has become a mainstream – or, for the people born in the
1980’s and after, even a primary – medium, web access in the developed world is
becoming ubiquitous and new services based on user participation (falling under and
promoted as social media or ‘Web 2.0’ services) are gaining widespread acceptance
among the consumers. Also, the unique group-forming ability of the internet adds
value to online networks over previous communication networks, such as the phone
network.

For quite some time companies have sought to solve how to best include the
customers to their innovation cycle, from traditional market research techniques to
involving groups of advanced user-consultants. Wide audience end-user
empowerment and the central role of digital channels in the fields of new product
development, content creation, marketing activities, etc. – at present most widely
known as crowdsourcing (Howe 2006) in business literature – is the latest
development in the field of fully user-engaged customer experiences. The following
review sheds light on history of customer participation and explores the premises for
as well as forms and effects of the latest large-scale shift to open collaboration in the
fields of innovation, marketing and content creation.

2.1. Traditional Market Research and its Shortcomings

The traditional form of involving customers to enhance naturally include marketing


research that was pioneered by Arthur Nielsen already at the very beginning of the
20th century. This technique in its simplest form offers the company the tools to

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survey its customers for their preferences regarding different alternatives before
committing resources to a given decision.

While a useful tool for choosing between certain specific alternatives, the common
argument against traditional market research and in favor of more advanced and
participative techniques of gaining customer insight is that user insight into new
product needs and solutions are constrained by their real world experience and thus
radical, paradigm-shifting product concepts addressing new and unfamiliar needs are
unlikely to emerge. This is demonstrated by e.g. Luchin’s (1942) research on how
subjects familiar with complex problem solving strategies cannot use common sense
where appropriate. Also subjects who are used to use a device in a familiar way are
strongly blocked from using it in a novel way (Dunckner 1945, Birch & Rabinowitz
1951, Adamson 1952). Also success of a group in solving problems is dependent on
whether solutions it has used in the past will fit the new problem (Allen & Marquis
1964). The constraint of users to the familiar pertains even in more sophisticated
marketing research techniques such as multi-attribute mappings of product
perceptions and preferences (Silk & Urban 1978).

Also focus groups, although low in cost and providing results relatively quickly while
at the same time increasing effectiveness by larger sample size through talking with
several people at once (Marshall and Rossman 1999), lack realism because they often
rely only on verbal descriptions, underestimate true benefits of truly unique products
(how many viral successes on YouTube would have passed a traditional screening
test?), and do not measure real buying behavior but instead only attitudes. Test
marketing as a research method is on its behalf expensive, time-consuming and
subject to noise from competitors' activities (Ogawa & Piller 2006).

Because of these drawbacks with traditional market research, many consumer goods
companies do not regularly survey their potential customers when introducing new
products. As a result of the challenges associated with eliciting customer behavior
intentions, many companies merely revise their existing product line, which makes it
easier to predict sales, but can lead to missing important emerging trends in the
marketplace. Moreover, it hampers the company's ability to surprise its customers
with truly innovative products. (Ogawa & Piller 2006)

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2.2. Lead users

Eric Von Hippel outlines in his numerous works the concept of lead users. These are
an advanced and enthusiastic group of customers and users of the company’s products
whose needs and wants are predicted to dilute into the market place years or months
in the future. Furthermore these lead users expect to benefit significantly by obtaining
a solution to those needs. While lead users are easily related to high tech products and
tech-savvy engineer-users, also in low tech products utilizing users with little
technical training, the lead user method has proven to be as much as twice as cost
effective while at the same time achieving the results in half the time compared with
conventional methods (Herstatt and von Hippel 1992).

One of the underlying assumptions behind lead user theory is that using market
research to unearth the needs and wants of the largest user group, early and late
adopters is insufficient, since these large groups do not possess the expertise to
express their needs on a sufficient level of explicitness (von Hippel 1986). Thus
market research should be targeted on these lead users, who can, in their urge to
themselves fill their unmet needs, provide also product concept and design insight on
the side. Besides their value in development, lead users also are known to being
helpful in adoption and diffusion of new technology, products and services (Schreier,
Oberhauser and Prügl 2007).

However, full screenings of user populations can be a costly approach to identifying


innovating lead users. Networking is possible if likely innovators in the population are
known among many others in that population. Furthermore, a small number of these
known lead users can be asked to name likely candidates and ‘snowballing’ can thus
be used to identify the lead users relevant to the task at hand (Morrison, Roberts and
von Hippel 2000).

It needs to be noted that lead user innovation is not solely a business-to-consumer


phenomenon. This shift to customer initiated innovation has been happening on an
ever larger scale also in the B2B environment, because 1) market segments in all
industries are shrinking, 2) both the producers and the customers need iterations
before a solution is reached as customers no longer settle for standard solutions, and
3) high quality computer simulations and rapid prototyping tools & computer-

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adjustable production processes enable manufacturing custom products (Thomke and
von Hippel 2002; Franke and Reisinger 2002). Also in B2B environment, it is
essential that manufacturers can identify and acquire the generally useful
improvements made by the lead users and apply them among the general population.

2.2.1. Lead User Performance

Lilien et al. (2002) found in their study on performance assessment on the lead user
idea generation process, that ideas generated by lead user processes have forecast
sales up to 8 times higher than ideas generated by traditional processes. Also, the rate
of introduction of products forecast to grow into a major new product line was
significantly higher with lead user methods. Furthermore, lead user methods
generated ideas with as good a fit to existing divisional goals and competencies as did
traditional methods and intellectual property protection level was as high with both
approaches. In conclusion, they state that lead user projects can and do fail, but not
more than do traditional projects.

Despite the benefits derived from the lead-user approach, it is recognized that while
an innovation may have some initial advanced users that can greatly help shaping the
product, these lead users might not well represent the potential later users, nor share
their perspectives, aspirations and orientation for the product (Haddon 2002). Partly
for this reason, methods for elicitation of actual end-user requirements (Tuunanen
2005) were devised.

2.2.2. Innovation Toolkits

From the perspective of modern crowdsourcing, an important concept related to lead


users is that of Innovation Toolkits (von Hippel 1998; von Hippel and Katz 2002;
Franke and von Hippel 2003). These innovation toolkits do not have to be developed
by the company; parts of the innovation kits can also be developed by the user-
innovators (von Hippel 1998). Modifying and creating new products via toolkits is
nevertheless not a costless activity, and users will employ innovation toolkits only to
the extent where their benefits exceed their costs, which include obtaining and
learning to use the toolkit, as well as designing and implementing own innovations.
This is one important assumption also in engaging wider crowds beyond lead users

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with such tools, as is the case with crowdsourcing. It is essential to note that it
typically takes less effort to deploy an innovation by another user than it takes to
develop an equal innovation de novo (Franke and von Hippel 2003).

It has been shown that users modifying their software are more satisfied than non-
innovating users (Franke and von Hippel 2003). Thus, the user must have a need for
something different that is strong enough to offset the costs of putting a toolkit to use.
When such a need exists, first mover advantages with respect to setting a standard for
design language that has a good change of being generally adopted by the user
community in that marketplace exist (von Hippel and Katz 2002).

2.3. Modern Research Methods

The latest communication and information technologies are adding new capabilities
for rapid and inexpensive active customer input to all stages of the product
development and marketing processes. Examples of these new kinds of methods are
ranging from more traditional market research methods to full-fledged co-creation
schemes. Of these methods, Dahan and Hauser (2002) describe in detail information
pump, fast polyhedral adaptive conjoint estimation, web-based conjoint analysis, user
design, virtual concept testing and securities trading of concepts (Dahan & Hauser
2002) that utilize the capabilities of web communication as illustrated in Table 1. The
web offers to the researchers and marketers solutions to issues in communication
(through real-time contact), concepting (through multi-sensory experiences) and
computation (through flexible and adaptive research design).

Table 1. The Benefits of Virtual Customer Research (Dahan & Hauser, 2002)

Capability challenges Web capabilities


Slow, sequential communication COMMUNICATION Fast, simultaneous communication
Verbal descriptions CONCEPTS Rich media
Fixed design COMPUTATION Adaptive Response

Also Tuunanen (2005) defines in his dissertation six categories of techniques for
elicitation of wide audience end-user requirements that are enabled or enhanced by
utilizing digital tools: traditional techniques, prototyping, group elicitation techniques,
contextual techniques, cognitive techniques, and model-driven techniques. Also in a
B2B setting, engineers nowadays consider internet-based collaborative product
development (CPD) systems to be imperative for effective collaboration with

10
geographically distributed partners and they are especially emphasizing the need for
capturing and distributing relevant knowledge in real time (Rodriguez & Al-Ashaab
2005).

2.4. Towards an Open Collaboration and Co-Creation Paradigm

Even before crowdsourcing, there have been various kinds of business models and
strategic concepts focusing specifically on opening up a company’s processes for
enhanced effectiveness in innovation, marketing and so forth.

2.4.1. Digitalization of consumption and the Long Tail

On YouTube, 75% of top 20 videos were user-generated on November 15, 2006


(Wang 2006), which tells a story about consumer action beyond simply (illegally)
sharing professionally created content. Chris Anderson discusses in his critically
acclaimed 2006 book ‘The Long Tail – Why The Future of Business is Selling Less of
More’ the factors that underlie the exploding increase in selection of goods and
services available through digitalization of the things we consume and their buying
and selling. Anderson’s argument goes that there are three ‘long tail’ forces especially
at play in today’s world that facilitate the fragmentation of tastes and consumption
habits (Anderson 2006, 54-57): democratization of tools of production (e.g. the
personal computer); democratization of distribution (e.g. the internet) and more
effective connection of supply and demand (e.g. search engines). These same forces
are also helping companies rely more on their customers on given challenges:

The tools of production available to people in the developed world approach


professional grade tools at lower price points, enabling ‘prosumers’ (Tapscott 1996),
hobbyists who have the skills and tools to create e.g. professional quality video
content.

The democratization of distribution allow people to distribute the created goods to


each other, but also to companies that might utilize them, for low or no monetary
costs. This lowers the customers’ perceived cost of participating in an activity.

The more effective search tools, and especially peer recommendations made in
interest communities and networks gathering people interested in similar topics, help

11
people find participatory projects set forth by companies, be they marketing
campaigns set up for entertainment or serious scientific collaboration offerings.

Fletcher (2006) hints to the long tail phenomenon, stating that as the consumers'
universe is growing more and more fragmented each moment, virtually all brands and
products become minority brands and products, and even when global super brands
won’t go away anytime soon, minorities matter more in the future. Franke and von
Hippel (2003) also talk about the Long Tail when stating that segment variation in
user needs and unserved willingness to pay represents the ‘dark matter’ of market
need. This dark matter is often significant in amount, but is not currently served by
traditional marketing. Charron, Favier and Li (2002) also talk about the mentioned
long tail forces, focusing on two areas of change, technology and social behavior. As
computing power migrates to the edges of the network, with cheaper hardware and
software, the mainstream is granted access into technology’s full power. This
eliminates drag in the spreading of social phenomena, and also aging people are
joining tech users to support communication with younger kin in the increasingly
global society. All these factors raise the potential participant base of crowdsourcing
projects and thus make it more appealing an alternative for companies. Howe (2008)
still adds to the equation the increase leisure hours for certain groups of people, the
dramatic rise in the share of highly educated people within the population, an
intellectual and economic framework (open-source software) to draw working models
from, the tools available for people to act as autonomous workforces, self-organizing
and self-allocating resources.

2.4.2. The Wisdom of Crowds

Why should a company be interested in engaging its customers in the first place then?
Isn’t it already paying its employees to answer to the challenges it might encounter?
Decentralized network forms are at present out-competing more traditional vertical
hierarchies thanks to their speed, adaptability and flexibility afforded by new
information technologies. According to Juris (2004), cultural logic of networking
orients actors towards building horizontal ties and connections among diverse
autonomous elements, free and open circulation of information, collaboration through
decentralized coordination and directly democratic decision making and self-directed
or self-managed networking.

12
The value of such network systems, according to Surowiecki (2004), lies in the
collective wisdom of the crowds. According to his argument, a diverse and large
networked community, with smart and dumb members alike with varying skill levels,
will in certain setting inevitably the wisdom of crowds is one of most critical concepts
underlying modern crowdsourcing. It has been contradicted that a large group of
people engaging in groupthink and consensus thinking is bound to perform more
poorly than they would as individuals. However, the logic behind Surowiecki’s
wisdom of crowds stems not from a consensus decision formed by the group, but
from the aggregation and collective evaluation of the ideas/thoughts/decisions of each
individual in the group. It could be said that, paradoxically, the wisdom of crowds
emerges from each member in the crowd thinking and acting as independently as
possible. As he writes in his book: "Diversity and independence are important
because the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not
consensus or compromise.

Surowiecki lists three kinds of problems that can be solved with methods employing
the wisdom of the crowds:

Cognition: Market judgment is an example of a faster and more reliable method of


deciding on the value of things than the deliberations of experts or expert committees.

Coordination: Optimizing the utilization of a popular bar and not colliding in


moving traffic flows are examples of coordination issues solved by the crowd
wisdom.

Cooperation: How groups of people can form networks of trust without a central
system controlling their behavior or directly enforcing their compliance is an example
of how cooperation problems can be solved through the wisdom of crowds.

13
As stated, Surowiecki’s intelligent crowd, especially when confronted with cognition
(market) problems, does not ask its members to modify their positions in order to let
the group reach a decision everyone can be happy with. Instead, it uses mechanisms –
such as market prices or intelligent voting systems – to aggregate and produce
collective judgments that represent not what any one person in the group thinks, but
rather, in some sense, what they all think. For the first time in history, these
judgments; consumption patterns, inclinations, and tastes of an entire market can be
measured in real time (Anderson 2006, 106). These are important assumptions and
benefits regarding also most cases of crowdsourcing.

In Surowiecki’s view, there are four key qualities that make a crowd smart and should
thus be addressed when planning crowdsourcing activities, especially when defining
the target group:

Diversity of opinion: Each person should have private information even if it's just an
eccentric interpretation of the known facts.

Independence: People's opinions aren't determined by the opinions of those around


them, so that they pay attention mostly to their own information, and do not worry
about what everyone around them thinks.

Decentralization: people are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge. This
has also been noted by Lüthje, Herstatt and von Hippel (2005) with lead users, as they
suggest in their study that local information affects the functionality of the
innovations the user develops.

Aggregation: Some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into a collective
decision. In the web service era these kinds of systems are technically ever easier to
set up or buy from outside.

The wisdom of crowds -ideology is not far from the concept of swarm intelligence
(Beni and Wang, 1989) applied to business settings, as described by Bonapeau and
Meyer (2001). Utilizing swarm intelligence emphasizes flexibility (adaptability to a
changing environment), robustness (even when one or more individuals fail, the group
can still perform its tasks) and self-organization (activities are neither centrally
controlled nor locally supervised). Through self-organization, the behavior of such

14
group emerges from the collective interactions of all the individuals. In Bonapeau’s
and Meyer’s view, swarm intelligence is best used in logistics as well as complexity
and information science and is tangent to the wisdom of crowds –ideology in that it
emphasizes the independence of individuals and systems made up of these individuals
self-selecting the best ideas. However it doesn’t emphasize the aggregation of
decisions, but focuses on global behavior emerging automatically from the decisions
of individuals. Swarm intelligence could thus be thought of as being contained within
wisdom of crowds. The strength in these kinds of self-directing networks, both with
wisdom of crowds and swarm intelligence, lies in their flexibility, adaptability,
scalability, self-configuring capacity and survivability (Castells 2004, 5-6).

2.4.3. Digital Communities and Social Networks

Consumers are nowadays openly revealing their wants and needs and motivations on
the internet for everybody interested to explore. A completed Facebook profile, with
the owner’s photo gallery and status stream, information on the various groups he/she
belongs to, already provide masses of information in many ways exceeding data
requirements for traditional segmentation and profiling needs. Companies now have
an opportunity to listen directly to consumers while striving to create compelling
brands, products and messages to meet their needs. The most fruitful insight for
companies to gather from these new channels include, according to Nail (2006), those
related to category drivers, feature hierarchies and brand perceptions.

Previously unparalleled as it is, it's not alone the incredible amount of information
available on the web that will tread the principles of traditional institutions, but in fact
the social, global and mobile (real-time, contextual and location-aware) aspects of it.
Nowadays, practically anyone with a computer or a mobile device and an internet
connection is ready to start broadcasting to the entire online world for free. The early
21st century is in addition characterized by explosion of portable machines that
provide ubiquitous wireless communication and computing capacity. Such abundant
communication technology relates to the heart of the specificity of the human species:
conscious, meaningful communication (Castells 2004, 6-7).

15
Definition of a community

The concept of a community is historically defined as interacting people with


common interest living in a particular area. Other more detailed characteristics are
e.g. common history, a common policy, being embedded in larger society as well as
shared professional, economic or political interests. (Merriam-Webster Online
Dictionary) For the purpose of this thesis, it is necessary to separate between two
types of communities, the traditional and digital. In fact, the terms refer to the
channels used within the communities, but in common language they have come to
mean their existing forms in general. (Orava & Perttula 2005).

Cova (1997) identified the evolution of a community as a social link in people’s lives
that has dramatically changed over the course of history. Traditionally, the social link
was something that tied the freedom-seeking individual to the enslaving “bad
community”, of which members more often than not all shared the same inevitable
fate. Modernity opposed the notion of this contract as a voluntary and reversible
choice made by an individual to rationally associate with others in a specified and
limited framework.

Other definitions of community include Sarason’s (1976, see Antikainen, 2007),


which defines the psychological sense of community as a sense of mutual
responsibility and purpose; Tajfel (1981, see Antikainen 2007) defined social identity
as that part of the individual's self-concept, which derives from his knowledge of his
membership in a social group, together with the value and the emotional significance
of that relationship; community according to Schlichter, Koch and Chengmao, (1998,
see Antikainen 2007) comprises a social grouping with shared spatial relations, social
conversations, sense of membership and boundaries, and an ongoing rhythm of social
interaction. Indeed, according to recent research, digital social networks (a closely
related concept to digital communities) such as Facebook, show a startlingly steady
heartbeat-like pattern for social interaction happening online (Golder et al. 2006).

Digital Communities

Constant expanding and familiarization of the internet has created the necessary
preconditions for online communities to become a widely adapted form of
communication. The digital community and social network services abound in the

16
internet bring together people around similar interests, hobbies, professions and
worldviews regardless of geographical constraints or class boundaries at present span
anything from a text-based forum for beagle owners to fully immersive 3D multi-user
spaces with fully customizable avatars and virtually unbounded interaction with the
surroundings, such as Second Life (Bouras et al. 2005).

Digital communities and social networks also play an increasingly important role in
people’s lives in the developed world, relationships in digital communities being
already held as important as even real life relationships (McKenna, Green and
Gleason 2002). Furthermore, social media enables instant, multi-node peer-to-peer
communication and through this, rapid generation, development and deployment of
ideas. It is this characteristic that makes empowering customers through digital
channels and tapping the ‘wisdom of the crowds’. One of the best known definitions
of online communities is probably made by Rheingold (1993, 2000; see Antikainen
2007) who argues that "virtual communities are social aggregations that emerge from
the net when enough people carry on those public discussions long enough, with
sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace".
Rheingold thus emphasizes meaningful relationships between people taking part in
such communities.

It needs to be noted that personally I consciously avoid the term ‘virtual’ community
even when speaking of online communities and networks. Since these communities
and networks consist of real people interacting with each other, I argue that the
pastime of the people spending time with these services is indeed a lot more ‘real’
than that of their predecessors – the TV-generation consuming fabricated and scripted
realities via a passive, one-way medium. As Castells (2004, 30) put it: “everything
that is a collective mental experience is virtual, but this virtuality is a fundamental
dimension of everybody’s reality”.

The web-based community is relieved from the constraints of both space and time
(Orava & Perttula 2005). The digital community can be said to reside in a common
place – the web – but the members of such community can participate from any
physical location in the world with an internet connection. Furthermore, internet
technology enables participants to review, comment and contribute to the workings of
a community at any time regardless of the other participants’ availability at that given

17
moment. It thus makes both global real-time operation as well as off-sync operation in
“un-real” time possible (Himanen 2004). Asynchronous communication thus
facilitates temporal flexibility (Hampton 2004). It is also worth noting that even
though a virtual community does not have to have a physical counterpart in real life,
the internet also supports “glocalization”, the use of global technologies for local use,
and thus can strengthen also traditional communities (Hampton 2004).

Blogs can also be thought of as communities revolving around shared objects of


interest for they allow people to connect to and make friends with people with these
mutual interests. Most blogs are records that increase people's ability to share ideas
exponentially and on a worldwide scale, allow persons to publish and share
information, and allow commenting, for which reason they are more a conversation
than a library (Dearstyne 2005). In the factors explaining the ‘friendships’ within the
blogosphere, location still accounts for 20% while interests account for 16%, while
location and interest combined explain 22% (Kumar et al. 2004). However, the nature
of “friend”-ship in social networks and online communities is problematic. As
discussed by Golder and Wilkinson (2007), people add friend links for a variety of
reasons, not always for reasons that imply the pair are friends in the conventional
sense, that they interact socially on a regular basis and share a mutually important
connection of trust, affection, shared interests, and so on.

Brand communities

Some modern crowdsourcing communities closely resemble online brand


communities; communities formed around ritualistic consumption of certain brands.
Essential brand community relationships consist of (McAlexander, Schouten and
Koenig 2002) those between the customer and 1) brand, 2) firm, 3) product in use,
and 4) fellow customers (peers in computertalk). Brand communities are largely
imagined communities and, as opposed to lifestyle segments or consumption
constellations, about one brand, not many (Muniz and O’Guinn 2001). It can be said
that modern consumer culture, which has been accused of destroying traditional
communities, is now ironically creating new communities.

18
Classifications of Digital Communities

The digital communities that the users are being involved in vary widely according to
their purpose and originator. Piller (2005) divides online communities into two
fundamentally different categories: business communities and socially oriented
communities. Rizova (2006) has identified and studied four main categories:
Instrumental networks, in which work-related content is exchanged, expressive
networks, that offer friendship and social support to their members, technical advice
networks, used mainly by scientists and engineers, and finally organizational advice
networks, which can also be non-work related recommendations networks on who to
turn to on a given matter. From another viewpoint, Orava and Perttula (2005), present
a more comprehensive categorization of different types of communities. They classify
communities in three distinct levels, the first of which comprises the social and
interest communities, the second of which defines member-created and commercial
communities, and finally breaking the two second-level categories to smaller pieces,
as illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Categorization of communities (Orava & Perttula, 2005)

Plagemann et al. (2006) make a distinction between Content Distribution Networks


(CDN) that focus on automated management, delivery and availability of content and
Content Networks (CN) that in contrast emphasize creation, modification and active
placement of content at appropriate locations in the network to be shared among all
other participants. This describes well the difference between the old information-
intensive internet and the new, social one.

19
Social networks

Although closely related, social networks are strictly speaking not exactly same as
digital communities. Ross Mayfield, a long-time startup executive and a prominent
blogger and speaker has written that whereas traditional online communities are top-
down, (online) place-centric, moderator-controlled, topic driven, centralized and
architected, social networks tend to be more bottom-up, people-centric, user-
controlled, decentralized, context-driven and self-organizing (Mayfield 2004).

In the past five years, social networking sites have rocketed from a niche activity into
a phenomenon that engages tens of millions of internet users. More than half (55%) of
all online American youths ages 12-17 use online social networking sites, according
to a national survey of teenagers conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life
Project (Lenhart and Madden 2007). A social networking site is an online place where
a user can create a profile and build a personal network that connects him or her to
other users. Differentiating social networks from traditional online communities is the
fact that social networks emphasize navigation, exploration and discovery by people
and their personal relationships and mutual interests, tastes and views whereas in
more traditional online communities navigating through the service is more based on
category, issue or topic in itself.

While mediated (e.g. social networks) and unmediated publics (e.g. physical public
spaces) play similar roles in people's lives, the mediated publics have four properties
that are unique to them: persistence (What people say sticks around); searchability (by
content but nowadays also by status and location); replicability (as digital information
can be easily copied); and invisible audiences (as lurkers in social networks are
invisible both in presence at the time of the communication but also after that in time)
(Boyd 2007).

2.4.4. Crowdsourcing

One of the latest developments aiming to harness the masses is called crowdsourcing.
Crowdsourcing outlines a business model similar to outsourcing, but instead of
relying upon salaried professional workforce, crowdsourcing companies use low-paid
or unpaid amateurs who use their spare time to e.g. create content, solve problems, or

20
engage in corporate R&D (Boutin 2006a). Crowdsourcing companies attempt “to
partly or fully replace selectively hired, trained and managed workforces with mass
volunteer participation” (Wikipedia, a crowdsourced encyclopedia, on
Crowdsourcing). It nevertheless needs to be noted that a large share of customer-
engaging methods are more forms of co-creation and not about simple transfer or
outsourcing of activities to customers (Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2004a, 16). In
contrast to bottom-up ad-hoc communities, such as those engaged in many open
source projects where independent actors combine their powers to create a common
good for no profit, people participating in crowdsourcing willingly and knowingly
give up their ideas to companies for these to commercialize and sell (Boutin 2006a). It
thus relies on the customers’ willingness to give up their ideas relatively cheaply or
for free for the benefit of seeing them going into production or being distributed on a
wide scale

Although not a completely new idea (P&G, for example, has worked with
crowdsourced innovation methods for more than ten years), crowdsourcing is now
becoming a widely recognized phenomenon and gaining global scale as advances in
technology allow also non-technical people to participate in online projects as already
discussed in Chapter2.5.1. In particular, the recent technological, social and business
models collectively labeled Web 2.0 are enabling faster, easier, richer and more
immersive participation in online activities. Technological advances in other areas
too, from product design software to digital video cameras are breaking down the cost
barriers that once separated amateurs from professionals (Howe 2006). Technology
and social changes are creating a potent mix of forces that will transform the way all
businesses - not just media firms - operate, create products, and relate to customers
(Charron, Favier and Li 2002).

2.5. Founding collaboration and co-creation concepts behind the


FLIRT model

Previous literature describes numerous ways with which to engage customers and
customer communities in co-creation and presents several models and checklists for
different customer collaboration efforts. Some of these have had great influence in the
building of my FLIRT model of crowdsourcing.

21
Open Innovation

Chesbrough (2003) calls for open innovation to enhance processes for creating new
technology. In his view, companies are better off opening up their innovation
processes and getting external input for their offerings in their current market as well
as gathering the courage to move into new businesses and markets with novel
offerings should they not be compatible with existing strategy. Also, he advocates the
need to ‘let go’ of innovations that the company can’t market monetize to be used by
other companies. The rationale for opening up despite increased risk in Chesbrough’s
view is to identify, understand, select from and connect to the wealth of external
knowledge, fill in the missing pieces of knowledge not being externally developed,
integrate internal and external knowledge to form more complex combinations of
knowledge, and generate additional revenues and profits from selling research outputs
to other firms for use in their own systems.

DART Model of Co-creation

Prahalad and Ramaswamy (2004b) outline in their work the DART model for
customer co-creation and explore some issues with collaboration and strategy.
Starting with Dialogue, the writers emphasize interactivity, engagement, and a
propensity to act on both sides. DART model’s dialogue is more than simply listening
to the customer as it implies shared learning and communication between two equal
problem solvers, creating and maintaining loyalty. Access is the second element in the
DART model and begins with information and tools. For example, Taiwan
Semiconductor Manufacturing Company has given its customers access to data on its
manufacturing processes, design and fabrication libraries and quality processes,
granting also smaller players the access to a large knowledge base and reducing the
investment needed to participate effectively in the semiconductor business. Risk
Assessment is third in line and deals with analyzing risk incurred by the company
from increased exposure to but also risk of a liability for the consumer for
participating in collaboration. The final element of the DART model Transparency,
referring to the fact that in the increasingly networked world, companies can’t rely on
secrecy any more but must respect their audience by being open and honest about
their activities.

22
Virtual Customer Communities

Nambisan (2002) identifies three core challenges for companies in utilizing customers
as a source for new product ideas: firstly the right participants need to be selected and
ties with them need to be established.; the second challenge is the creation of
appropriate incentives to foster customer willingness to contribute new product ideas;
thirdly, customer knowledge need to be effectively captured. The operational
challenges of collaboration in Nambisan’s work deal with increased project
uncertainty, higher level of information required by the customers and their
integration with the company’s internal teams. To tackle these challenges, Nambisan
deals in his work on Parameters for Virtual Customer Communities with four themes
specifically: interaction, knowledge creation, customer motivation and finally
integration.

Web-based Virtual Collaboration

Bouras, Igglesis, Kapoulas and Tsiatsos (2005) define five basic requirements for the
development of web-based virtual collaboration communities and further explains
ways to enhance their strength and cohesiveness. In his view, factors critical to
collaboration in digital environments include common purpose, common cultural
context, physical or virtual co-location, voluntary participation, and multiple, shifting
and overlapping membership and participation.

Community Based Innovation

Füller, Bartl, Ernst and Mühlbacher (2006) answer in their four key questions on
Community Based Innovation: determination of user indicators defines which
attributes the consumers should have to be able to support the innovating company in
the development task; community identification answers the question of within which
online community these consumers can most probably be found; interaction design
seeks to assist designing the interaction efficiently regarding the particular
development task and the individuality of the selected online community; finally, user
access and participation needs to be communicated and encouraged in the right
manner.

23
Communities of Co-design

Piller, Schubert, Koch and Möslein (2005) already talk about modern crowdsourcing
as they write about Mass Confusion in customer co-design. They see that co-design
poses three major challenges to companies and customers: 1) burden of choice as
excess variety may result in an external complexity and users might be overwhelmed
by the number of options; 2) matching needs with product specifications as customers
often simply lack the knowledge and skills to make a "fitting" selection, i.e., to
transfer their personal needs and desires into a concrete product specification; and 3)
information gap regarding the behavior of the manufacturer as there is uncertainty as
to whether the company will actually respond to its customers’ activity. To overcome
these challenges Piller et al. propose communities of co-design, which reduce mass
confusion by 1) generation of customer knowledge to provide a better starting (pre-)
configuration; 2) support of collaborative co-design fostering joint creativity and
problem solving; and 3) building of trust and the reduction of the perception of risk.
Ogawa and Piller (2006) later write about reducing business risk with collective
customer commitment.

2.6. Summary: Customer Participation and Collaboration

In sum, we could say that the practice of gaining customer insight started with
sampling the average customer opinion through traditional market and marketing
research where the company dictated the language and topics and customers were
seen as passive providers of answers to company-determined questions. This
approach has been later supplemented with lead-user thinking where advanced lead
users are hand-picked and while these lead-users could at best have a very active role
and substantial influence on the decisions of companies that are utilizing them, they
are costly to find, are limited to small numbers and are usually visible only to the
company’s internal teams. Modern web-mediated marketing research methods allow
for larger populations to participate and more active adaptation and configuration of
the research methods according to the respondent. The dialogue is however still
dictated by the company and results are usually visible only to the company. Now the
interest is again turning to the whole customer base, while companies are realizing
that the greatest value lies in interacting with – and letting the customers interact with
each other in – a diverse customer community with active lead users and more passive

24
average customers alike, with each group having their own role to fill in the
continuous marketing conversation. In this conversation customers are treated as
equal partners, the ways they can influence decisions are designed to be open-ended
to allow unexpected results, and their contribution is open and public in real time.
These developments are summarized in Table 2.

Table 2. Summary of customer participation in driving company action

Participant base Nature of discourse Visibility of Role of Customers


contribution
Traditional Limited sample Company dictates Only for the Passive respondents
marketing research company
Lead Users Small elite group Lead users can have Only for the Active participants
substantial freedom company and the
in driving discussion group of lead users
Modern marketing Potentially wide Allows for Only for the More active co-
research personalization and company creators of
adaptation according knowledge
to respondent but
still company
dictated
Open collaboration Open Customers drive Open and public Active and equal
and crowdsourcing discussion within participants
given guidance

One fundamental difference between traditional market research and new methods of
interacting with the customers is that before the web, companies needed to use a
sample of customers to represent the whole population and they needed to rely on
their explicit answers (or observed behavior often in a non-authentic setting). At the
moment, companies can utilize fully open environments to engage significantly larger
crowds for research, or indeed measure the actual behavior of their whole customer
base in real time on the web.

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3. THE FLIRT MODEL OF CROWDSOURCING

In the following I will construct the FLIRT framework of crowdsourcing and


collective customer collaboration. This model is in many ways a fusion of the
collaboration models summarized in the previous chapter, supplemented and further
detailed with yet other academic works. The need for this kind of model arises, since
none of the previous models really tackle the problem from a start-to-finish, strategy-
to-execution perspective, but instead focus only on a few issues at a time. The FLIRT
model is a comprehensive, step-by-step problem-solving tool for companies and
addresses issues from strategy to tactics as well as technical issues.

3.1. Introduction to the FLIRT model

The FLIRT model views the phenomenon from the perspective of a company
considering closer collaboration with customers and online customer communities. It
suggests a set of five main elements – Focus, Language, Incentives, Rules and Tools –
that need to be considered and established in order to inspire desired action in the
customers.

Focus deals with strategic level questions and seeks answers to three main questions:
why, who and with which organizational resources and capabilities, through
answering these issues, the scope, scale and depth of the collaboration are defined on
a high level. The why refers to business needs of the company that the crowdsourcing
effort should answer and derives primarily from the rationale for open innovation
(Chesbrough 2003), and Piller et al.’s (2005) reasons for fostering communities of co-
design. The who part needs to be addressed in order to determine who the company
primarily wants to engage and is founded on the other hand on Füller et al.’s (2006)
determinants of desired user features and on the other Surowiecki’s (2004)
requirement of diversity in the participant base as well as Piller et al.’s calling for
open participation reduce mass confusion. The resources and capabilities question
relates to the organizations capabilities and resources. It has been noted by Füller et
al. (2006) that succeeding in collaboration requires dedicated resources and effort and
ensuring these is also one of Prahalad and Ramaswamy’s key challenges. Also
Nambisan (2002) writes that the company needs to be able to cope with the added

26
uncertainty and risk and also that the cognitive compatibility of the firm’s internal
team with the external participants is necessary.

The three abovementioned questions, why, who and with which resources and
capabilities, can be thought of as constraining attributes since they set boundaries to
how the crowdsourcing effort should be defined. The next three attributes are the
scope, scale and depth of the crowdsourcing effort, and these attributes can be defined
as the defining attributes, since they determine the visible actions to be taken. The
scope of the crowdsourcing effort deals with where in its business does the company
want to utilize crowdsourcing. Practically all the previous collaboration frameworks
consider this aspect to some extent, as they deal with different areas and alternatives
for benefiting from collaboration. The scale refers to both the extent to which the
crowdsourcing activity spreads within the company from its core locus, but also the
collaborative venture’s time scale and temporal structure (Nambisan 2002). Depth is
the final sub element of Focus and is seen as important as Nambisan (2002) as well as
Prahalad and Ramaswamy all consider degree of user access and control a critical
issue, because of which also risk assessment (Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2004a) of
growing uncertainty is necessary.

Language issues arise after the questions what, who and with which resources have
been answered. I use ‘language’ in a broad sense here, since language in its basic
meaning is naturally quite easily determined by country and target market in question.
Language issues in the FLIRT model are based on Prahalad and Ramaswamy’s
(2004a, b) call for active and interactive dialogue that goes beyond simply listening
and involves also acting. Transparency is also one Prahalad and Ramaswamy’s
crucial requirements when it comes the mindset of the company initiating the
dialogue. Also the common purpose and common cultural context binding the
participants together as presented by Bouras et al. (2005) and communication of the
collaborative offering through marketing communications or peer recommendations
are part of the Language element.

Incentives arise from the need to motivate customers or other participants. Nambisan
(2002) argued that these motivations have to do with product-, community-, and
medium-related benefits. However, in the Incentives part of this chapter we are taking

27
a bit broader view here and dividing incentives differently to achieve a more
comprehensive view on incentives.

Rules in the FLIRT model are inspired by and founded on e.g. Nambisan’s (2002)
Nature of customer identity, nature of coupling the community with the company’s
inner workings and role/process transparency therefore also being the explicit
fulfillment of Prahalad and Ramaswamy’s (2004a, b) promises of transparency made
in the Language phase. Rules also deal with rules of (voluntary) participation (Bouras
et al. 2005), setting the requirements for entering the community and can also help
realize the requirement of independence of opinion among the participants, a
necessary requirement for Surowiecki’s (2004) wisdom of crowds to emerge. Rules
thus spell out the guidelines with which the participants – both the company and its
customers – need to abide.

Tools are the last stage to address in the FLIRT model and deals with setting up the
environment for implementing crowdsourcing activities. Tools of the FLIRT model
comprise the (physical or, in the majority of the cases,) virtual co-location (Bouras
2005) of the participants and company representatives, i.e. the platform for
collaboration. Be it noted that in addition to building the platform by itself, the
company can opt to join already existing communities for collaboration, in which case
community identification (Füller 2006) in order to find relevant participants comes
into question. Especially in today’s world where consumers are joining many kinds of
digital communities and networks for different needs and purposes, the question of
multiple, shifting and overlapping membership and participation becomes relevant,
and the so-called social portability, to which other communities can the customer take
the planned crowdsourcing community with her. In addition to the platform itself,
issues of interaction design for the tools of creation (Füller et al. 2006) need to be
addressed. Furthermore, tools also include the means to aggregate created knowledge
(Surowiecki 2004, Nambisan 2002) and convert it into meaningful action within the
company (Nambisan 2002).

I have with the previous discussion laid a foundation for the FLIRT model utilizing a
few key works as the basic building blocks. Table 3 summarizes the founding
building blocks of the FLIRT model as they were discussed above. In the following, I

28
will make an extended effort to further elaborate and justify the different parts of the
FLIRT model.

29
Table 3. The founding works of the FLIRT Model and their respective areas of
contribution

Focus Language Incentives Rules Tools


Open Innovation - Rationale for
(Chesbrough open
2003) collaboration
DART (Prahalad - Sufficient - Active and - Transparency
and access for the interactive in the
Ramaswamy customers dialogue company’s
2004a, b) - What it takes actions
from the
company to
collaborate
- Risk
assessment
Virtual - Temporal - Product- - Nature of - Knowledge
Customer structure related benefits customer acquisition and
Community - Interaction Community- identity conversion
(Nambisan orientation related benefits - Nature and support
2002) - Degree of user Medium-related degree of
control benefits coupling
- Cognitive - Role/process
compatibility transparency
- Ability to cope
with added risk
Web-based - Common - Voluntary - Physical or
Virtual purpose participation virtual co-
Collaboration - Common location
(Bouras et al. cultural context - Multiple,
2005) shifting and
overlapping
membership and
participation
Community - Determination - Communication - Community
Based of user of collaborative identification
Innovation indicators offering through Interaction
(Füller et al. - Dedication of marketing design
2006) resources and communications
effort or peer
recommendations
Communities of - Generation of - Everybody
Co-design (Piller customer needs to be able
et al. 2005) knowledge to participate
- Fostering joint
creativity and
problem solving
- Building of
trust and
reduction of
perception of
risk
The Wisdom of - Requirement - Requirement - Requirement of
Crowds (2004) of diversity in of independence the aggregation
the participant of opinion of the of contributions
base participants - Requirement of
the
decentralization
of organization
of labor

30
3.2. Focus

Before we can even start to answer the question How, we need to establish what we
want to do and why do we need to do it. Focus is the first of the five principal FLIRT
elements. As already discussed, it is broken down into six attributes.

The three defining attributes are 1) Scope, 2) Scale and 3) Depth. In addition to the
defining attributes, there are three key considerations that impose constraints to
conducting crowdsourcing and might require additional development before
advancing further. These constraining attributes are 1) Why to collaborate, which can
be translated to shorter form Business needs, 2) Who to engage, which essentially
deals with Customer participants and 3) With which resources and capabilities will
this be made happen, which leads us to the attribute Organizational Capabilities.

We will next be going through both the defining and constraining attributes of the
Focus element in more detail, starting from the constraining elements.

3.2.1. The Constraining Attributes

From Prahalad and Ramaswamy’s (2004a, 197-199) five key questions to managers,
two strike me as essential in this first planning phase; why to collaborate and what
does it take (from the organization) to succeed in collaboration. In addition,
collaboration and co-creation in the form of crowdsourcing (and in its other forms as
well) is never a unilateral endeavor but instead highly reliant on customer capabilities
(Afuah, A. 2000, Lengnick-Hall 1996). Founding on these principles, I feel the need
to steer focus in these matters already at this the earliest phase of planning
crowdsourcing activities. I thus introduce the constraining elements of the Focus
elements as being 1) Business Needs, 2) Organization Capabilities and 3) Customer
Participants, which are covered next.

Business needs

Crowdsourcing being a mode of conducting business, all crowdsourcing activity


needs to arise from sound business needs, i.e. why it would be beneficial for the
company to engage in crowdsourcing. Chesbrough’s (2003) rationale for open

31
innovation applies here as discussed in Chapter2, but we will here further elaborate
the different reasons for why a company should be interested in crowdsourcing.

The literature has long identified the need to recognize successful innovation process
as a bottom-up process, driven by relatively low-level technical inventors and market
innovators (Day 1994; Colarelli O’Connor & Rice 2001), rather than being planned
and administered from the top. For this reason, the leading companies strive to create
and nurture an innovation-fostering organizational culture. Nevertheless, out of every
10 R&D projects, five are complete flops, three are abandoned, and only two
ultimately become commercial successes (Braun 1992, Ogawa & Piller 2006). In the
constant quest for superior ideas, lower costs and better risk management, companies
are increasingly turning their attention to the average customer, or indeed their whole
customer base, potential or realized, to perform autonomous and self-managed
functions on behalf of and guided by the company.

Roughly, the benefits gained from customer-engaging activities fall into three
categories: direct revenue from customers, direct revenue from 3rd parties
(advertising funded, partnering, etc.) or indirect revenue (gaining customer insight
and strengthening relationships) (Orava and Perttula 2005). There is a vast body of
literature exploring the topic of why to collaborate with customers, and in the
following we will look into these reasons.

The first and nowadays very much touted reason has to do with the changing
marketing environment. Where customers are nowadays hyperconnected in real time,
marketers simply can’t afford to be left out of the loop. The effects of this shift in
communication methods and style results among other things in eroding brand
loyalty, as customers are readier than ever to switch brands should their expectations
be left unmet (Charron et al. 2002, Schum C, Gould R. 2007). In addition, consumers’
trust in advertising via traditional channels is falling, as the internet is now the only
form of media with trust in the channel on the rise (Charron et al. 2002) as it offers
them a way to directly interact with other customers and either validate or invalidate
marketing information (Beelen 2006). Contemporary consumers equipped with
random access to any kind of information are more independent, more self-reliant and
self-sustaining (and in effect less dependent on institutions, professionals and experts)
in their decision-making (Charron et al. 2002, Pitt et al. 2002). However, in contrast

32
to many predictions about the death of branding, it is suggested that in the modern
marketing environment, importance of branding is indeed increasing (Chen S. 2001,
Hong-Youl 2004). Branding simply requires new tools and methods in modern
business-to-consumer-to-consumer networks.

A brand nowadays can act as an effective facilitator and platform for valuable online
customer-to-customer interactions that also create unique value for the marketing
organization (Gruen et al. 2005). For example, sharing hedonistic experiences in an
online community enhances customers’ enjoyment of these shared experiences
(Ragunathan and Corfman 2006) resulting also in positive brand experience. A multi-
way experience exchange can also help the company learn faster with its customers
(Gruen et al. 2005). A brand can also work as an enabler of customer-to-customer
support and information sharing; customer-to-customer interactions means longer
lasting interaction and more credibility (Rosenbaum and Massiah 2007, Bickart and
Schindler 2001, Charron et al. 2002) – also for the facilitating brand. According to
Bagozzi & Dholakia (2002), C2C exchanges can be of economic value (sharing ideas
- reduced costs / increased profits), social value (sharing stories or good times), or
personal value (providing encouragement). Utilizing communities as a method for
branding can thus act as an image enhancer (Füller et al. 2006).

As the discontinuities in the marketing environment destroy boundaries of how


businesses and consumers relate to each other, there is increased opportunity as well
as demand for experimentation. Co-creation with customers is one important way of
de-risking these experimentations (Ogawa and Piller 2006, Prahalad and Ramaswamy
2004a) as customer interaction has a positive impact on new product and service
performance (Alam 2004, Füller et al. 2006). Engaging large customer crowds also
helps in evoking interest creating buzz for new products and thus fast scaling of
successful experiments and rapid expanding the market becomes easier (Füller et al.
2006, McAfee 2006, Anderson 2006, Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2004a, 72).

Lowering costs is one key reason for outsourcing and so it is also for crowdsourcing.
Sensing the market in real time enables spotting emerging trends early on and
produces less waste through ‘failing cheap’ early on (Cothrel 2000, Füller et al. 2006,
Charron et al. 2002). Research shows that savings in cost and time are largest with
collaboration in the fuzzy front end (Reid and Brentani 2004) but also at later stages

33
through decreased number of prototypes and lower expenses on marketing research
(Füller et al. 2006, Charron et al. 2002), speeding up the whole development cycle
(Füller et al. 2006, Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2004a). Customer to customer support
also work to lowering costs through reducing the required staff for the same task
(Cothrel 2000).

Facilitating access to intellectual resources and knowledge previously inaccessible to


the company allows recognizing and adopting innovations (Jeppesen and Fredriksen
2006) and finding novel and unconventional solutions to existing challenges
(Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2004a, Lakhani and Jeppesen 2007) or simply gives the
company the opportunity to tap into idle customer resources for more routine tasks
(Cothrel 2000).

Establishing deeper customer relationships and strengthening these relations, thus


increasing customer retention (Füller et al. 2006, Muniz and O’Guinn 2001) is one
key area where benefits through collaboration are sought. Through more effective
feedback (Cothrel 2000) deeper relations also the company’s understanding of its
customers, their motivations and their behavior is enhanced (Füller et al. 2006,
Cothrel 2000).

As consumer tastes splinter and fragment, the internet ever more effectively enables
matching the ‘market of one’ with a ‘product of one’. The emergence of ‘smart’
markets made up of demanding customers with widely differing tastes will require the
development of information-intensive strategies and "smart" products, i.e., product
and service offerings that adapt or respond to changes in their environment as they
interact with consumers (Berthon, Hulbert, Pitt, and Leyland 1999). When a large
body of customers is utilized to extract information of making better products for each
one customer, and the customers themselves play an active part in the process,
creating favorite lists, writing reviews and making recommendations, we can already
talk of crowdsourcing in a modern sense.

Ultimately of course, engagement with customer communities through collaboration


and co-creation always targets at increased revenue for the company but this can
result also directly from collaboration activities (Cothrel 2000, Antikainen 2007,

34
Charron et al. 2002), as e.g. existing customer base can be expanded through social
media potentially faster than with traditional forms of communications.

Proposition 1a: Business needs are a key consideration in planning


crowdsourcing activities

Customer Participants

The proponents of modern customer collaboration often emphasize utilizing as wide a


customer base as possible. While Nambisan (2002) underlines in his work the
selection of customer innovators, he acknowledges the need for ensuring involvement
of a diverse set of customers. Piller (2005) proposes that the fact that all or almost all
customers are able to participate in communities of co-creation is a key prerequisite in
reducing mass confusion – burden of choice, matching needs with specifications and
information asymmetry – resulting from co-creation situations.

In Piller’s communities for co-design the focus of the collaborative design tasks is
geared towards creation of trust, sharing experiences, and often fosters aesthetic
creativity instead of joint solving of technical problems. These communities reduce
the customers’ confusion by a) generating customer knowledge to provide a better
starting point for the company’s activities; b) fostering joint creativity and problem
solving; and c) building trust and reducing customers' perception of risk. On a similar
note, Prahalad and Ramaswamy (2004a, 10) also talk of a new value creation space in
co-creating with customers: personalized co-creation experiences developed through
purposeful interactions between the consumer and a network of companies and
consumer communities. The value in this lies in the co-creation experience of a given
consumer. Prahalad and Ramaswamy also state that collaborative experience
environments need to accommodate customer communities consisting of
heterogeneous groups of consumers and recognize also passive consuming (Prahalad
& Ramaswamy 2004a, 54). One of Füller et al’s (2006) key questions in the
community based innovation method is, which attributes should consumers have to be
able to support the innovating company in the development task? This argument also
shows the importance of participant orientation in the Focus defining phase.

While single consumer contributions may not always fit the needs of the target market
(Füller et al 2006), a broad take on customer participation is emphasized also in

35
Surowiecki’s (2004) argumentation on the Wisdom of Crowds. Surowiecki’s
argumentation is that a crowd functions best when there are experienced and
inexperienced, skilled and unskilled participants alike as the wisdom rises from the
interaction and friction between them. One of Lakhani’s and Jeppesen’s (2004) key
ingredients for successful problem solving with online communities is that problems
should be broadcast to people in various fields, because innovation often happens at
the intersections of disciplines and interests, this encouraging an open and broad
approach. In other words, it is not enough to lure into the crowdsourcing community
only advanced lead users, for other groups with differing roles are also required (as I
outlined in the C4 section). This must be taken into account already at the Focus
phase when thinking about whom to engage with collaboration and whether or not
these groups are present and up for the task. In the light of the above it is reasonable
to argue that maximizing the size of the participant base maximizes also the ability of
the said group to deal with increasing scale of the collaborative offer, as more and
more capable people join the group.

Even in a completely open call for the public to act, the selection of primary target
segments to engage is a key issue, as focusing on set target characteristics will help
tailoring the next two FLIRT elements, Language and Incentives for the said target
groups. In addition, community identification – knowing where the right customers
are – is key in engaging communities (Füller et al. 2006), and can’t happen if primary
target groups are not selected. Furthermore, different stages of e.g. product
development require different characteristics that may not be found in the same group
of people all the time. In addition, there might be wisdom in also intentionally
limiting the participant base, for exclusivity can also act as a source of value for the
customers who are functioning in an environment increasingly cluttered by invitations
to fully open social networks offering little relevance or opportunities for
identification.

Proposition 1b: Targeting a diverse set of customer participants is a key factor


in planning crowdsourcing activities

36
Organizational Capabilities

Business needs and customer environment are not enough to define the Focus for the
activity. As opening up business operations to the public is never a trivial decision,
also the capabilities of the organization need to be addressed already when defining
Focus. Prahalad and Ramaswamy are emphasizing this when they state that one of the
key issues in defining strategy for collaboration is to ask what it takes from the
company to collaborate (Prahalad & Ramaswamy 2004a, 54). If this is not done, it
may be that the limits of the organization are reached while execution should be
underway.

Organization capabilities are key also in considering to what extent crowdsourcing


activities can be extended from their core locus. An organization that has trouble in
communication and collaboration between internal entities is hardly capable of
customer collaboration that spans these very entities.

Nambisan (2002) states that as collaboration is introduced to the supply chain,


uncertainty increases and the company must find ways to cope with this added risk.
Naturally, also competitors have access to open communities and gain access to all
the information flowing within them (Füller et al. 2006). Sometimes the company can
simply decide that the added risk is too big and that it is not going to open up its
operations to the degree planned. Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge that
when used with consideration, collaboration through crowdsourcing can indeed act as
a way to reduce risk through sharing it with participants (Ogawa & Piller 2006).

Many businesspeople might view crowdsourcing as a way to shift work from the
organization to its customers. However, genuinely engaging communities in
crowdsourcing activities does require dedicated resources and effort (Füller et al.
2006). Furthermore, new skills are in many occasions necessary that the company
might need to acquire by recruiting people from outside or training their internal staff.
The people working in new product development might not be used to open
collaboration with the clients and this can lead to disturbances in the internal
processes (Füller et al. 2006).

In the end, creating value in collaboration necessarily means relinquishing control,


letting customers co-define the brand (as brands will be defined by the communities

37
they serve), sharing assets (also when it means pointing away from own services to
useful 3rd party resources) and responsibilities (through multilayered security policy;
prescribing communications policies) (Charron, Favier and Li 2006). It could be
summed, that the greater the depth, the greater the potential for commitment and
engagement, but at the same time the greater the risk for the company to lose control
of its key assets.

Proposition 1c: Organization capabilities are a key consideration in planning


crowdsourcing activities

3.2.2. The Defining Attributes

Flowers (2008) presents in his work the concept of Outlaw Innovation, the utilization
of hacker activity in company context, a concept closely related to crowdsourcing.
Flowers argues that outlaw innovation presents a series of challenges to developing an
effective framework that will enable companies to draw on the benefits from such
activity. A key stage in his view in moving towards framing policy in this area is to
develop our understanding of the Scope, Scale and Depth of outlaw innovation in
order to identify the key issues. In addition, scope, scale and depth are widely used
trio of attributes to define planned activities and so fit well with the purposes of
defining also crowdsourcing activity. Thus, these three attributes are my starting point
as well for building the FLIRT model. In contrast to Flowers’ work, the Scope, Scale
and Depth in the FLIRT model are attributes that the company needs to consider in its
own activity before advancing to further FLIRT stages; not attributes of the wider
phenomenon to conduct research on.

Scope

In the context of this work Scope refers to which business function to choose for
crowdsourcing and thus also the point in the vertical supply chain where primary
focus of the crowdsourcing effort is to be located.

Many companies nowadays see crowdsourcing as an opportunity especially in


innovation. It has been noted that when utilized properly, consumer communities can
serve as multipliers of the company’s R&D efforts (Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2004a,
52-53). On the other hand it has been observed that consumers often orientate

38
themselves on existing product solutions, have problems in articulating and
transferring their needs for future products and thus might deliver only ideas for
incremental innovations, which makes radical innovation through collaboration
problematic (Füller et al. 2006).

At present, the “open-source problem solving” paradigm that crowdsourcing relies on


has migrated beyond its initial habitat in software to industries as diverse as custom
integrated circuits, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, content production, and music
(Lakhani and Jeppesen 2007). Contemporary crowdsourcing is also not about
innovation only, but also about e.g. content creation (Boutin 2006a), product
development, design, marketing, sales, distribution and risk management (Brabham
2008).

Replacing part of traditional market research has also been on focus when it comes to
customer-engaging social media services. While response rates in traditional market
research surveys have been falling, usage of web 2.0 services and communications
have been increasing steeply (Hitwise 2007). This gives rise to the idea that
traditional market research could probably be – at least partly – replaced by real-time
marketing information and insight – or market sensing – co-created by research
partners (respondents in the old model) (Cooke 2006). Cooke further suggests that, in
order to discover and keep track of the preferences of present day consumers, “instead
of asking them questions, companies should be looking at how consumers tag their
photos, what they post and watch on YouTube, what they post to digg.com, what
bookmarks they save to del.icio.us, going beyond focus groups and cluster analysis
through exploring folksonomies and utilizing virtual communities”.

We will in this thesis be looking at different areas to which crowdsourcing can be


applied. Trendwatching.com states in their article Customer Made (2006) four
different ways of engaging the customer in innovation and marketing: contests,
whereby participants engage in product development and design activities as utilized
by e.g. Nokia and Threadless; ongoing development, which is employed in exemplary
style by P&G above others; creation and sales lets people realize their visions using a
company provided dedicated platform, which might range from DIY book publishing
service (lulu.com) to full-fledged online t-shirt store for one’s own print designs
(Spreadshirt).

39
Viewing the issue from a risk management perspective, Ogawa and Piller (2006) list
the alternatives for collective customer commitment as shown in Table 4:

Table 4. Alternatives for collective customer commitment (Ogawa and Piller 2006)

parameter Alternatives
source of new product company ideas customer ideas
designs
connection with customers cooperate with external existing community build a community for co-
creation of new products
preselection of ideas company panel customer competition
minimum order size predefined: decisions based on development predefined: decisions based on
and manufacturing costs of the first production development and manufacturing
batch costs of the first production
batch
commitment monetary: customer pays at moment of good practice: customer
preorder promises to buy product
incentives none for participating customers special preorder prices for early
customers and awards for user
designers
reorders determined by conventional planning and dependent on continuous
forecasting commitment from community
organization project- or competition-based process ongoing process
relation to conventional supplement the conventional process for Replace the conventional
product development and developing radical new product concepts process and serve as the
market research underlying business model for
entire company

According to Nambisan (2002), customers can be involved in firm new product


development through 1) generating ideas, 2) co-creating them with firms, 3) testing
finished products and 4) providing end user support.

Crowdsourcing is also not for B2C only, as shows the announcement of Reuters to
scourge the wisdom of the crowds by launching a social network service for financial
analysts and Sermo’s introduction of a social network and decision market for doctors
to join and collaborate in and pharmaceutical companies to utilize (Halperin 2007).

40
Proposition 1d: Establishing scope is a key element in planning crowdsourcing
activities

Scale

Scale in the FLIRT model is related to the question of how broadly to expand utilizing
crowdsourcing within a given function or across functions. Increased scale can
naturally bring increased benefits for business in the form of e.g. economies of scale,
but too much scale also confuses the customer (Piller 2005) and discourages
participation.

The extent to which crowdsourcing can be spread from its core locus is dependent
also on organization capabilities and the functionality of interorganizational networks
(Törrö 2007). As regards the scale of the activity there needs to be some kind of
assessment of the costs and benefits of collaborating with online communities, as
treated by e.g. Liebowitz (2003).

Proposition 1e: Establishing scale is a key element in planning crowdsourcing


activities.

Scale also has to do with time-scale and temporal structure of the initiative.
Crowdsourcing can be conducted on a short-term campaign-basis or longer-term
community-building basis. Both have their own uses, but long-term community
building leads to better results when seeking deeper, large-scale interaction with the
customers. The effects of time orientation can be seen when comparing to
participatory services (statistics from www.alexa.com), Wikipedia, a crowdsourced
encyclopedia and Subservient Chicken, a participatory campaign site for Burger King,
as shown in Figures 2 and 3.:

41
Figure 2. Traffic development of Wikipedia.org (Alexa)

Figure 3. Traffic development of the once popular subservient chicken marketing site
(Alexa)

Ideacity’s Joel Greenberg, a marketing consultant, illustrates the significance of his


observation (http://blog.ideacity.com/2007/01/04/contrasting-community-sites-with-
marketing-sites/):

...They clearly illustrate the difference between a media driven website and a
community website. The shape of the curve is what’s important. In a media
driven site (and I’m using this terminology to include paid media, PR, and viral
spread), the interest increases quickly, but also tends to decay over time. This is
the opposite of a community site, which builds over time.

42
My hypothesis is that in a non-community site, a media company will only be
successful as the pour money into ad campaigns to keep the interest up.
However, with a community site, the interest is inherent, so people remain
engaged. This distinctions are important when planning out campaigns, setting
expectations on results, and educating clients about marketing with community.

Greenberg’s assertion would seem to call for community oriented sites, should a
longer-term commitment be in focus.

Proposition 1f: Establishing time-scale is a key element in crowdsourcing


activities

Depth

Thinking about depth in the Focus phase of the FLIRT model requires the company to
think about how much control and power they are willing to cede to the customer in
crowdsourcing efforts, how the organization can cope with this increased openness
and sharing of power and also what should be done if it can’t. While shallow
collaboration is naturally risk-free for the company, a certain degree of depth is
needed to ensure collaboration significant for the customer and long-term customer
loyalty (Collins and Gordon 2005). However, company insiders are always critically
important in determining which problems should be broadcast and ultimately
selecting which potential solutions are best in terms of company strategy and
direction (Lakhani and Jeppesen 2004).

Proposition 1g: Establishing depth is a key element in planning crowdsourcing


activities

3.3. Language

When dealing with an open crowd – the bunch we would traditionally call consumers
– it is quite clear that having a sound business plan that makes sense in terms of
profits is not enough to get them interested. The people are not in a business contract
with the crowdsourcing company and unless care is taken in presenting the
collaborative offer to the public, people may just as well walk away or not engage at
all. In addition to establishing Focus, the company needs to find things and themes

43
important to the people and present the collaborative offer in a way for them to
become interested, involved and invested in the company’s agenda. According to
Prahalad and Ramaswamy (2004a, 54), engaging the participants emotionally and
intellectually is a key ingredient in crowdsourcing. This can only happen if the
company is talking about the right things the right way.

I thus argue that Language – through which shared objects and how to approach the
participants – has a key role in planning crowdsourcing activities.

3.3.1. Social Objects

What is it really binds the community together? A relevant concept regarding this is
the ‘objectualization’ of social relations and object-centered sociality, in which
objects progressively displace persons as relationship partners and increasingly
mediate human relationships (Knorr-Cetina 1997). More recently this concept has
been expanded into the concept of epistemic consumption objects (Zwick, Detlev,
Dholakia and Nikhilesh 2006, Zwick 2006) that reveal themselves progressively
through interaction, observation, use, examination, and evaluation and demonstrate a
propensity to change their “face-in-action” vis-à-vis consumers through the
continuous addition or subtraction of properties. The epistemic consumption object is
materially elusive and this lack of ontological stability turns the object into a
continuous knowledge project for consumers. Via this ongoing cycle of revelation and
discovery, consumers become attached to the object in intimate and quasi-social
ways. It is important to note that these shared objects might not be neatly defined,
bounded objects, such as photos, pets or videos; they may also be ‘messy’ objects,
such as medical conditions or life situations that can’t be narrated smoothly from a
single location (Law and Singleton, 2005). This represents an interesting departure
from traditional views on social networks that center on relationships between people
per se. However, in contrast to the object-centered sociality, Suchman (2005) raises
questions regarding the premise that object relations have somehow displaced person-
centered sociality. Instead he finds in his study the evidence for intensified forms of
affiliation (and contest) among persons that arise through common object orientations.
However, these social objects are clearly worth examining in the context of how to
get people interested in joining the collaborative offering.

44
Proposition 2a: Social objects, shared objects of value to the participants, are a
key consideration in planning crowdsourcing activities.

3.3.2. Social interaction

Deepening the concept of social objects – what is the thing that brings people together
– it is necessary to examine also the nature of interactions around these objects. For
the past two decades or so, researchers of interaction via the computer between users
who are dispersed in space and/or time have tried to understand how user interactions
are shaped by the characteristics of computer mediation.

While early studies in the area focused on the lack of physical and social cues of the
computer mediated environment, implying impersonal and task-oriented interactions
(e.g., Rutter, 1987; Sproull & Kiesler, 1986, 1991), recent studies (DeSanctis &
Poole, 1994; Fulk, 1993; Postmes, Spears, & Lea, 1998, 2000; Walther, 1996) have
emphasized the social construction that occurs over time in this environment,
influencing the nature of user interactions. Both approaches posit that factors such as
temporal structure and nature of identity in the environment have profound
implications on the nature of interaction.

Although some early studies proposed that computer-mediated environment would be


significantly de-individuated (Kiesler et al. 1984), more recent results show many
different ways of establishing identity online (Myers 1987). In addition to identity,
also presence is an interesting subject to investigate in online communities, since
recent technologies allow more manifestations of presence than is possible with
traditional media of communication (Lombard and Ditton 1997). Hargadon and
Bechky (2006) identify four types of social interaction in collective creativity: help
seeking, help giving, reflective reframing and reinforcing. Nature of interaction
orientation is also found to be a crucial element in designing Nambisan’s (2002)
virtual customer communities. As types and nature of social interaction in earlier
studies are found to be at least as important as social objects, they will be a key focus
area also in my study.

45
Proposition 2b: In addition to the social objects, different types of social
interaction are a key element in planning crowdsourcing activities.

3.3.3. Organization presence

In the blogosphere, a subject that has gotten people on social media and branding
talking a lot during 2006 and 2007 has been the forcible entry of companies and
brands into the social media arena through blogs, microblogging tools, virtual
communities, social networks and digital worlds. Authenticity for brands in social
media is problematic, for to be authentic, they would need to present themselves as
they are: inanimate brands and commercial concepts. However, companies have a
hard time relying on the attractiveness of their brands alone, driving them to utilize
fake blogs, profiles etc. to introduce a human face to them. Social media being at its
core human to-human-interaction, the introduction of inanimate brands as
conversation opponents has sparked negative response among members and industry
experts alike, especially when advertisements are intentionally disguised as customer
generated content (Freeman, B. and Chapman, S. 2007). Thus solving the authenticity
issue is a key issue to deal with in crowdsourcing through digital communities.

Proposition 2c: Authenticity in brand and company presence is a key element in


planning crowdsourcing activities.

In the age of social media, transparency is yet another key issue within language.
Transparency is contrary to conventional practices of product development, but as
Ogawa and Piller (2006) state, all collective customer commitment practices must
share one important characteristic: full disclosure of the entire process and integration
of customers in a truly open practice. Complete role and process transparency are
along with cognitive compatibility crucial design parameters related to customers’
integration with internal product development teams also in Nambisan’s (2002)
virtual customer community.

Proposition 2d: Transparency in roles and processes is a key element in


planning crowdsourcing activities

46
3.4. Incentives

What motivates people to engage in conversations and collaboration with companies


and brands that are inanimate and can’t be added to one’s social capital? As I argued
in the Language part, shared purpose and a common social object or objects lay the
ground for meaningful interaction, but especially in crowdsourcing activity, where a
company explicitly asks its customers to perform tasks for it, more elaborate
incentives usually need to be in place. According to Nambisan (2002), creation of
appropriate incentives and motivating the customer through is one of three major
challenges that arise in using customers as a source of new product ideas and that
customer motivation utilizing product-, community- and medium-related benefits are
crucial design parameters for virtual customer communities. Von Hippel (2001) notes
that incentives and means to voluntarily reveal information need to be in place for
free revealing to happen. This means that innovation needs to happen in a context in
which everybody innovating on their own would impose huge system-level cost and
costs related to the loss of intellectual property as well as costs of diffusion are low.
Amateurs however do reveal and contribute regardless of the setting (Harhoff, Henkel
and von Hippel, 2003), which is a very important notion, since crowdsourcing very
much relies not on professionals but amateurs.

Regardless of its name, the growth of various forms of social media is largely based
on the desires and aspirations of the individual, rather than the aim for common good.
People creating and collaborating through social media are often in pursuit of selfish
goals, such as visibility, social status, fame or downright monetary profit as a result of
their actions, as Prahalad and Ramaswamy (2004a, 16) also note, describing the new
market as a forum organized around individuals and individual-centered value co-
creation experiences between consumers and companies. This self-interestedness does
not exclude the concept of today’s web as a gift exchange economy, in which millions
authors are giving away intellectual property for the sake of developing a sense of
community (Lyman 2007), for in giving away intellectual property, one expects to
receive information of equal or greater value in exchange, or perhaps social status in
the community.

47
Both intrinsic and extrinsic incentives (Roberts, Hann, Il-Hom and Slaughter 2004,
Hann et al. 2004) are at play in co-creation efforts regardless of area of business.
Elaborating further, in the FLIRT model I make a distinction between subjective
external incentives (i.e. those whose value can not be directly measured in monetary
terms) and objective external incentives (i.e. those which have a direct monetary
value).

3.4.1. Intrinsic incentives

The intrinsic incentives are immaterial by nature and concentrate on the benefits a
participant creates for oneself through the act itself without obvious external
incentives. In the most basic form of intrinsic motivation individuals may contribute
because the act results in a sense of efficacy – a sense that they have had some effect
on their environment (e.g. Bandura 1995). Making regular and quality contributions
can help individuals believe that they have an impact and thus support their own self-
image as an efficacious person (Ahonen, M., Antikainen, M. and Mäkipää, M. 2007).
Lakhani and von Hippel (2003) have found that in free user-to-user support in online
communities, providers answer questions in order to learn rather than to answer, and
indeed have 98% of their efforts rewarded via the learning they gain through thinking
about a problem before answering it. Contributors also do it for fun and enjoyment
through engagement in the task, and they don’t perceive participation as a cost, but
instead an enjoyable benefit (Harhoff, Henkel and von Hippel 2003, von Hippel and
von Krogh 2003). Also Lakhani and Jeppesen (2004) argue that concrete prizes are
necessary but not sufficient for people to engage in collaboration. Firms must pay for
solutions in order to retain the IP rights to them, but the enjoyment of taking on an
interesting challenge is a bigger draw. Indeed, the researchers have shown that no
significant correlation between the size of the prize and a problem’s likelihood of
being solved exists.

Proposition 3a. Intrinsic incentives are a key consideration in planning


crowdsourcing activities.

48
3.4.2. Extrinsic subjective incentives

Intrinsic private benefits are often of an immediate nature, which means that the
contributors may have smaller incentive to stay on project long term (von Hippel and
von Krogh 2003). For this reason also extrinsic motivations need to be devised in
order to encourage longer-term commitment if such commitment is required. Also
Sansone and Smith (2000) suggest that while intrinsic motivations are necessary for
stimulating initial participation, extrinsic motivations can boost, regulate and maintain
the interest in doing a task. For example, software contributors’ desires to further their
careers may enhance their inherent interest in making code contributions because
making contributions can also help them to achieve higher status or to obtain better
career opportunities.

Extrinsic subjective incentives are in relation to an external reference group and


reflect the effects generated by participating and belonging to a community or helping
out a company or organization, nevertheless excluding the concrete, material benefits.
An example is a developer looking to the community for recognition and validation as
a motive for contributing rather than contributing because of a personal belief or
value. Studies on motivations, participation and performance of open source software
developers, it has been found that Intrinsic, extrinsic, and internalized extrinsic
motivations do not exclude each other but indeed coexist and are interrelated and that
different types of motivations impact contributions differently; while extrinsic
motivations and status/opportunity motivations are associated with higher levels of
contributions, use value motivations are associated with fewer contributions, and
intrinsic motivations do not affect the level of contributions. (Roberts, Hann, Il-Hom
and Slaughter 2004)

One example of subjective extrinsic incentives derived from participating in the


community is simply joy of helping the cause together with like-minded people (von
Hippel 2001, Lakhani and von Hippel 2003) and helping to build a community (von
Hippel 2001). Furthermore, the community-based innovation system also works on
expectation of reciprocity (von Hippel 2001, Lakhani and von Hippel 2003): working
within a community provides the participants with resources such as info, assistance,
and links to others, thus inducing improvements on own ideas and thinking that act as
incentives (Franke and Shah 2003, Harhoff, Henkel and von Hippel, 2003). Naturally,

49
also reputation among a reference group and enhanced career opportunities play a role
here (von Hippel 2001, Lakhani and von Hippel 2003). Anderson (2006) also
addresses the question of why anyone bothers to create anything of value without a
business plan or even a prospect of a paycheck. According to Anderson’s reputation
economy concept, much of what populates the long tail does not start with
commercial aim. The motives to create are not the same in the head as they are in the
tail, where expression, fun, experimentation and the bottom line: reputation, play
major roles in motivating the crowds. Reputation is valuable in that it can be
converted into things of value: jobs, tenure, audiences, viral resume and lucrative
offers of all sorts. (73-74) Given that also without the long tail effect, 98 percent of
books are, intentionally or not, non-commercial (commercial failures), it is not totally
incomprehensible that people nowadays see online non-profit publishing as, instead of
being a profit generator, being an advertisement for the product of value – the author
(76).

Sansone and Smith (2000) found that an increase in ranking boosts contributors’
subsequent intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. An increase in performance ranking is
therefore associated with a subsequent increase in contributors’ status/opportunity
motivations to participate. As also Lerner & Tirole (2002) have noted, a promotion in
rank enhances a contributor’s status in the developer community and increases
incentive motivation. Roberts et al. (2004) found no significant associations between
rank increases and intrinsic motivations or use value motivations, which is expected,
since rank relates to extrinsic, community related motivation. In conclusion, they
make three suggestions to open source communities: 1) welcome commercial efforts,
2) nurture status/opportunity motivations (e.g. by explicitly recognizing distinguished
contributors or promoting connection to the labor market) and 3) capture a
competence component in the feedback system (e.g. by listing achievements and
extraordinary contributions). Von Hippel and von Krogh (2003) also assert that
contributors whose identity is known to the community enjoy greater benefits from
revealing their innovations than do those who are less integrated. Open source
entrepreneurs therefore have an incentive to integrate important users socially, by e.g.
listing important developers (as the Dell does with its ‘top contributors’ list in its
Ideastorm initiative).

50
Proposition 3b. Extrinsic subjective incentives are a key consideration in
planning crowdsourcing activities.

3.4.3. Extrinsic objective incentives

The rewards that can be attributed direct monetary value I call extrinsic objective
incentives: products and services on the market by the crowdsourcing company or
partnering companies, credits that can be used to acquire these products and services,
or simply cold hard cash. Although price setting for user-generated services and
contributions, such as assistance and info is difficult to set, some concrete rewards are
often necessary in order to justify the company benefiting financially from openly
revealed information and contributions (Franke and Shah 2003).

While this form of incentives is what to many come to mind first when talking about
motivating customers for collaboration, it would be a mistake to think that extrinsic
objective incentives would be enough to engage people for co-creation or that they
would compensate for missing intrinsic or extrinsic subjective incentives. Indeed,
intrinsic motivations (challenge, mental stimulation, control, curiosity, fantasy) may
even be downplayed by monetary incentives as the shift in motivational orientation
from intrinsic to extrinsic can negatively affect interpersonal interactions and
creativity (Franke and Shah 2003). The overjustification effect (also called the
undermining effect) (Boggiano and Ruble 1979; Wiersma 1992; Shu-Hua, Hall,
Wentzel, Lepper 1995) is the effect whereby giving someone an incentive (monetary
or otherwise) to do something that they already enjoy doing decreases their intrinsic
motivation to do it. As a result of the extrinsic incentive, the person views his or her
actions as externally motivated rather than intrinsically appealing. In general, intrinsic
motivation decreases in response to tangible but not verbal rewards (praise) for
behavior (Deci, Koestner and Ryan, 1999). Ultimately, it is important to note that
people, at least in the developed world, do not participate in co-creation efforts to
support their living, but instead for gaining knowledge, establishing expertise,
building self-esteem, for emotional bonding and trust, as well as pure enjoyment
(Prahalad & Ramaswamy 2004a, 21)

Proposition 3c. Extrinsic objective incentives are a key consideration in


planning crowdsourcing activities.

51
3.5. Rules

As all communities, also well functioning crowdsourcing communities rely on clear,


shared rules to deliver an experience that is productive, fun, easy to comprehend for
all parties involved, as well safe for everybody to engage in. Rules formalize the
process of access and initiation in the community, guide intellectual creation and
exchange in the collaborative effort as well as work as reference in disputes. It is
necessary to establish these rules well ahead to ensure smooth functioning of the
community, for if a dispute with e.g. appropriateness of submitted content arises, a
point to refer to is necessary to lessen feelings for the customer of being treated
unfairly. Rules are especially important in virtual environments because of their
inherent characteristics as regards presence of self and other in the virtual space.

Physical environments, through socialization of norms, give us critical cues as to what


is appropriate in a given environment (Danchin, É., Giraldeau, Luc-Alain, Valone,
Thomas J. and Wagner, Richard H. 2004). This is different with digital networks and
online communities (Boyd 2007), for which reason it is important to establish explicit
rules also for crowdsourcing communities existing in the digital realm.

3.5.1. Rules of access and initiation

Access and initiation into the community are important considerations as nature of
customer identity is critical in designing virtual customer communities (Nambisan
2002). Also, as many crowdsourcing efforts are open for all and do not rely on pre-
selected participants, as e.g. lead user methods or modern marketing research
techniques do, there might arise the need for some way of curbing or even banning
from using the service the ‘human rejects’ (Johnston 1989) that don’t fit in. User
Access and participation in general is considered a key question in community-based
innovation (Füller et al. 2006).

Bouras (2005) relies here on the wisdom of the crowds in emphasizing that two-way
voluntary participation (the community chooses who participates in the community
and members of the community choose to participate in it) is a mandatory
requirement in building collaboration communities. Furthermore, Bouras asserts that
one of the key requirements for the development of a web-based virtual collaboration

52
community is enabling multiple, shifting and overlapping membership and
participation, for people typically participate in more than on community at a time,
tend to join and leave the different communities to which they belong, and more
communities may share purpose, location, cultural context or membership. This
matter will be discussed in more detail in the platform part of the Tools subchapter.

Regardless of the voluntary principle, some crowdsourcing and co-creation


communities do sometimes pre-select their participants in order to assure the
participants fitting in a desired profile; P&G’s Tremor does this as it screens its
members by age and even (self-perceived) influence over their peers, so that there are
only (young) people with desired profiles participating in a given project.

Proposition 4a: Rules of access and initiation are a key consideration in


planning crowdsourcing activities.

3.5.2. Rules of interaction and conduct

Once joined to the community, consumers as creators demand a set of rules. They
usually can’t be put to sign an NDA before they start creating and exchanging
information on the web and they also do not like to read multi-page progression plans
on how they should proceed with the co-creation effort. The public as creators
requires effectiveness above all, and a quick access to what essentially is expected of
them. Guidelines need to be in place to effectively coordinate and guide participants
to co-creation.

According to Duparcq (2007), the purpose and participants of the community affect
the platform, which in turn affects policing – governance, rules and boundaries – in
the community. I however argue that rules and policing need to, at least to some
degree, be given thought and established before building the platform and tools for
the community, for boundaries and constraints will be easier to govern when it is
decided beforehand which alternate ways of interaction and exchange to allow and
which to discourage in the community. These desired and non-desired alternatives can
then be built in or left out of the platform and tools that the community members are
to use. Simplified, if a given company needs feedback from its customers on products,
but wishes to keep the tone of the conversation positive, it can allow the option of

53
voting for an idea, but leave out the option of demoting one. However, the potential
members of the community will note this kind of artificial framing and its effect on
the community’s credibility and appeal can be significantly negative.

With rules also the degree of user control (Nambisan 2002) will be made explicit and
reference points will be given as to what degree the crowd “owns” and can influence
the collaborative effort. One noted issue with communities of collaboration is that of
the so-called freeriders; persons that don’t contribute but nonetheless enjoy the fruits
of the collaboration. Communities usually guard against freeriding by incurring
penalties, exclusions. An important note on freeriding in crowdsourcing is that the
participants’ self-rewarding through private benefits related to intrinsic motivations
that are not available to so-called freeriders may diminish contributors’ concerns
about freeriders (von Hippel and von Krogh 2003). Moreover, many crowdsourcing
efforts are set up as competitions, and naturally one can’t enjoy the benefit of
competing and winning without participating.

Social integration doesn't prevent withdrawal from project through punishment but
perhaps through individual utility derived from a social category, such as a co-
developer status. Therefore, companies building collaboration communities should
seek to make this category valuable, rare and membership restricted. This is supported
by the findings of Schwartz and Tomz (1997), who suggest that leaders who can
choose who is a member of a social category can secure a more talented group and
more effective production of goods and services.

Proposition 4b: Rules for interaction and conduct are a key consideration in
planning crowdsourcing activities.

3.5.3. IP transfer & legal issues

Legal claims for the exploitation of consumer ideas and inventions can be problematic
in co-creation (Füller et al. 2006). The fact is that a crowdsourcing community always
creates intellectual property. Usually it is desirable that the creators hand over the
ownership to the IP they create in the process in exchange for some form of
compensation. For this purpose, well prepared IP transfer procedures need to be in
place and easily accessible for any one member to explore.

54
Proposition 4c: Rules for IP and legal issues are a key consideration in
planning crowdsourcing activities.

3.6. Tools

When all the strategic and tactical FLIRT elements, Focus, Language, Incentives and
Rules have been carefully thought out and established it is time to focus on technical
part of building the platform and the tools for people to use. Multi-media richness,
global accessibility and low costs of communication and information processing at
present facilitate virtual integration of consumers into diverse company activities
(Füller, Bartl, Ernst and Mühlbacher 2006).

This last technical aspect to crowdsourcing is however far from a trivial task, as
companies face an exploding selection of collaboration tools and platforms. On top of
this, consumers today are growing increasingly savvy and quality conscious when it
comes to features and user-friendliness of online services designed to lure them in and
keep them interested and engaged (Gommans, M., Krishnan, K., Scheefold, K. 2001;
Lorenzo, Oblinger and Dziuban 2007). Web services and their building principles
methods nowadays are developing fast in terms of possibilities to enhance user
experience (Moroney, L. 2006, Open AJAX Alliance 2006) as open source and peer-
to-peer methods quicken and enhance the development cycle of the so-called web 2.0
applications and services (Benatallah, B., Duma, M. and Sheng, Q. 2004, Floyd, I.,
Jones, M., Rathi, D. and Twidale, M. 2007, Panke, S., Kohls, C. and Gaiser, B. 2006).

While the web has the ability to mimic other medias, it is also a completely new
medium (Watson, Pitt, Berthon, Pierre & Zinkhan 2002) enabling ever-diversifying
forms of conveying a message together with the possibility of participating in and
even co-creating it. Of these forms, Meeker and Joseph (2006) assert that community
features, user generated content and personalization are key drivers for businesses in
the Web 2.0 era. Common terms related to Web 2.0 are RSS, blog, mashup,
community, User Generated Content (UGC), free content and services, long tail,
collective intelligence, software as service, as well as collective creation and
development (Hintikka 2007).

55
New features are added to fastest growing services on a weekly basis. For these
reasons, staying aware of technological advancements and capturing opportunities
from emerging technologies to enhance user experience is one key aspect in
developing environments for co-creation (Prahalad & Ramaswamy 2004a, 54). For
managers in charge of developing the tools for the community, a challenge is to keep
the cost of development in check with business objectives. Customer contributions
can be limited by the high cost of providing facilities or mechanisms to structure and
channel those customers’ inputs (Nambisan 2002).

3.6.1. Platform

First and foremost, the members require co-location, a common physical or (more
often, in the case of crowdsourcing) virtual space for collaborative activities (Bouras
et al. 2005). Secondly, customer co-creators will need to be somehow integrated with
internal (New product development, marketing or other) teams (Nambisan 2002).
This requires some kind of platform to be built, but not necessarily from scratch, as
there are many standards-based alternatives and even free community creation
platforms at present on the market.

Tools are however not technology alone. Recognizing both the technical & social
aspects of co-creation experiences (Prahalad & Ramaswamy 2004a, 54) is paramount
as there is, among the web 2.0 hype, a danger to develop snazzy looking services that
offer no real added value to the user; the focus on surface can distract resources from
actually concentrating on building usable and value-adding services, thus resulting in
“glossy but useless” (BBC 2007) websites and services. The social aspects, such as
social objects and types of social interaction were already covered in the Language
subchapter.

Füller et al. (2006) states in his key questions for community based innovation, that
once a desired participant profile is defined, is it is important to clarify within which
online community these consumers can most probably be found. This thought is
important, as companies don’t necessarily need to build a customer community anew;
their customers are already members in potentially multiple communities that can be
used for collaboration with less cost. However, even when a completely new

56
community is facilitated, it is still important to identify the most relevant communities
for recruiting customers to this new community.

As mentioned in the Rules of Access and initiation the Rules subchapter, people are
nowadays participating in social networks and communities according to their
changing needs, which calls for facilitating multiple, shifting and overlapping
memberships (Bouras 2005). This has implications also for crowdsourcing
communities. The current OpenSocial movement (e.g. Mitchell-Wong, Kowalczyk,
Roshelova, Joy & Tsai 2007) and other similar initiatives hold promise for the future
in removing walls between different social networks and collaboration communities,
aiming to make personal and social data portable and utilizable in different contexts
regardless of the service provider. Many other forms of communication have shown
that this type of shift is ultimately inevitable: e.g. email and instant messaging have
through time transferred from being walled gardens that allow communication only
within systems to being means of communication where e.g. different instant
messaging accounts can be aggregated under comprehensive applications and
communication e.g. between different email systems is nowadays taken as a given
(The Economist 2008). These issues specifically would seem to call for social
portability, the ability to bind the crowdsourcing community to other communities the
participant might be involved in, through e.g. widgets and feeds, in future-oriented
crowdsourcing efforts.

Proposition 5a: The technical platform is a key consideration in planning


crowdsourcing activities.

3.6.2. Tools of creation

After platform, the tools of creating the desired contribution must be thought of. At
the base level it needs to be kept in mind that customers may need higher levels of
product / technology knowledge in order to co-create (Nambisan 2002) and the tools
of creation must comply with these increased information needs. Among others,
Dahan and Hauser (2002) outline in their work many types of customer collaboration
tools for creating new knowledge mainly from company-generated material.
However, modern crowdsourcing in many cases utilizes tools that go beyond testing
alternative company materials, instead focusing on original customer-created material

57
(Piller 2005, Ogawa and Piller 2006). For this reason, attention needs to be directed to
how this material is supposed to be created; the alternatives vary at the base level
from company-provided materials and software to 3rd party originating materials and
software. Also Füller et al’s (2006) key questions in community-based innovation
include efficient design of the interaction with the targeted community members
regarding the particular development task and the individuality of the selected online
community.

Proposition 5b: Tools for interacting with the brand and creating the desired
input are a key consideration in implementing crowdsourcing activities.

3.6.3. Tools of monitoring and action

A major challenge for the company in collaboration ventures is capturing customer


knowledge and input (Nambisan 2002). According to Nambisan, longtitudal and
informal knowledge gathering is more beneficial than cross-sectional and formal
types. He also separates between knowledge acquisition support and knowledge
conversion support, both of which are crucial decision points in building virtual
customer communities. While it is impossible within the scope of this thesis to go into
any detail on how internal processes and tools for selecting the contributions for
advanced consideration and production should be planned and built it is an essential
final part of the FLIRT model and specifically the Tools element to take also this
angle into account. Without these internal processes and tools, all the potentially
useful contributions gathered with effort are left unattended and won’t cause a desired
effect in the company.

Proposition 5c: Tools for monitoring and capturing customer contributions are
a key consideration in planning contemporary crowdsourcing activities.

Proposition 5d: Tools for converting customer contributions to useful


knowledge and making decisions are a key consideration in planning
contemporary crowdsourcing activities.

58
3.7. Summary of the FLIRT model

In this chapter I have outlined the FLIRT model, first by defining on a rough level
using few key works as foundation and then by elaborating on said issues and more
finely defined the propositions behind the model. For a detailed summary of the
relation of previous literature to the forming of the FLIRT model, refer to Appendix
1. – Previous literature and the FLIRT model.

There are five main elements in the FLIRT model: Focus, Language, Incentives,
Rules and Tools, which each contain a number of propositions, as shown in Tables 5-
9.

The Focus main element aims at getting the company to think about its aims, its target
groups and its resources for achieving what is needed. Through answering these
questions, the scope, scale and depth of the crowdsourcing activity can be established.
My argument is that the attributes listed in Table 5. are the core ones to be established
before advancing further in implementing crowdsourcing.

Table 5. Summary of the FLIRT model – FOCUS

FOCUS Proposition 1a: Business needs are a key consideration in planning crowdsourcing
activities
Proposition 1b: Targeting a diverse set of customer participants is a key factor in planning
crowdsourcing activities
Proposition 1c: Organization capabilities are a key consideration in planning crowdsourcing
activities
Proposition 1d: Establishing scope is a key element in planning crowdsourcing activities
Proposition 1e: Establishing scale is a key element in planning crowdsourcing activities.
Proposition 1f: Establishing time-scale is a key element in crowdsourcing activities
Proposition 1g: Establishing depth is a key element in planning crowdsourcing activities

Table 6. Summary of the FLIRT model – LANGUAGE

LANGUAGE Proposition 2a: Social objects, shared objects of value to the participants, are a key
consideration in planning crowdsourcing activities.
Proposition 2b: In addition to the social objects, different types of social interaction are a
key element in planning crowdsourcing activities.
Proposition 2c: Authenticity in brand and company presence is a key element in planning
crowdsourcing activities.
Proposition 2d: Transparency in roles and processes is a key element in planning
crowdsourcing activities

The Language-part of the FLIRT model focuses on the customer. I argue that as
participatory service live and die by their participants, it is extremely important that
the target group be known well and social objects meaningful to the desired
participants will be chosen. In addition, I posit that focus on relevant areas of social
interaction help engaging the right crowds. Furthermore, the FLIRT model suggests

59
that transparency and authenticity play a key role in involving people and getting
them to actually care about the company / brand they are helping with their efforts.

Table 7. Summary of the FLIRT model – INCENTIVES

INCENTIVES Proposition 3a. Intrinsic incentives are a key consideration in planning crowdsourcing
activities.
Proposition 3b. Extrinsic subjective incentives are a key consideration in planning
crowdsourcing activities.
Proposition 3c. Extrinsic objective incentives are a key consideration in planning
crowdsourcing activities.

However close to the customer a company gets with selecting the right social objects,
I argue that in modern crowdsourcing, people still require compensation for their
efforts. However, these need not be monetary or even material, as the strongest
incentives come from within, such as fulfilling the need for creativity or enjoying the
challenge. In social activity, also the community-related social benefits are to be taken
into account as relevant and significant benefits. The incentives are listed in Table 7.

Every community, especially in the digital realm, requires common rules in order to
function fluidly and safely. In the FLIRT model I present that the essential rules that
govern a crowdsourcing community are those of a) access and initiation, b)
interaction and conduct and c) explicit rules for transfer of intellectual property and
other legal issues. The propositions for these issues are listed in Table 8.

Table 8. Summary of the FLIRT model – RULES

RULES Proposition 4a: Rules of access and initiation are a key consideration in planning
crowdsourcing activities.
Proposition 4b: Rules for interaction and conduct are a key consideration in planning
crowdsourcing activities.
Proposition 4c: Rules for IP and legal issues are a key consideration in planning
crowdsourcing activities.

Tools are the final element in the FLIRT model and especially in today’s environment
where people are used to well functioning web applications, a very crucial one. Both
the platform and the tools of creation and interaction need to be at least on par with
what the industry standard is in terms of usability, usefulness and experience, or it
will be in a serious disadvantage. Also, I present that there is a need for tools for
monitoring contributions and recognizing the best of them and furthermore that there
needs to be a dedicated set of tools for converting those contributions into useful
knowledge that can act as basis for informed decisions. The summary of propositions
is listed in Table 9.

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Table 9. Summary of the FLIRT model – TOOLS

TOOLS Proposition 5a: The technical platform is a key consideration in implementing


crowdsourcing activities.
Proposition 5b: Tools for interacting with the brand and creating the desired input are a key
consideration in implementing crowdsourcing activities.
Proposition 5c: Tools for monitoring and capturing customer contributions are a key
consideration in planning contemporary crowdsourcing activities.
Proposition 5d: Tools for converting customer contributions to useful knowledge and
making decisions are a key consideration in planning contemporary crowdsourcing
activities.

As many of the propositions in the FLIRT model are quite broad and high level
assumptions that can be held as self-evident to a certain degree, I will in the empirical
part focus on enriching these propositions with practical examples of what they
actually mean for a company, utilizing expert opinions and illustrative case examples.
Chapter 5 will thus focus on further elaborating and expanding the model from this
initial state as well as examining its practical manifestations and applicability in
different settings.

The FLIRT model moves in the order presented from strategic approach to tactic to
technical. It is best used in this order, starting from Focus, the strategic element and
going through it via setting the proper Language, crafting Incentives, setting up Rules
and finally building the Tools for collaboration. Nevertheless, like any proper
development model, it should not be a unidirectional waterfall model, but utilize
feedback flow from each stage to both its consecutive and previous stages.

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4. METHODOLOGY

4.1. Research Methodology

Gathering research data within the realm of social media is in many ways easier than
in many other fields since social media in itself offers the best tools for researching it.
Utilizing modern tools for searching, discovering, subscribing to, storing, sharing,
categorizing and cultivating information, I was able to unearth extensive insight on
the subject. On many occasions this insight was published on a fellow researchers or
practitioners blog, linked to many more conversations on the subject and so easily
facilitating even further insight by the collective effort of people fervently discussing
the subject topic. My main tool was netnography targeted at industry experts and
enthusiasts, coupled with illustrative case examples.

4.1.1. Illustrative Case Examples

The primary examples consisted of companies considered well known and apparently
successful in their respective fields of business. This means that they have been
mentioned numerous times in online articles (e.g. news and blog articles) and they are
usually portrayed as pioneers and exemplary actors in the arena, especially as regards
the way they handle their communities and the online collaboration. Below they are
briefly introduced. The primary case example companies were:

Threadless is an online T-shirt shop at its core, but it is also an ongoing design
contest with thousands of home made designers worldwide. Everybody that is
registered to the open community is eligible to submit a design and everybody is also
eligible to give it a rating. After a rating period of seven days, the people at
Threadless can see which shirts are drawing the best ratings and can make educated
decisions on which designs to put to production.

Innocentive is a global community of scientists and hobbyists, cracking challenging


R&D problems for major companies as well as smaller ones. The companies (seekers)
submit their problem online and community members submit their answers, after
which the company and Innocentive’s consultants choose the winning solution (if
there is one). The winning seekers are usually substantially rewarded for their efforts.

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Sellaband launched in 2006 as the ‘people’s record company’. Sellaband involves its
customers more integrally than many other companies even in the crowdsourcing
arena; it depends on its customers to fund its investments before making a decision to
promote them. In short, any unsigned band can post three songs to their own
Sellaband profile. Instead of merely rating the songs, members of the community
invest real money to the bands they like. Once a band reaches a specified level of
money invested by fans, Sellaband takes them to the record studio and shares the
proceeds from their income with the band as well as the fans.

iStockphoto is professional-grade stock photography created by non-professionals.


Anyone can create a profile, post pictures online and start selling their production for
a few dollars per image license (compared to tens or hundreds of dollars per license
on professional stock photography services). However, iStockphoto does have quality
standards to ensure consistent quality for its clients.

Lego Factory is an online place for Lego enthusiasts to share their own Lego designs
made with dedicated software. Anyone can view anyone’s design and upon liking a
certain design, order it for herself in which case she receives, in a customized
package, only the blocks needed to build the designed model.

Cambrian House is an ambitious project aiming to crowdsource idea generation,


resource gathering and implementation for initiatives focusing on software products
and services. It has a strong community focus, relies on wisdom of crowds identify
the best ideas and is dependent on peer production as regards executing the ideas.
Anyone can post basically an idea online and all members can grade ideas. All
members can also join practically any stage of building a business out of a given idea.

Zuda Comics is a comic sharing service for aspiring cartoon artists to upload and
share their stories and art with a growing community that determines which works
deserve to be published in the physical world and which deserve to stay unknown. DC
Comics, a major U.S. comic publishing house set up the service to discover new talent
in part to respond to the Japanese Manga comic phenomenon that is eating market
share from U.S. publishers.

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4.1.2. Netnography

Much meaningful consumption takes place in a communal, collective and tribal


environment of the web. According to Kozinets (2006), to map the thoughts,
preferences and ideas of consumers who spend their time online, netnography is a
faster, simpler, timelier, and less expensive than traditional ethnography. It is also
more naturalistic and unobtrusive than focus groups or surveys, enabling observation
without the participant ever necessarily knowing about the presence of the researcher.

In a society rich in ever increasing flows of data, netnography offers an extremely


easy way to gather it, and thus concerns of expedient research can arise. According to
Kozinets (1998), this argument can be countered with rigor in performing and judging
research through prolonged engagement and persistent observation, triangulation of
sources, recording of field notes, and member checks as the most important
methodological techniques. Netnography is used successfully also by Morgan (2006),
Cova and Pace (2006) and Giesler and Pohlmann (2003).

Puri identifies blogs as useful tools for netnograhers, for they offer several
advantages, such as containing detailed profiles (age, gender, location, interests,
occupation, and so on) of the blogger, making authentication and segmentation of the
author easy. They also offer detailed and vivid glimpses to contemporary issues
though opinions of both individuals and communities of bloggers and are noted to be
unusually honest, as often bloggers regard blog communities to be the only places
they can truly be themselves. Furthermore, as most blogs are public, bumping into
privacy concerns in researching blogs is usually not an issue. As search and analysis
tools in general, also blog search and analysis tools are rapidly evolving, enabling
faster finding of truly relevant data. (Puri 2007)

The disadvantages of utilizing blogs, given their present abundance on just about any
given topic, have to do with respect to efficiency when searching for specific
information: a newsgroup will often provide much greater breadth of data much faster
than searching through multiple blogs (Puri 2007). With today’s tools, such as blog
alerts, RSS readers, topic aggregation services (such as Twine.com), however, this
overwhelming stream of data can be tamed and researched effectively, as I noticed
during my research.

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4.1.3. Netnography in the current thesis

Blogs are excellent for spotting trends and making sense of the ‘buzz’ revolving
around contemporary phenomena. According to Puri (2007), they are useful for
understanding the needs and wants of people as regards specific recently emerged
offerings and picking up what people are actually saying about certain brands or
companies. Studying blogs around a specific interest or topic over time is a good way
of keeping track of shifts in consumer and/or professional attitudes. In addition to
blogs, other channels in netnography can be any digital channels through which
people communicate, such as online forums, blogs, networked game spaces, instant
messaging and mobile technologies.

For my purposes, I utilized netnography mainly to induce thinking of researchers and


professionals instead of consumer attitudes and preferences. To conduct my research I
sought out the opinion leading blogs on social media, web 2.0 and customer
collaboration and subscribed to all the relevant RSS feeds. Occasionally, I also
engaged in a discussion to deepen the discussion on the subject in question. The
process was indeed an organic one, as part of my empirical material was not posted
on the primary blogs I was following, but instead on blogs, traditional websites, sites
for sharing video and presentations, etc. that were linked to other blogs that were
linked to the primary blogs I was following. While this naturally on some occasions
led me to articles of very little relevance or authority, it also allowed me to explore
the phenomenon from viewpoints that would have been left in the dark had I stuck to
a limited number of key blogs.

To further enhance my research, I used alert services offered by blog search engines
such as Google and Technorati to subscribe to posts appearing all over the net. This
method kept me up-to-date on a large number of English-language postings on the
subject without the need to actively seek them out or know where they would emerge.
I also expanded my research by storing my raw material (URL’s) to the social
bookmarking service del.icio.us and as a result was able to find more relevant
material stored and shared there by other people looking into the subject.

Out of thousands screened, 500 blog posts out or other URLs directly or indirectly
linked to these posts were selected as the main empirical body for this thesis. They

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were thoroughly read and analyzed to extract knowledge and understanding of the
phenomenon and whether or not they would back my propositions.

I carefully made sure that the phases of netnography according to Kozinets (2002)
were fulfilled (indented are my actions to ensure proper conduct):

Investigating online field sites, initiating making cultural entrée

I identified as key blogs those that had a high rating in Technorati (‘proven’
authority), wide and active reader base (extensive conversation), and frequent posting
schedule (active approach and timeliness). I also set up my own blog and also sent
mail about my blog and my initial thoughts on the research to certain key bloggers
within he blogosphere most actively discussing the subject. I also linked to my blog in
conversations around the subject from other blogs when the opportunity allowed.

Collecting and analyzing data

I stored all the relevant blog posts on key blogs to my del.icio.us (a service for
storing, categorizing and sharing URLs) account together with relevant keywords so
that other people could find them too easily as possible and engage in a conversation
around the topic. I also collected all the comments to my blog.

Ensuring trustworthy interpretations

I carefully investigated the comments on each post for clarifications and alternative
viewpoints on the subject. When needed, I engaged in conversations around the
subject through posting my own comments and requesting feedback.

Ethical research

When researching blogs that are meant to be public, the issue of utilizing the
individual posts in research is less ambiguous than when researching discussion
forums, chat services, etc. where the degree of privacy is not always clear to all
participants. However, I did let many bloggers know that I will be using their thinking
as input in my research.

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Opportunities for feedback of culture members

Many bloggers I invited to comment have indeed commented on my blog regarding


my research and the FLIRT model of crowdsourcing. In addition, anyone has the right
to comment, and many actually have.

For the purposes of this study, I used a level of immersion above pure observation, as
I also started my own blog to report my findings on the field and engage in a dialogue
with some of the thought leaders I set out to listen. I perceive myself to have fulfilled
Kozinet’s standards of netnography, immersive depth, prolonged engagement,
researcher identification and persistent conversations to a sufficient extent.

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5. FINDINGS

Overall, results from both netnography and case examples support the initial
propositions and indeed enrich them and bring them more focus. In the following I
will go through my findings, illuminating the validation criteria with selected snippets
from my empirical material. In will proceed in the same order I outlined the elements
in the theory section, starting from Focus and moving through Language, Incentives
and Rules to finally arrive at Tools and my conclusions.

5.1. Focus

The empirical material brought validation and depth at variable strengths to my


working propositions and their cross-reflections. I am able to state in this point that
the defining attributes of Scope, Scale and Depth defined through reflecting them on
the constraining attributes of Business Objectives, Customer Participants and
Organizational Capabilities is indeed a valid way to approach the initial Focus phase
of planning crowdsourcing activities.

On focusing crowdsourcing efforts it needs to be noted that while the new tools of
social media do give greater power to consumers and individuals, crowdsourcing
essentially is a tool for organizations and corporations for getting things done better,
e.g. more efficiently, while at the same time enhancing innovativeness or customer
ownership and loyalty – in short, for benefiting the initiating organization. Clay
Shirky, an American writer, consultant and teacher on the social and economic effects
of Internet technologies, notes in an interview:

…This is an economic model. You can do it in democracy; you can do it outside


of democracy. Look at Amazon's Mechanical Turk. It is specifically
nondemocratic. It's pure managerial culture. Here is my job, here is what I am
paying, do it if you can. The workers don't go underneath the production. The
workers don't own the surplus of labor value.

Although Clay’s posture is rather bleak for the participants, examples, such as Dell’s
Ideastorm, Sellaband and other social initiatives show that offering genuine value for
people other than money or material incentives can create new opportunities for
innovation, strengthen ownership and loyalty of the customers and generate goodwill

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– even at times when these areas are perceived as the organizations biggest challenges
(the Dell Hell and Dell’s exploding laptops). Jeff Jarvis was one of the most
prominent bloggers voicing the agony of Dell’s customers over appalling customer
service, broken devices and so on. However, after Dell launched its Ideastorm
initiative and the Direct2Dell blog, he was convinced that this would be a dawn of a
new age for Dell. As he writes in his blog:

…So what fascinates me so much about Dell is that it can rise from worst to
first. Precisely because it got hammered by customers now empowered to talk
back to the wall, it had to get smarter faster. Whether Dell can fix the rest of its
problems, I don't know. But if it keeps on the road it's now on, it could well end
up being the smartest company in the age of customer control. That would be
one helluva turnaround.

Another prominent thinker on the field, Chris Lawer indeed suggests in an interview
viewing the collaboration market as:

…a forum for both value-creation and value-extraction that is enacted through


the firm-customer experience”, where “Tacit and intangible forms of knowledge
take centre-stage derived from experience-based and personalized forms of
value that rely on a combination of sensory AND rational judgments of value”,
and furthermore where an individual customer is “sometimes giving, sometimes
taking…yet has higher levels of dependency on firm and customer community
expertise.

The blog community does indeed see crowdsourcing as a viable model for connecting
with the customers, albeit one that requires not just jumping into the bandwagon, but
thinking through the implications it might have for the business and on the other hand
what it requires from the company. As Renee Hopkins Callahan crystallizes it:

What is crowdsourcing going to do for -- or to -- *your* business?

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5.1.1. Business Needs

Business objectives are especially after leveling off of the consumer-generated boom
emphasized widely among industry insiders. Among the various benefits that
crowdsourcing and collaborative marketing can be applied in, clearly among the most
important ones are increasing customer loyalty and ownership and creating genuine
and meaningful relationships. An interview on the Church of the Customer blog, a
prominent media on customer engagement, is telling:

Executives are increasingly finding that the winning differentiator is no longer


product or price, but the level of customer engagement relative to the
competition,” said Rama Ramaswami, senior editor of the EIU. “Companies
see there is a competitive advantage in going beyond traditional customer
loyalty programs to create engaged customers.” “The secret to success isn’t
just about gathering or churning data, it’s about how you connect with
customers through the medium of their choice,” said Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen.
“Customers now demand information and interaction anytime, anywhere and
through any medium”

Some seem to argue that engaging in collaboration communities where people interact
with their peers, that they trust more than companies or brands, grants the brand an
opportunity to utilize this trust and move into a better position in the consumer’s trust
hierarchy, as presented by Avenue A Razorfish’s digital outlook report in Table 10.

Table 10. Trust hierarchy and social media (Avenue A Razorfish, 2007)

Consumer Trust Example Brands correctly utilizing communities and


social media can move…
Low (far from the consumer Unknown companies …from here…
Known companies …or here…
Experts and Media
Medium People with shared values and …to at least here…
experiences
Personal circle
Inner circle …or even here.
High (close to the consumer) Own experiences / own gut

On how social media marketing and crowdsourcing should lead to sales, Search
Engine Land blog staff writer argues in a post on social media marketing:

The bottom line for many marketing campaigns is to bring an increase in sales.
Sometimes this is done directly and sometimes it is a very indirect process. It is

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very hard to create a social media marketing campaign that will result in direct
sales. This is because you're reaching consumers in a non-purchasing stage of
the cycle. It contrasts from standard SEO where consumers are looking for
what you're selling and at the point of purchase already. Social media is less
intrusive, and part of the reason people engage is because there's more there
than just a selling message.

Reaching into our case examples we however find that there is also selling power in
the crowd. Sellaband, the record company whose customers invest real money on
artists they deem fit to reach wider appeal succeeds in harnessing its users as a vast
sales force. The fans, in addition to making a powerful attachment to the artists
because they like their music, also share revenue on the band’s collaboratively funded
first album (the other beneficiaries being the record company and the band). This
extremely strong ownership of the company’s product makes fervent evangelists out
of the users, encouraging them to promote their own bands in every channel in
imaginable, creating a potent word-of-mouth marketing machine. At the time of
writing this passage (30th July 2008), Sellaband has 12 artists with an album out, 11
currently recording an album and over 8000 artists or bands signed up. A quite
convincing track record for a record company that has at this point been live just little
under two years.

Focusing needs to be done in how the benefits are to be realized in the long run in
order to justify investment to crowdsourcing. Utilizing examples and cases, I created
a list of different types of revenues that can be pursued with crowdsourcing. This list
is shown in Table 11. While there are many types of benefits that can be sought
utilizing crowd engagement, it should be the business’s strategy and competitive
situation that dictates which revenues are pursued.

In addition to classifying different kinds of benefits, I felt it necessary to still classify


some models in regard of the sales channel and target of the members’ contributions.
This is illustrated in the comprehensive but not exhaustive list in Table 12.

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Table 11. Types of revenue in crowdsourcing projects.

Type of Revenue Revenue Source


Direct revenue from customers / members Revenue from access to the community (rare)
of the service Revenue from access to enhanced service (e.g. more storage
space, more features)
Revenue from letting members realize and sell their creations (e.g.
printing physical books)
Revenue from selling created output to other members of
community
Revenue from more sales of existing products to an increased
customer base
Direct revenue from 3rd parties (other Revenue from access to the community (partnering)
businesses) Revenue from selling created output to 3rd parties (e.g. B2B
clients)
Revenue from selling data on member-customer base (e.g. for
market research)
Revenue from advertising
Indirect revenue Connecting with the customer in novel ways more relevant ways
Gaining experience in two way, multi-node method of connecting
with customers
Learning something about customers that was never known before
(profiles, etc.)
Involving customers in telling and sharing brand / company story
Moving up in the customer’s trust hierarchy
Increasing brand loyalty, decreasing churn
Getting direct feedback in real time
Accessing novel knowledge that was unavailable before
Accessing novel, more effective solutions to existing problems
Sharing risk from experimental activities with customers and
partners
Speeding up development cycle and time to market
Scaling successes rapidly through involving community, word-of-
mouth effect
Better, proven market potential of co-created services and
products
Lowering costs through customers self-supporting each other

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Table 12. Sales targets and channels in different crowdsourcing communities.

Target and channel Examples


Crowdsourced product sold to business Innocentive
clients of the crowdsourcing community Crowdspring
iStockphoto
Sermo
Crowdsourced product sold to community Dell Ideastorm
members and non-members alike indirectly Zuda Comics
via sales channels other than the online MyStarbucksIdea
community
Proceeds sold to members of the Threadless
community directly via the community Etsy
Lulu
Sellaband

As can be seen from Table 12, there are at least a few options as regards how to
organize the utilization of the contributions and although the business’s industry
largely dictates how these matters will be solved, this is an issue that shouldn’t be left
without a thought.

Proposition 1a thus gains additional focus and texture; sound business needs should
come high in importance for crowdsourcing companies and it can be concluded that
while crowdsourcing is seen by many as being more about co-creation and customer
relations than sales, opportunities for direct sales and even basing the whole business
model on crowd collaboration also exist. I have thus clarified the different business
needs that crowd collaboration can adhere to.

5.1.2. Customer Participants

The empirical material also gives support to customer capabilities as a critical element
in focusing crowdsourcing activities, with influence especially on the scope part, as
Gord Hotchkiss illustrates in his critical assessment on Wikipedia founder Jimmy
Wales’ people-powered Wikia search:

…the minute you put people into the equation, you introduce "signal noise": in
engineering parlance, you add friction between the end user and the desired
content. Automated algorithms are relatively friction-free. Results are ranked
with mathematical objectivity, based on universally applicable principles.
Queries flow through this channel to connect with the content as determined by
the algorithms. People are smarter and more intuitive than the smartest
algorithm, but they're also political. And the reality is, the very segment that
Wikia (and Wikipedia) depends most on are those most prone to politics.

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This clearly demonstrates the instability of people as an asset. Once a company starts
utilizing the crowds, it can’t dictate how they will behave. Targeting, screening,
guiding, encouraging and punishing all can be used to drive activity to a certain
direction, but in the end the people will decide where they want to take the
community once they are handed the keys.

In addition to their skill levels, there is fluctuation in interest and enthusiasm levels of
people as Influx Branding -blog posits in a post on “8 ways to go beyond the
consumer generated ad”:

Not all customers are equal in their level of enthusiasm for the brand. Use some
intelligent research to identify the levels of enthusiasm that exist. …Once you
know the levels of enthusiasm, create a plan to migrate customers up the ladder.

On a similar note, Jennifer Alsever, a writer for BNET, states:

Learn Who Loves You (and Who Hates You)… …Cull your call center and
feedback databases to identify outspoken consumers who have a history of
repeated interaction with your firm—be it positive or negative.

By this she seems to imply that most enthusiastic participants are usually the ones
who love your brand – or hate it. While many a marketing manager might be afraid of
the takeover of the community by angry customers, Jennifer adds that actually it is the
most critical people that provide the most useful input. Of course, things can go very
wrong if there are nothing but haters on your service, as has happened in recent
participatory initiatives by Wal-Mart, an American retail chain. Especially the web
savvy young are extremely critical of the chain and its practices, and have recently
e.g. infested its Roommate application on Facebook and flooded its message wall
with rants. Customer insight as to who are the people most likely to engage in a
creative dialogue will nevertheless be precious in targeting these activities among the
larger public.

As regards customer participation levels, it seems to be widely accepted among


experts that homogeneity of participants and exclusivity of the community drives
participation. Lois Kelly writes in Future of Communities blog:

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People may get more involved in private, intimate communities because they
feel like they can have a say and that community members and the sponsoring
company hear their views… …They see participating as an interesting or fun
outlet for communicating with other people who love what they love.

However, it needs to be kept in mind that according to the ‘wisdom of crowds’ theory
it is exactly the broad and heterogeneous participant base that brings the best results.
This can be seen as contradictory with homogeneity’s apparent effects on
participation levels.

As we can see, proposition 1b gains support, as industry experts clearly hold the
consideration over customer participants, who they are, what they’re capable of and
also what they are willing to do, in high importance. However it needs to be further
researched which kind of participant group would be ideal in different settings, as
there is tendency to suggest that homogeneous groups would be more active and do
better, which is in contradiction with the wisdom of crowds concept.

5.1.3. Organization capabilities

A passage in Bnet’s blog post “How to Get Your Customers to Solve Problems for
You” by Jennifer Alsever has a special meaning to thinking about organization’s
capabilities in crowdsourcing projects:

Decide If You Really Care What Your Customers Think.

This seemingly self-evident notion strikes me as of crucial importance. Many


companies might nowadays actually be rushing into crowdsourcing or other
collaborative initiatives without even thinking through how – and whether or not –
they are actually going to utilize the product of this collaboration – whether or not
their organization’s culture is fruitful enough soil for it.

I am able to also draw on my own experience here as well for empirical material. In
my work as a customer manager nowadays in a large multinational company, I have
realized very personally the challenges of working with collaboration projects across
the organization where divisional and departmental boundaries are sometimes higher
than what is formally agreed. As I stated in my initial layout in Chapter3, it is very

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hard to plan organization spanning crowdsourcing projects if other activity doesn’t
span the same boundaries.

People in organizations nowadays are also keen to think that crowdsourcing, like
outsourcing lessens the need for resources in-house. This is not however
automatically true with crowdsourcing efforts, as resources need to be built and
people need to be dedicated to activate the community, take care of its members and
advance matters in-house as well. The following blog passage from Heather Green of
Businessweek clarifies the point:

Sometimes the NYTimes see so off track in its very earnest voice. Case in point
today was their story on online videos that brands ask people to make and send
in. There is this thread about how, shock, it's not cheaper to do this than to do a
standard ad. Well, it's an entirely different process and it takes different
costs...making ads on the cheap isn't the point. The point is interacting with
people.

Interacting with people takes resources, and these resources more often than not need
to reside in the organization initiating the crowdsourcing activity if it is them who
seek to make the connection with their customers.

Summing up the organizational challenges from researching discussions of industry


experts and utilizing case examples, the challenges listed in Table 13 rise to surface as
regards organizational capabilities.

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Table 13. Different kinds of organizational challenges recognized in the FLIRT model

Type of Organizational Examples


Challenge
Cultural resistance Fear towards and resistance of open operating model
Resistance to control of brand experience
Risk aversion too high for achieving change
Lacking skill base Internal staff insufficiently skilled in crafting open operating models
High-enough-profile people perceive themselves as not ready to function in the
transparent company-customer interface
Partners (advertising and media agencies) advocating shallow and expensive
‘techniques’ instead of building long term solutions targeted at deep interactions
Structural rigidity Units and departments lack resources to dedicate to managing required
operations
The structuring and organization of different units and departments in the
organization hinders direct, company-wide connection to customers
Company policies and practices hinder spontaneous co-creation efforts with
customers

For the different reasons laid out in Table 13, it is extremely important, before
heading to implement the crowdsourcing plan, to ensure that all involved internal
parties and persons understand and agree on the content of the endeavor and are
committed to achieving the desired results. This might require additional training to
the benefits and also methods of crowdsourcing, as open collaboration with customers
is not necessarily the standard modus operandi of companies on any field.

Judging from the results, it can be stated that Proposition 1c – organization


capabilities being a key consideration in crowdsourcing activities – also has a solidly
founded place in the Focus part of the FLIRT model and it has also been given more
form than just stating the obvious.

5.1.4. Scope

Among all the consumer-generated hype, it was sobering and refreshing to find
Hitwise’s April 17th 2007 Web 2.0 Expo presentation on proportion of creators on the
hottest Web 2.0 sites (and read comments about it all around the blogosphere), as
shown in Figure 4.

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Figure 4. Consumer creation on select Web 2.0 services (Hitwise 2007).

While many were quick to cry for the death of social media with this report, what it
did was it simply confirmed the 1-9-90 rule that is an unwritten law in the
participation media world and surrounding blogosphere and states that in every
community, only 1% creates content, 9% interact on it, and 90% simply consume it.
However, as I stated already in the beginning of the framework building, creation is
only one aspect of crowdsourcing, the other being categorization, voting, rating, etc.
As Josh Catone at Read/Write web puts it:

Crowds are better at vetting content than creating it. It is important to note that
in most of the above projects, the group merely votes on the final product; they
do not actually create it (even at Cambrian House, where the group
collaborates to create the product, individuals are still creating each piece on
their own and the group votes on whose implementation of an idea is best).

This has implications on how to scope crowdsourcing activities. Along with asking
for lesser contributions, another alternative is to capitalize on things that people do
anyway and not ask them anything extra, but simply introduce new tools to capture
that behavior for everybody’s benefit – making participation a side effect. Microsoft,
for example now uses this approach to make better its spellchecker in Word, its
market-leading word-processing software: when people teach it their own vocabulary,
Word collects these contributions (by permission of the user) and sends them to

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Microsoft’s development centre. When a certain expression accrues enough
frequency, it will be added to the next update of Word and thus automatically sent to
all other customers, making the development cycle faster and more focused on
customers’ current needs. Philips also uses crowdsourcing for collaborative design in
Second Life without asking their customers to actually create anything:

Philips Design has decided to enter the virtual community of Second Life by
engaging residents in co-creation and gaining feedback on innovation concepts.
It developed a creation process called Multiple Encounter Approach, which
consists of multiple encounters with consumers, either face-to-face or in this
case online.

Naturally, Second Life is, despite their reported user base in millions , still a niche
activity as many that have registered to the service have never used the service more
than once. For this reason we can’t really talk about crowdsourcing in the Philips
example, but rather an exploratory research method. However, it shows what kind of
crowd engaging visually rich virtual environments we might have at our disposal for
market research in the coming years.

As briefly mentioned already in the theory section, crowdsourcing can be conducted


also in B2B environments e.g. by gathering a crowd of professionals and selling their
know-how to b2b clients, as Sermo does:

Backed by an investment from Longworth Venture Partners, the Cambridge


(Mass.) company SERMO thinks clients will pay plenty for a look inside
doctors' heads. The price? One package starts at $150,000 per year. The social
network has two main components. One is a bulletin board where doctors,
without disclosing their names, can ask questions and post comments about
medical practice, drugs, and other information. Doctors get to join for free. As
on Amazon (AMZN) or eBay (EBAY), the docs rank each other based on their
answers. This sort of information sharing might help doctors improve patient
care, but as with so many social networks, the question is: "Where's the
business model?" The answer is the second component, AlphaMD, a product
officially launched earlier in April. Sermo clients including investment and
financial firms can now poll doctors on specific questions and get exclusive

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access to the answers weeks before they become available to the entire
community.”

In addition to helping profit seeking companies, also governmental and NGO


implications, such as urban planning and problem solving have been raised as
potential areas of crowdsourcing. As Cnet news reported the presentation of Jane
McGonigal, a longtime developer of alternate-reality games who has now gone to
work as the in-house game developer for the Institute for the Future:

At her talk, titled "The future of collective play: Fostering collaboration,


network literacy and massively multiplayer problem-solving through alternate-
reality games," McGonigal spent an hour explaining how "collective
intelligence," and games designed around that concept, could be a prime
component in future learning, as well as in helping governmental agencies and
private organizations solve a wide range of problems.

Regarding scope and drawing on examples and cases, the comprehensive but not
exhaustive list as shown in Table 14 can be drawn on different business areas that can
be covered via crowdsourcing activities:

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Table 14. The different scopes of crowdsourcing

Scope Examples
Base level research / R&D innocentive.com
Recognizing upcoming trends and weak signals Springwise.com
Recognizing trends in customer behavior, ‘market Tremor.com
sensing’
Recognizing undiscovered human resources and talent Zuda.com
Sellaband.com
Product development ideation Ideastorm.com
Funding collectively recognized opportunities MyFootballClub.com
Sellaband.com
Continuous existing product development P&G Vocalpoint
Automatic real-time product enhancement Microsoft Word spell checker
Content creation Next.three.com
iStockphoto.com
Product recommendations and ratings Amazon.com
End product design Threadless.com
Marketing activities Tremor.com
Advertising Holotof
Doritos Crash the superbowl campaign
C2C sales Threadless.com
Sellaband.com
Product and service support Mac forums
Product and service utilization guidance Studiodell.com

It can be said that most of the functions in contemporary business can at least be
touched, if not completely driven, by crowdsourced activities. Naturally, there are
critical functions, such as accounting, that can’t be left to the crowds. Relating to this,
an important notion still regarding scope is that crowdsourcing initiatives don’t work
well in deterministic systems where every consequence of every action needs to be
known and every item needs to be exact and certain. Indeed, crowdsourcing works
best in so-called probabilistic systems, where it is enough that the answer or other
contribution is right and good on average, but where no one contribution can be taken
as a proven fact. Chris Anderson writes on this in his blog post ‘The Probabilistic
Age’:

The good thing about probabilistic systems is that they benefit from the wisdom
of the crowd and as a result can scale nicely both in breadth and depth. But
because they do this by sacrificing absolute certainty on the microscale, you
need to take any single result with a grain of salt. As Zephoria puts it in this
smart post, Wikipedia "should be the first source of information, not the last. It
should be a site for information exploration, not the definitive source of facts”

One important addition to the original FLIRT model is the cross-examination of the
defining attributes against each of the constraints. This helps checking aspirations
against resources and capabilities of both the customers and the company, as well as
keeping in mind the business objectives that ultimately drive the initiative. Cross-

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examining Scope with the constraining attributes, we get a clear picture of what
considerations are important in this first defining phase of scoping the crowdsourcing
activity, as depicted in Figure 5.

Figure 5. Cross-examining Scope with the constraining attributes

Reflecting the scope of activity against business objectives, we can weigh whether or
not the planned activity really answers central challenges. On how the customers can
answer the challenge in a way that is usable for the company, one needs to assess
whether the problems are suitable for leaving them for the masses to solve. As already
stated, also the organization’s internal resources need to be informed, capable and
committed to the upcoming task in order for it to succeed.

In sum, Proposition 1d gains traction and focus; scopes of crowdsourcing vary widely
among companies with different starting points and are thus an important
consideration in the planning phase. It can be further extended that to properly set the
scope crowdsourcing activity, it needs to be reflected on the three constraining
attributes as described above.

5.1.5. Scale

In addition to Focus, scale matters as the tighter the scale, the easier it is for people to
participate. It must be kept in mind that there’s only so much attention the majority of
consumers can spare a given brand or company. A good example of this is the

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crowdsourced startup company ‘Ringside Startup’ that left everything open to its
target group and left them to decide on everything related to the company. Having too
wide scale for people to grasp and no clear focus, it failed to raise even close to the
$50,000 it sought, landing only a few hundred dollars over the course of many months
before re-launching with a different name and focus. The front page of Ringside
Startup is pictured in Figure 6.

Figure 6. Ringside startup’s initiative failed because the scale of activities to undertake
was too large

Scaling is certainly one of the most important aspects of defining the crowdsourcing
initiative from the customers perspective, since where too narrow a scale of activity
might prove trivial, to wide a scale is simply too complex for people to grasp and in
this case nothing will get done. Kathy Sierra from Creating Passionate Users –blog
expressively illustrates this challenge in Figure 7.

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Figure 7. Kathy Sierra’s description of the declining benefit of increasing customer
control

Also other sources have agreed to Kathy’s assertion. More user control over more
things doesn’t make a customer happier. Instead, customers want to be able to affect
the very things that most matter to them. Influx Insights blog sets down a ground rule
on how to go beyond the customer-generated ad:

Challenge them. Don't just ask random, broad questions. Seek answers to tough
challenges; give them clear briefs not blank sheets of paper. The tighter and
clearer you are, the better the response will be.

In the theory part I suggested through an example (Ideacity blog post by Joel
Greenberg) that time scale is also a crucial consideration in setting up scale of the
activity. The said post has had support among top bloggers, although Clay Shirky,
author of the book ‘Here Comes everybody – The Power of Organizing without
Organizations’, commented on the non-usefulness of traffic alone as a metric for true
engagement on Joel Greenberg’s post:

Why are you using the traffic graph as a proxy? It is unrelated to use. Traffic to
the website only measures interest, not adoption. A lot of people sent away for
Sea Monkeys too, because they liked what they saw advertised, but that said
nothing about how many were satisfied by their purchase.

Crucially, no web numbers measure anything about SL use — the only source of
real SL numbers is Linden, and they are obviously not in the mood to report

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anything about actual use. Making assumptions about SL using SL.com is like
that old joke about the physicist betting on the ponies: “First, I assumed a
spherical horse…”

However, many experts hold time scale as a crucial factor in planning activities, and it
has been stated by many, that campaign-thinking belongs to TV/print advertising and
fails in social media. As Ben McConnell of the Church of the Customer Blog ponders:

Disney's Virtual Magic Kingdom is a virtual representation of the real-life


Disneyland theme park. It's also an online community for evangelists of
Disneyland. More than a million avatars have been created at VMK. By almost
any standard, it's a popular site. But Disney plans to shutter VMK tomorrow
night, and that's caused consternation in paradise. Petitions have been signed,
protest sites have been created. VMK citizens wonder why Disney would want
to close something that solidifies and extends their loyalty.

Here's one reason: Disney envisioned VMK as an 18-month promotion, not a


long-term loyalty effort. The closing of VMK illustrates a schism prevalent
today at many companies, especially larger ones: the battle between short-term
campaigns vs. long-term evangelism. Campaign thinking is a byproduct of the
last 25 years of business school education. The formula has been to create a
short-term project using established metrics, execute, then start over with a new
idea. Move the needle quickly.

The formula for evangelism thinking is: Create a project where the community
of users become part of the process and most importantly, are considered a
tangible asset. The needle may not move as fast because the investment is for
the long term, but it's less likely to have wild, up-and-down swings.

The need to move away from short term campaign thinking and towards longer term
community thinking has been voiced by many experts in the blogosphere for some
time already, and it can be stated that this is a thing that many on the field hold in
importance. Naturally, campaigns do have their place still, but within social media
they should be tied to a longer-term focus. One example of this kind of thinking
would be to build campaign sites so that a customer’s username and password for e.g.
creating and posting content would remain the same over multiple campaigns.

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In deciding whether the scale of activity is appropriate, a cross-examination of Scale
with the constraining attributes elaborately clarifies the considerations needed with
the Scale element as shown in Figure 8.

Figure 8. Cross-examining Scale with the constraining attributes

Naturally, by expanding scale economies of scale can be reached by spreading the


investment over multiple areas and time periods, which needs to be weighed against
added benefits. However, there are also costs associated such as getting more internal
people involved and for longer periods of time. Also when it comes to outside
participants, as we saw, more scale is not always a good thing, since the attention
span might break before getting to grips with increased scale. As stated in the part
5.1.3., scaling up activities across department boundaries require that cross-
organizational cooperation is on a level that allows this.

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Summing up scale, it can be stated that in addition to having to do with how far from
the core scope the activity is to be extended or the number of different scopes to be
covered, crowdsourcing initiatives broadly fall under two categories: campaign-
oriented and community oriented initiatives, of which campaign-oriented
crowdsourcing is short-term and anonymous, while community oriented
crowdsourcing is long term and requires personal engagement also from the company
side. Proposition 1e and Proposition 1f can thus be considered viable at this point.

5.1.6. Depth

The empirical material gives weight also to the consideration for depth of interaction.
The extent to which the crowdsourcing company might want to be dependent on its
community should be carefully considered. Naturally, the worst thing companies fear
is giving away intellectual freedom and revealing where the company is heading.
Karim Lakhani states in an interview:

For firms, the first order risk is the loss of intellectual property, especially if
you think about the fact that most firms and scientists believe that the problems
they work on are actually their most important things. If you provide hints to
competitors, it will reveal a lot of your strategy.

However, he further states that:

Even if you reveal everything about what's going on, there's tacit knowledge
behind a lot of scientific and technological activities. And the benefit of opening
up your problems to outsiders is that in fact you can get novel solutions—
quicker solutions than what the firm or R&D lab might develop… Some other
research has shown that, in fact, if you do open up the solution process you can
get anywhere from 10 times to 100 times improvement in problem-solving
performance.

In effect Mr. Lakhani seems to imply, like many others, that with careful planning,
the threats brought by open collaboration would be offset by the benefits it brings. He
further continues that:

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When you talk with lawyers, most of them say, "Protect, protect, protect, close,
close, close," but there are some very innovative licensing schemes and
innovative ways by which you can allow others to peek into your process and
not give up the entire keys to the kingdom.

Traditional companies can inspire their customer community by letting them in on


new information, products and services first and letting them have a say in new
product development. Genuinely giving up control and power can win customers’
trust even in difficult times when this trust has been under debate. Nickname KFM
Kamal from Brandautopsy blog elaborates this futher:

Companies can convert critics by giving up some control and giving in to


participating in the conversation. It seems Dell is turning the corner with
regards to its online reputation. Is Dell’s reputation pristine now? No. But Dell
is showing other businesses that if you listen to detractors and show detractors
that you are listening, then negative word-of-mouth can negated.

Businesses that are built on the foundation of collaboration enjoy the help of their
customers and/or community members, but are also quite exposed to the risk of these
people finding something better to do and quitting the community without ever
returning. This dependence comes forth very well in Church of the Customer blog’s
interview with the head of the popular T-shirt design community:

As we were settling in for a chat earlier this year with Threadless co-founder
Jake Nickell so we could profile his company for Citizen Marketers, Jake said
something that stopped us cold: ‘Our community could destroy us if they wanted
to.’

Naturally, all businesses are ultimately dependent of their customers for survival, but
not traditionally for product development and design. This dependence can naturally
act as a very powerful deterrent for sharing power. Nevertheless, deep relations with
customers can also help in times of distress, as shown later in the same interview:

During our chat, Jake was still a bit shaken from what had happened several
days earlier. While redesigning the site, he accidentally deleted a good part of
the content created by the community. Poof, it was gone and unrecoverable.

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Jake feared the worst: a community so angry that it would harm the company.
He needn't have worried. Based on the company's elaborate efforts to
encourage the community's participation and ownership in decision-making,
some members wrote scripts to recover content from Google's cache servers.
Some said the content dump was for the best; a fresh start. There were no swells
of anger. That doesn't mean Jake and Jacob took the Threadless community's
acquiescence for granted. They said that if they made major decisions without
the community's input, it could backfire in unpleasantly powerful ways.

In short, the company completely destroyed its customers’ collective effort, but
instead of taking to barricades, the community helped the company to get back on
track. This is a powerful example of the benefits of involving the community more
deeply than might be absolutely necessary. Also for companies dreading the riskiness
of being open, the following thought by Peter Turner is worth thinking about:

Being ‘open’ is less risky than remaining ‘closed’. Don’t close yourself out from
talent, new ideas, and a leadership position among your constituents.

Chris Anderson is one of the proponents of extreme in terms of depth when he blogs
in his long tail blog that:

As the Web becomes the greatest word-of-mouth amplifier in history,


consumers learn to trust peers more and companies less… …What really
interests me, however, is when this goes even further. Not just transparency, but
Radical Transparency. The whole product development process laid bare, and
opened to customer input. Management in public, via blog. CEOs venting,
without benefit of legal counsel, in late-night postings.

Of course, the Wired editor has a story to sell, and his statements need to be taken
with a grain of salt, but stories of this kind of radical transparency have been popping
up with the advent of blogging culture and at least within the blogosphere the
perception is that they usually do more good than harm, bringing customers closer by
showing vulnerability and dependence on them, and creating true engagement.

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Summing up depth and adding it time perspective (campaign vs. community
orientation), we can derive the classification in Table 15 to help clarify the Depth
element and its uses in crowdsourcing.

Table 15. Community and time orientation in crowdsourcing

Short term Long term


No strong community or Many advertising contests Innocentive
community interaction between Amazon’s mTurk
participants
Individuals create in explicit Doritos Crash the Superbowl Threadless
competition. Community Ideastorm
interacts and e.g. helps select
the best material.
Community co-creates and Nokia ‘Color Your World’ Cambrian House
cooperates in a joint venture campaign Wikipedia
without financial commitment
Community makes financial Sellaband
investments and has a large role MyFootballClub
in directing action. Community
‘owns’ the initiative.

As can be expected short term doesn’t achieve as deep a relation than some long-term
projects, which can even engage crowds in joint funding ventures (sellaband.com and
myfootballclub.com). Figure 9 summarizes the depth attribute of the Focus element in
a similar fashion with Scope and Scale.

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Figure 9. Cross-examining Depth with the constraining attributes

When depth of interaction is increased, we see an increase also in the risk the
company is taking, both in terms of being more dependent on its customers and also
exposing more previously hidden company information. This added risk need to be
weighed against the added benefits, such as loyalty and engagement of as well as
potentially more precious contribution from the customer participants. Also, the
minimum level of depth that the customers find significant enough to participate
needs to be established, as this is the minimum threshold that can’t be gone under. In
the end it is the trade off between risk and benefits but also the company’s ability to
bear that risk that establishes the right level of depth and access for the customers.

In the light of empirical evidence, depth is a key consideration already at planning


phase. Proposition 1g would also seem relevant and concludes the Focus main
element in its entirety, with its three constraining attributes (Business Needs,
Customer Participants, Organization Capabilites) and three defining attributes (Scope,
Scale, Depth), justified as a relevant first major steps in setting up crowdsourcing
activities.

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5.2. Language

Language, tone of voice, company role and approach as well as related issues were
certainly deemed important by industry experts and practitioners. Especially after
numerous failed attempts to engage the customers with fake blogs, artificial customer-
generated content, paid discussion starters on forums etc., language and the way of
presenting the challenge and the party behind it defends its place as a crucial key
element in the FLIRT model.

5.2.1. Social Objects

Judging from the empirical material, social objects are certainly a key aspect in
collaboration and co-creation and also in crowdsourcing. Especially during spring
2008 social objects have sparked extensive discussion, but one of the strongest
advocates of this concept is also one of the earliest ones in the blogosphere, Jyri
Engeström, who writes in his blog already in 2005:

…the term 'social networking' makes little sense if we leave out the objects that
mediate the ties between people. Think about the object as the reason why
people affiliate with each specific other and not just anyone. For instance, if the
object is a job, it will connect me to one set of people whereas a date will link
me to a radically different group. This is common sense but unfortunately it's
not included in the image of the network diagram that most people imagine
when they hear the term 'social network.'… …The fallacy is to think that social
networks are just made up of people. They're not; social networks consist of
people who are connected by a shared object.

The social networking services that really work are the ones that are built
around objects. And, in my experience, their developers intuitively 'get' the
object-centered sociality way of thinking about social life. Flickr, for example,
has turned photos into objects of sociality. On del.icio.us the objects are the
URLs.

On builiding collaboration on social objects Jyri in his later keynote presentation


brings forth the following considerations:

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1. You should be able to define the social object your service is built around.

As shown already in the theory section and verified by contemporary services built
around many kinds of social objects, these need not be concrete traditional objects,
but also e.g. places, everyday happenings, etc.

2. Define your (social) verbs that your users perform on the objects.

For instance, eBay has ‘buy’ and ‘sell’ buttons; YouTube has an ‘upload video’
button; Flickr has an ‘upload photos’ button. It's clear from the beginning what these
sites are for.

3. How can people share the objects?

Sharing and discovering, not only searching, the objects needs to be made easy and
enjoyable. Like attaching a prominent ‘send’ button to each of your photo page.

4. Turn invitations into gifts.

In the virtual world, scarcity is not a naturally occurring issue since everything can be
replicated indefinitely with virtually no added cost. However, scarcity can be
artificially generated by e.g. limiting participation by the popular ‘invitation only’
approach.

5. Charge the publishers, not the spectators.

YouTube, Google or numerous social networks and social service are free to use for
consumers but advertisers and content producers might need to pay.

One of the more visible proponents of social object recently has been a prominent
blogger Hugh McLeod. He writes in his many posts on social objects that:

Social Networks are built around Social Objects, not vice versa. The latter act
as "nodes". The nodes appear before the network does. Granted, the network is
more powerful than the node. But the network needs the node, like flowers need
sunlight… …Social Object can be abstract, digital, molecular etc…

These discussions would seem to strongly emphasize the role social objects play in
digital networks and communities. Also many other industry actors state the

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importance of social objects without necessarily using the specific expression. As
Jordan McCollum and Gavin O’Malley observe on a Communispace study:

The stronger the “social glue”–or common interests and passions among
members–the greater the participation…

Continuing the same idea, Bud Caddell at SEOMOZ blog continues:

Communities rally around a strong purpose – A clear purpose provides a


common goal for all stakeholders to pursue.

As regards Proposition 2a, the importance of social objects in collaboration, the


message from industry experts is quite clear; engaging customers around a
collaborative offering, it needs to be considered what common interests they share
that are important for them and can act as the catalyst in the customers becoming
interested in collaboration. These social objects may or may not be directly linked to
the collaborative offering or the company making the offer. A good example of
boundary spanning social object is that of Naked & Angry (screenshot in Figure 10), a
shopping service and design contest not unlike Threadless.com (it is actually owned
by the same people); at first it might not be completely clear what people who do tie
design have in common with people that do wallpaper design (other than the general
passion for design, of course). However, it is pattern design, the ability to craft
seamlessly repeating patterns, that is the common denominator between these two
groups of people. Pattern design is thus the common social object for Naked &
Angry’s service for its members.

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Figure 10. Naked & Angry front page

5.2.2. Social Interaction

Along with the importance of social objects, the types of social interaction indeed do
draw interest around the blogosphere as posited in my Proposition 2b. Dirk Knemeyer
from Thread Information Design argues that people use the web for four things and
four things only.

People use the web to learn


People use the web to feel
People use the web to connect
People use the web to trade

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While Knemeyer’s model is a bit rough and not entirely spot-on as regards
specifically crowdsourcing, there is one comprehensive model that has received a lot
of attention in the blogosphere for covering the different types of social interaction
that happens on especially in the social end of the online service spectrum. In a post
on nform.ca, information architect Gene Smith of the Atomiq.org blog outlines the 7
building blocks of social software, as depicted in Figure 11. This pulls together the
work of various people including Matt Webb and Stewart Butterfield and provides a
solid framework for social interaction, including community engaging crowdsourcing
acitivities. Mr. Smith’s assertion is that all social interaction online includes some or
all of the following six ingredients: identity, presence, relationships, reputation,
groups, conversations and sharing.

Figure 11. Gene Smith’s model of types of social interaction on the web

Both Smith and Knemeyer argue that it is important in designing social interaction to
focus on one or two of these, since everything can’t be efficiently covered.

Like social objects, in the industry experts’ opinion also the nature of social
interaction clearly needs defining in the planning phase of setting up crowdsourcing
operations. Furthermore, the consensus seems to be that focusing on few key modes
of social interaction that support the overall goals and activity best brings better

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results than trying to cover everything with one service. A good example is the
crowdsourced news service Digg that thrives by focusing strongly on conversations
and sharing stories, and leaves grouping and presence aspects out, although enabling
these features technically would be a relatively small task. Proposition 2b thus seems
a valid point in planning crowdsourcing activities and is also enriched and defined in
more detail for the FLIRT model.

5.2.3. Company presence

It seems to be common understanding among the experts in the blogosphere that first
and foremost, the crowdsourcing effort must be true and transparent to the customer
or member of the community. It needs to be very clear what the entity behind the
endeavor is. Although people companies might think that by revealing their
commercial aims they would discourage people from participating, in fact the reverse
is true. As Gavin O’Malley observes from a recent study by Communispace:

When potential members were considering whether to participate in a


community, they were 30% more likely to log on when the welcome notice
disclosed the company sponsoring the community. Branded sites had an initial
log in rate of 71%, compared with 55% for unbranded sites.

Jordan McCollum at Marketing Pilgrim blog further elaborates by commenting on the


same study:

When potential members were considering whether to participate in a


community, they were 30% more likely to log on when the welcome notice
disclosed the company sponsoring the community. Branded sites had an initial
log in rate of 71%, compared with 55% for unbranded sites…

This is crystallized in a blog post “New research: participants vs. lurkers” by Lois
Kelly in Future of Communities blog.

...People get more involved when they know whom they are talking to and
why…

Thus, companies need to engage in straight talk with the customers. All kinds
Company presence in traditional brand communications is inherently averse to any

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negative feedback. Brands traditionally need to be shown in a positive light and, more
often than not, as perfect, best-in-the-market (whether as regards quality, price or
other differentiators) items. However, with crowdsourcing as well as with other forms
of utilizing social media to corporate ends, negative comments and contributions must
be tolerated in order to first credibly converse with customers, but also to gather ideas
and response that is truly valuable. John Moore of Brand Autopsy states:

Negative word-of-mouth is also an invaluable source of feedback for the


product, brand, and company. It is very possible to run focus groups, do test
marketing and in-home consumer interviews, and still not discover how
consumers are going to communicate about the product as they use it and
integrate it into their lives.

In the words of Influx Insights, a marketing consultancy, by showing a brand’s


vulnerability they are showing humanity. From their blog post “Brands need to be in
permanent beta”:

This is a radical with most of the brands that came to life in the C19th and
C20th, they have an industrialized view of the world, a view that assumes
everything about them should be tightly controlled and perfect… The state of
beta suggests they are open to questioning and ideas for improvement

To the question of how can inanimate brands actually achieve this informal, open and
allowing style of communication, community managers are in many discussions
deemed crucial by industry experts. Writes Joshua Porter of Bokardo.com:

No matter how prescient your designers and how well thought out your design
strategy, there is no way to design a perfect social web site that doesn’t need
ongoing management. Yet, some social start-ups fail to recognize this and
launch their app without a designated caretaker. The result is a slow
failure…the worst kind of failure because it’s not immediately apparent that it’s
happening

In order to gain human attachment and involvement, human resources need to be


dedicated to take care of the community. Also the Church of the Customer blog notes
that

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Customer communities need stewards. They need a strong-willed, yet highly
approachable and friendly manager who will boldly represent the pervading
will of the community to his bosses at the sponsoring organization, then handle
the often-difficult chores of explaining the rationale for business decisions made
several levels up the food chain.

A few people more engaged in the discussion around community management and
community managers are Jeremiah Owyang, formerly community manager at Hitachi,
Mario Sundar, community manager at LinkedIn, and Christopher Salazar, a partner
enablement programs specialist at Hitachi Data Systems. While Owyang emphasizes
the need for the community manager to “put community first”, Sundar sees sees the
role of a community manager largely as “pushing the membrane” between the
organization and the members and making the interface more porous, in effect
connecting people inside and outside of the company; Salazar on his behalf advocates
“experience with communities and corresponding social methods and tools”. Also
Daniel Riveong posits community managers or community evangelists becoming
integral to marketing, describing them as “going beyond being a spokesperson,
writing to the community (writing post, responding to comments) and generally
engaging the community, be it on Yelp, Amazon.com reviews or blogs or in-real-life
(IRL)” and advocating the “need for Evangelists and Community Managers to
execute Social Media Program to engage, manage and measure Social Media and
Communities”. It is also taken as a given that these community managers or
specialists need to work with the community in their own personas, as Chris
Anderson blogs about the rules of transparent media:

Show who we are. All staff edit their own personal "about" pages, giving bios,
contact details and job functions.

After stating the need for community managers, it still needs to be noted that this is
necessary especially in long term collaboration and not as acute a requirement in
short, campaign-oriented crowdsourcing efforts, as we learned while executing our
Itekki Tekisin –campaign for Sonera (screenshot in Figure 12). In this short-term
advertisement contest, we utilized a board of judges made up of three fictional
characters, whose commentary on the customer generated works in the gallery was
purely random and designed to simply add a fun twist to the campaign worthy of

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spreading out to friends. It worked well as the target group is very media literate and
the aim was to create first and foremost an entertaining experience. Should there have
been an aim to more deeply connect to the customers and build trust and long-term
commitment, this approach won’t suffice in itself. Of course consistent utilization of
crow-engaging campaigns can create an image for the company as caring what their
customers have to say.

Figure 12. Sonera’s Itekki Tekisin -campaign with a fictional board of judges

Many companies fear that by giving their customers voice and part in brand building,
they lose brand assets carefully built over time. However, David Armano eases
companies in this subject matter:

If brands let their communities define them – are they strong brands in the first
place? The answer is yes. My voice is my voice. It will not change – I am who I
am. But my thoughts and actions can be influenced by what you say and do. Are
brands willing to do the same?

Furthermore, it is common for companies to be wary of presenting themselves as not


having all the answers. In social media however, if a company or a brand aspires to
connect to its customers on a human level, human level interaction is also required,

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and this includes imperfectness. As Jeremiah Owyang addresses this issue on one of
his numerous posts on corporate use of social media:

Don’t shy away. Acknowledge deficiencies, no matter how shameful


immediately. If you don’t have the answer, at least acknowledge you see the
problem and will respond as soon as you have an answer. As a result you will
become the first source of news, and will control any additional buzz. Stay
relevant and address the issues.

Related to this, an important notion is made by KMF Kamal of brandautopsy.com on


how companies relating with their customers online should not strive to conquer the
conversation and be right on all accounts:

When you join the conversation, tell your side of the story. Write for the record.
But don’t try to win every point in the online debate. That’s futile and will only
amplify the heckling. Dell is doing its part to be more transparent and address
issues directly and honestly.

The Organization Presence part of the Language – how should a company present
itself towards the customer – seems to be the most controversial and talked about sub
element in the Language element of the FLIRT model. At the very least, we can
conclude that with organization presence; authenticity and transparency are elements
central to succeeding in collaboration and crowdsourcing. Proposition 2c and
Proposition 2d are thus justified at this point as belonging to the core of the FLIRT
model. On a further note, the task of community manager would seem to be essential
as regards company presence. In general, then, we can conclude that it is relevant and
valid to think about Language issues through thinking thoroughly about Social
Objects, Social Interaction and Organization Presence.

5.3. Incentives

When it comes to incentives, talking about ‘social’ media and collaboration might
lead some to believe that social benefits, doing together and the fruits of collaboration
would be what’s driving the people to collaborate. However, this is usually not quite
enough: Bud Caddell at SEOMOZ sums up the true motivation behind participation.

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Me-first! Successful communities build around the individual rather than the
work group, allowing single users to create profiles, customize components of
the environment and express their individuality. Moreover, individuals must
gain some benefit by becoming a member of the community and contributing.

Otherwise too, the notion of self-interest as the driving force behind participation and
collaboration gains wide support around the blogosphere. While clearly people exist
that simply want to make the world better for everyone, it is usually the individual
whose needs come first. Despite the expressions ‘social media’, ‘collaboration’ and
the likes, overt focus on social value on the cost of personal value is harmful as
regards the usefulness of the community to the individual. As Joshua Porter
illustrates:

“…much of the motivation within social sites is actually rooted in personal


value, or answering the question: “what’s in it for me?”…At the
beginning…there is no social value because there is no user base. Instead, focus
on how a single person can use your service even if others don’t share or tag
anything…Even at the very beginning YouTube (for example) was providing
personal value: hosting your videos for free…So while YouTube excels at
getting viral growth out of the sharing of videos, they’re providing a valuable,
personal service at the same time.

It should also be noted that altruistic people, or people who do things for the
good of the group regardless of personal benefit, are incredibly rare. They’re so
rare in fact that they make a very poor population to design for…Even
Wikipedians, who have been called altruistic at times, are mostly driven by
reputation…the reputation they gain from their peers and other Wikipedians.”

Gord Hotchkiss also elaborates on incentives when comparing wikipedia (people-


powered encyclopedia) and Wikia (people-powered search):

Finally, we have to look at the motivation on why people contribute to


Wikipedia, and ask ourselves if this would translate to a search engine. When
you contribute to Wikipedia, you've staked your claim in online intellectual
territory. You've left a mark, speaking to your expertise in a particular area, on

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a place on the Web where you can point and say, "See, that's me. I did that!" It
may not have your name on it, but it's visible.

In a search engine, your contribution would be lost in a background process


that would leave virtually no trace that you ever trod there. There are no
bragging rights. And that's essential to appeal to the segment of the online
community that Wikia needs to survive. If we're going to take even a few
seconds out of our busy days to tag, vote, nominate or whatever else Wales
needs us to do, there'd better be something in it for us, or it just won't fly.

For these reasons, it is crucial to focus on the individual first and the community
second when thinking about different kinds of incentives for the participants. But they
need not always be monetary or material. Below we will go through some of the
findings as regards intrinsic, extrinsic subjective and extrinsic objective incentives.

5.3.1. Intrinsic Incentives

As laid out in the theory part, intrinsic incentives seem to matter also as regards the
industry experts opinions on crowdsourcing. Amaresh Tripathy writes in his
Analytical Engine blog on crowdsourcing analytics:

Probability of being a winning solver (in Innocentive’s community) is


significantly and positively correlated with both a desire to win the award
money and intrinsic motivations like enjoying problem solving and cracking a
tough problem.

Intirnsic incentives would definitely play a part then in crowdsourcing efforts. Karim
Lakhani, a recognized researcher on the field explains in an interview:

We've found that the population was divided into two sets of folks: those
motivated by money who wanted to win the challenge, and those who enjoyed
the problem-solving experience in itself. They found it to be stimulating and fun,
and both of those were strong indicators. Enjoyment and the challenge of
learning was the strongest correlate of being a successful solver.

Intrinsic motivations indeed seem to be strong motivators for people to participate in


the light of expert opinions and are thus critical in planning contemporary

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crowdsourcing activities. The things that drive many people to participate is the
challenge, enjoyment, fun and fulfillment of the need for creativity that they get from
participating challenging projects. But one does need to ensure proper level of
challenge. Too trivial tasks do not hold up interest for long. In Table 16 we can see
different kinds of intrinsic incentives that drive people to engage in online activities.

Table 16. Some intrinsic incentives in the FLIRT model

Intrinsic incentives (subjective) Challenging oneself

Learning by doing

knowledge

expertise

Satisfying curiosity

Outlet for creativity

Use value motivations

Enjoyment & fun

Proposition 3a is therefore supported by empirical evidence.

5.3.2. Extrinsic Subjective Incentives

As with wikis, the success stems from the ego reward of immediate gratification
compounded by a sense of participation in a large and worthwhile activity.

As the above blog passage suggests, being a part of community with related extrinsic
immaterial benefits is an important incentive for participants. Furthermore, companies
need to show that they are actually influenced by their customers’ input. This creates
a true relationship between the parties and shows company recognition towards the
active members. Says Kamal of brandautopsy.com:

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By addressing hot-button ideas head-on, companies can show customers they
are listening. Dell is showing its customers they are listening by acting upon the
ideas to blog in other languages and to offer more support for Linux users.

Influx Insights urges companies to keep their customers informed and give them
exclusive access, should they wish to involve them closer into the marketing process:

Use blogs to keep customers informed on what's going on at the company. Treat
your customers as if they are media, which they are… …If you have content-
new ads, new designs,etc...give them access. Give them exclusives when you
have the opportunity.

In the same vein, Jennifer Alsever states that companies should bring the customers
inside the tent and make engaged customers feel special. Also Andy Oram of
Onlamp.com writes:

Although reputation seems to offer a smaller incentive than many people expect
in drawing forth contributions, it's potentially powerful. Something as simple as
a sidebar showing the most prolific posters can encourage participation. A few
people may try to abuse the system by flooding the forum with irrelevant or low-
quality postings, but eventually they'll almost always get flamed off the list.

Extrinsic subjective incentives do also seem to be strong motivators for people to


participate as industry professionals are concerned and can be concerned central in
planning incentive schemes for contemporary crowdsourcing activities. In Table 17 I
have gathered some commonly quoted extrinsic subjective incentives. Proposition 3b
seems thus to be supported by empirical evidence.

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Table 17. Some extrinsic subjective incentives in the FLIRT model

Extrinsic subjective motivations Sense of belonging to a community

Togetherness and common cause

Learning through reciprocity

Possibility of sparring own ideas

Fame through exposure

Peer recognition

Company recognition

Authority and readership

Access to exclusive resources

Access to exclusive channels

Gaining social capital

5.3.3. Extrinsic Objective Incentives

Extrinsic objectives, cash, products and services that have determinable monetary
value, are ever present in crowdsourcing activities, although they are emphasized at
different intensities. From the examples abound on the web today, it can be observed
that short-term campaign sites have more need for these kinds of incentives (explicit
rewards and prizes) than long-term communities that rely more on intrinsic and
extrinsic subjective incentives and tend to even downplay them in order to get
contributions form the right kinds of people (motivated by challenge, not money). For
example, Dell’s Ideastorm community hides the $1,000 prize on ideas that the
company uses deep within terms and conditions of the service. Likewise, Innocentive,
that used to portray the $10,000 to $1,000,000 rewards on its front page has taken all
kinds of monetary sums off display; you won’t now find the paid sums anywhere
even if you tried.

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Revenue sharing is one popular way to pay for crowdsourced content. Metacafe for
example shares revenue with users and thus pays not for the participation but only for
performance:

Metacafe, one of the web's leading independent video-sharing sites. The


company is launching a new service Monday called Producer Rewards which
will offer cash payouts to video creators who upload the most interesting and
entertaining clips… …After a video reaches 20,000 views on Metacafe, the
video creator starts receiving payments of $5 per 1,000 views.

The Metacafe approach is different from another popular video sharing service,
Revver:

Video startup Revver serves short, static advertisements at the end of user
videos. If a viewer clicks on the ad, Revver splits the ad revenue with the video
creator, paying out 50 percent of the profits.

Even Karim Lakhani, despite advocating other types of motivation, states in an


interview that in their research on Innocentive:

…Money was also important and it was a significant correlate.

In the professional opinion, and also as the cases show, extrinsic objective incentives
need to be in place in order to justify participating commercial activity. They are thus
key consideration in planning contemporary crowdsourcing activities and Proposition
3c can be considered as strongly suppoorted. As we can see from some of the cases
however, extrinsic objective incentives need not and actually should not be the
primary incentive communicated to the customers.

As a result of the analysis of empirical evidence on customer participation and


incentives and motivations, I have collected below a comprehensive (although not
exhaustive) list of incentives that comprise the Incentives section of the FLIRT model
in Table 18.

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Table 18. Some extrinsic objective incentives in the FLIRT model

Extrinsic objective motivations Company products and services

Products & services from relevant 3rd


parties

Cash rewards

Revenue share

Sales commission

5.4. Rules

As argued in the theory-building phase, rules are an essential part of any functioning
community. Rules do seem to play an important part in how people behave within
online communities, and this issue seems to rise to importance especially in crisis
situations.

5.4.1. Rules of access and initiation

In the Customer Participants part of the Focus element, I declared that collaboration -
as any marketing - need to be carefully targeted also when it comes to participants.
There are some occasions where targeting however is not enough and an exclusive
network is required. Examples of this are especially professional networks like
Reuter’s financial analyst network or the doctor network of Sermo. The participants
enjoy a well-defined, unified and loyal group. Stuart Hogue of Brandchannel.com
elaborates:

...social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook are getting too expansive
to offer their members a truly meaningful community interaction. Only when
networks regulate membership will members really commit to their online
communities. The power of exclusivity lies in allowing members of a group—
any group—to embrace what is unique to them, temporarily denying the

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pressure to assimilate within society at large. Whatever the criteria at play,
success among exclusive networks will come from the clear definition of the
customer and strict discipline of the boundaries for membership. The next wave
in social networking may be to move people away from the "short head" of
community accessibility (mega-networks like MySpace) toward the "long tail"
of human individuality, the traits that we share with the few, rather than the
many… Mega-networks will continue to serve as destinations for fitting in,
while exclusive communities will be where users stand out, satisfying the dual
needs for belonging and differentiation.

For this kind of activity to realize, rules need to be in place that state the criteria of
getting in to the community. Marketing Pilgrim’s Jordan McCollum comments on a
study by Communispace:

86% of the people who log on to private, facilitated communities with 300 to
500 members made contributions: they posted comments, initiated dialogues,
participated in chats, brainstormed ideas, shared photos, and more. Only 14%
merely logged in to observe, or “lurk.” [The opposite of most sites, yes?] The
more intimate the community, the more people participate.

Rules of initiation to any community need to be in place for participation to happen in


the first place. Opinions from the blogosphere seem to validate my proposition that
even if everything else is in place and people should come pouring in, making your
customers’ life hard by asking them too much just to have a peek at what you have on
offer will likely send you down the line of unsuccessful social experiments. As David
Armano, an a-list blogger on customer experiences in the digital collaboration age,
writes:

“…great experiences aren't enough. It's entirely possible to design and develop
a rich, immersive, experiential Web site, only to have light traffic and little
return on investment. Bud.TV, for example, is falling short of its goal of 2
million to 3 million monthly visits…In spite of a slick interface and highly
produced video, Anheuser-Busch (BUD) doesn't seem to be reaping what was
sown…Many fault the (complex) registration process.”

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A social service that seems to have gotten it right as regards access and initiation is
LinkedIn. One would be forgiven to think that signing up to a social network devoted
to bringing together professionals, peers and companies across a plethora of
disciplines and professions and thus requiring masses of information on its members
would be a tedious and lengthy undertaking. LinkedIn does however attract people
(again, after a slower period) by splitting the process into small, manageable portions.
It first asks you only the very basic information and after that, with each consecutive
sign-in asks you to fill out just one small piece of additional data (such as filing an
endorsement or uploading your photo). Furthermore, it does this very invitingly by
showing a status bar on your profile and stating your profile’s completeness
percentage and indicating how much it would improve if you carried out the
minuscule task (figure 13).

Figure 13. A LinkedIn page with the profile completedness bar on upper right

Cases and expert opinions seem to show support for the argument that rules of access
and initiation are important in planning collaborative and communal activity – and
can indeed be even the critical factor in the customer deciding whether or not to join.
Proposition 4a thus justifies its place in the FLIRT model.

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5.4.2. Rules of interaction and conduct

As crowdsourcing, online collaboration and co-creation become more mainstream and


the value and resources created and steered through these co-creation efforts
increases, rules of interaction and conduct gain ever more weight. Says Bud Caddell
of SEOMOZ:

Communities need an administrator and a set of ethical principles to adhere to.


Communities must have rules of interaction and a system in place to effectively
enforce those rules in order to maintain the quality of the communication within
the community. Off-topic conversations, advertising, or abuse can lower the
value and rate of active participation. However, brand and product based
communities should balance the need for civilized interaction with the
requirement to have an open and unbiased forum… How is bad behavior
handled throughout the site? How easy is it to find your general policies and
codes of conduct? What level of authority do users possess to moderate other
user’s actions?

While Josh Katone of ReadWriteWeb crystallizes this even better:

Crowds should operate within constraints. To harness the collective intelligence


of crowds, there need to be rules in place to maintain order.

Rules of conduct in the community have also been addressed in discussions related to
contemporary brand communications. Says Kamal of brandautopsy.com:

One determined detractor can do as much damage as 100,000 positive mentions


can do good. In the same way that we need to understand who the positive
influencers are, it is becoming even more critical to identify and manage
determined detractors.

Apart from mischievous behavior, an equally important approach to interaction and


conduct is how ideas and contributions can be presented and enhanced in the
community. As Karim Lakhani, a researcher of crowdsourcing and online
collaboration states in an interview:

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I think that that (open revealing of others’ contributions) is one of the bigger
issues, because the firms that participated were concerned about IP so they
didn't feel they could open up the solution process and expose the solution to
others. Some other research has shown that, in fact, if you do open up the
solution process you can get anywhere from 10X to 100X improvement in
problem-solving performance. The ideal process would be to keep it open and
get other people to comment on the solutions and perhaps even refine them
more.

In order to avoid badwill resulting from customer feeling they are being arbitrarily
discriminated, rules need to be in place also for accepting and validating
contributions. A good example of this are the rules sections of iStockphoto, a popular
crowdsourced stock photography service and Threadless, a continuous t-shirt design
contest. The services that succeed usually have a very comprehensive but compact
and simple walkthrough where the basic processes and other beneficial instructions
and tips are given. iStockphoto’s short but comprehensive online training manual in
Figures 14-16 show how to guide the member into the workings of the community.
Threadless also has another kind of good example, a comprehensive ‘reasons of
decline’ (Figure 17) list that they can easily refer to in disputes.

Figure 14. List of quality standards on iStockphoto’s site

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Figure 15. Basic walkthrough at iStockphoto

Figure 16. Instructions and tips on iStockphoto

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Figure 17. List of decline reasons of Threadless

An important lesson in why rules of conduct are especially important is given in the
case example of “Digg revolt 2007”:

Digg is a community-based popularity website with an emphasis on technology


and science articles, recently expanding to a broader range of categories such
as politics and entertainment. It combines social bookmarking, blogging and
syndication with a form of non-hierarchical, democratic editorial control. News
stories and websites are submitted by users, and then promoted to the front
page through a user-based ranking system. This differs from the hierarchical
editorial system that many other news sites employ.

In the spring of 2007, Digg.com faced a serious situation, after one of its
members posted a news item containing directions to break the encryption on
HD-DVDs. Faced with a threat of a lawsuit from AACS (the owner of the
encryption technology), Digg took down the post and after a few re-postings,

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banned the poster. This led to other members sympathizing the original poster
and start posting the very same news item time and time again ‘digging’ it
ferociously, so much so that at one point all news items on the Digg front page
were pointing towards the same article. Digg then tried explaining to its
community that it couldn’t survive a lawsuit against the patent holder and
pointed the users to its terms of use, but at this point the ‘digital revolt’ had
already gotten out of hand and Digg’s servers were crashing.

According to co-founder Jay Adelson, the stories were deleted as a result of


intellectual property infringement, but some users of the site speculate that the
stories were deleted as a result of ties to the MPAA and its Diggnation podcast.
Thus, many users saw Digg taking down the post as a capitulation to corporate
interests and an assault on free speech. In the end Digg founder Alex Rose
posted a response telling the people that they had been listened to and Digg will
leave the post untouched. After this emotional appeal, the In this case the
feelings of the community towards the subject of the post were so strong that
even referring to clearly stated rules of the game didn’t help in the end. Having
clearly stated rules helped to make Digg’s stance very clear, but in this case the
emotional side of the issue was simply too strong and had been driven too far to
comply with by reason alone.

Had this happened if Digg had from the beginning pointed out its rules as the reason
for removing the troublesome post? In this case people were feeling arbitrarily
discriminated at first, which led to an outpour of sympathy for the posters, leading to
a vicious cycle. This is an important example of the fact that rules need to be clear for
all the parties involved.

One important observation related to rules of conduct from a different angle is made
by Jeff Howe, coiner of the term crowdsourcing, who states that too much can be too
much also in terms of overt collaboration:

What's often misunderstood about the wisdom of the crowds is that it's the
wisdom derives from a crowd of individuals thinking and working
independently, not from a crowd thinking as a single unit, which leads to
mobocracy.

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It is worth mentioning that this passage of thought is well in line with the
individuality requirement of the Wisdom of the Crowds concept brought forth by
James Surowiecki. Josh Katone of ReadWriteWeb continues in the same vein:

Crowds must retain their individuality. Encourage your group to disagree, and
try not to let any members of the group disproportionately influence the rest.

Securing individuality is important since herding of the crowds leads to groupthink,


which handicaps the wisdom of crowds. How to do this is a key question for
companies planning crowdsourcing activities. One simple way of getting people to
contribute before being contaminated by others’ thoughts is to force some
contribution before allowing the participant to even see other people’s entries.

The herding behavior is noted also in recent research. Paul Dunay of Buzz Marketing
for Technology comments on research on social influence in driving consumer
demand by Columbia University and published in Science Magazine February 10th
2006:

The main finding was that social influence amplified the inequality of outcomes,
meaning that popular songs were more popular and unpopular songs were less
popular than when participants made their decisions independently.

Rules of conduct should therefore not pursue perfect harmony, but instead encourage
disagreement and creative friction.

It is necessary to set out rules how decisions will be made and who makes them.
Everything can’t be left can’t be left for the community to decide. As Josh Katone
(ReadWriteWeb) describes:

Not everything can be democratic. Sometimes a decision needs to be made, and


having a core team (or single person) make the ultimate decision can provide
the guidance necessary to get things done and prevent crazy ideas and
groupthink from wreaking havoc on your product.

In other words, explicit rules on who makes the decisions should be clear to all
members of the community in order to streamline decision-making process and
actually get ideas to work, but also to avoid outcrys of arbitrary discrimination. Rules

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on decision-making need to be made also because some are intent to game the system
if it is left unprotected from malignant behavior. Annalee Newitz writes in a Wired
article ‘Herding the Crowd’ that malicious participants nowadays have more than
enough tools to manipulate social systems if need be; these are listed in Table 19.

Table 19. Four ways to manipulate the crowd (Wired 2007)

HACK SITE HOW IT WORKS


The buddy system Digg Users organize into groups to vote up one other’s stories.
Geek baiting Digg, Reddit, Companies publish geek-friendly articles that have nothing to do with
Del.icio.us their business. The goal: to drive traffic to an ad-filled web site.
Network for hire Digg Clients hire scamming firms to promote their articles. These outfits recruit
networks of users willing to sell their votes.
Pump-and-chump eBay Retailers earn a good reputation selling inexpensive products, then
defraud customers on more upscale items.

Clearly, rules of interaction and conduct raise active and widespread discussion
among the industry experts and case examples show that these issues are well thought
out by the leading companies. Thus Proposition 4b – that the need to set up these
rules is critical in planning crowdsourcing activities – is secured as valid and relevant
element in the FLIRT model.

5.4.3. Intellectual property and legal issues

If there’s one thing managers and executives fear with open collaboration networks, it
is that alongside with their customers, also their competitors will have access to these
communities. Mukund Mohan writes in Future of Communities blog on the lawsuits
ensuing from SAP employees presenting themselves as Oracle customers on Oracle’s
development community:

Can you realistically manage your user community and prevent competitors
from joining your community? - Even if you have a public and password
protected community, you can still have competitors come in. Yes, there are
some entitlement areas that you can cordon off based on specific id’s and PO#
etc. but still nothing will stop a determined competitor to do anything if they
wish to gain access… …The matter of message control and legal ramifications
are relevant and true for senior executives who want to invest in communities.

Clearly, this is a nightmare for traditional service organizations living off intellectual
capital. However it needs to be noted that whatever exchange of information goes on
in a crowdsourcing environment it should the kind of information that can ‘leave the

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premises’ without damage to the company, as it is against the principle of open
collaboration to move around information within the system that is not open to all.
Also. companies should strive to create an organization that bases its competitive
edge on how the information is used between the actors, as this protects the company
from leaks of individual pieces of information.

IP transfers are also a question in modern crowdsourcing. It needs to be taken care


that the transfer of intellectual property generated through crowdsourcing is handled
properly and through solid processes, so that disputes over ownerships rights to e.g. a
certain idea can be smoothly settled.

Indeed, in the growing complexity created by a two-way and multipolar value


creation and exchange, IP transfer and legal issues are of growing concern within the
industry. Thus, my last proposition with this element, Proposition 4c that deals with
the importance to address these matters, gains ground.

5.5. Tools

The empirical material on the final Tools section of my FLIRT model will be covered
with mainly short examples, for they illustrate this final section better than quoting
blog posts.

5.5.1. Platform

3rd party platform can be utilized with the most ease. With leading world-class
services (Such as Google, Youtube and Flickr) offered to the public for free, there is
an opportunity for also companies to utilize these existing platforms to connect with
customers without cost. Technically, companies can set up their own profiles on these
services and connect to the consumers just as they would among themselves.
However, the code of conduct set up in the Language part of the FLIRT model should
be kept in mind when engaging in these communities. Another alternative is to use
software specifically built for this kind of use and sold as a hosted web service, which
naturally costs, but is often only a fraction of the costs for similar service built from
scratch. In addition, the software is developed continuously by service provider on
behalf of its users and clients. As an example, in Figure 18 we can see DeinDesign’s
design contest that utilizes Flickr for virtually free hosting service for photographs.

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Figure 18. Dein Design’s design contest hosted on Flickr

Proprietary platform comes to question when there is a long-term perspective in


developing the collaborative service and the respective customer relations. Also,
when there is a specific purpose to be filled by the service not achieved with free
services, a proprietary platform comes into question. This option takes a lot of
resources and time and with the amount of competition battling for the attention of the
consumer, is riskier than leveraging existing communities. However, it enables
complete tailoring and ongoing modification to the company’s needs and doesn’t add
media costs other than initial and maintenance costs. A good example of a proprietary
platform is Threadless.com, pictured in Figure 19.

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Figure 19. Threadless’ proprietary service

In addition to simply piggypacking on existing services or building an own platform


from scratch, companies can set up a hybrid platform, where a type of front-end is
built that is used to aggregate customer input and interact with it to certain extent, but
e.g. the contributions are hosted on a free or low-cost services so that there’s no need
to reserve extensive server space. In this solution, the engine and the storage space
behind the platform might run on pre-existing service. This is a popular solution with
e.g. ad contests, where consumer-generated videos and photos can be stored to a free
global service such as YouTube or Flickr, but the contest interface and visual look is
built separately and videos and pictures are shown there as embedded to this front-end
page. Svenskafans.com did this in their video contest (figure 20).

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Figure 20. Svenskafans video contest as a hybrid service

I was able to validate my Proposition 5a; selecting and/or developing a platform for
collaboration is key to engage in crowdsourcing activities. Furthermore, I was able to
further build on this and showed that there are at least three kinds of collaboration
platforms; existing 3rd party ones, self-developed proprietary systems and kinds of
hybrids.

5.5.2. Tools for creation and contribution

Social Portability between different platforms has been an issue especially in 2008 in
the ever-diversifying environment of different collaboration tools and communities.
How many networks can one person join? How many different identities can one
person sanely manage? How many different tagging or photo-uploading or friending
protocols can one person deal with? Social media fatigue and social portability: K.
Dawson on Slashdot.org:

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Users may soon tire of social networks — if they don't open up and embrace
standards allowing greater interoperability among the different networks.
O'Hear writes: "Unless the time required to sign-in, post to, and maintain
profiles across each network is reduced, it will be impossible for most users to
participate in multiple sites for very long.

One solution is to create co-creation applications that are portable to online


environments that people use anyway. Facebook and nowadays MySpace too offer
open APIs through which any commercial entity can create an application to harness
their clientele on the said social networks for crowdsourcing. A good example is
Amazon’s visual bookshelf, pictured in Figure 21, that allows people to create a
visual bookshelf of the books they have read, are reading or want to read using
Amazon’s database as resource. The users get status benefits from showcasing their
eruditeness and gain benefit also from being able to find new books that match their
individual tastes. Each book on the shelf can be bought from Amazon.com by just a
few clicks.

Figure 21. Amazon’s visual bookshelf on Facebook

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In addition to being readily available in environments people are willing to utilize, the
tools of creation need to be easy to use, experiential and preferably instantly show the
effect of a person’s contribution. Picked from Influx Insights blog:

Give them tools. Help them use their creativity by giving them tools to help them
express their ideas… …How easy is it for users to access the features of your
site, including all community vehicles (blogs, forums, etc). How easy for a user
to find another?

Some companies grant their customers tools for contribution as an online service.
Examples of this kind of crowdsourcing include Dell’s Ideastorm (where the only
contribution is ideas, Figure 22); Sonera’s Itekki Tekisin campaign (with a web-based
editor for creating advertising); and the abovementioned Amazon’s visual bookshelf
(providing the building blocks, visual book covers, from Amazon’s vast resources).

Figure 22. Dell’s ideastorm

Services that are located wholly online are the least burdensome for the customers to
participate on, since they only need their web browser. With these services it is
important to ensure that all the popular browsers are supported and also mobile
interface, with the introduction of fully internet-capable devices like the iPhone, need
consideration.

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Other crowdsourcing projects employ software that requires installation on the
participant’s computer. These kinds of crowdsourcing projects include Threadless
(professional grade design software is needed in order to fulfill the quality constraints
set by Threadless) and Lego Factory (Lego’s Digital Designer software is needed in
order to create models that can be uploaded to Lego Factory’s gallery). The two
abovementioned crowdsourcing communities differ in that the first relies on the
participant to acquire the software – legal or pirated – while the latter offers the tool
for the community to use for free. An interesting detail is that Lego’s Digital Designer
wasn’t initially developed by Lego; it was created independently by users of Lugnet,
an online community for Lego enthusiasts, for the purpose of modeling lego sets
before building them. It was then picked up from the forums by Lego, who put it into
professional production to be used as a tool for creating content for Lego Factory.
Lego Digital Designer, pictured in Figure 23, is a prime example of an innovation
toolkit (von Hippel 1998; von Hippel and Katz 2002; Franke and von Hippel 2003) in
use in the modern crowdsourcing arena. The Lego Digital Designer however expands
the target segment of the toolkit to segments beyond lead users (basically to anyone
with a computer, a web connection and interest for Legos), and is therefore an
example of crowdsourcing in action.

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Figure 23. Lego Digital Designer

Yet another type of crowdsourcing requires physical equipment or material. For


example, all photography or video contests require the participant to have a camera,
which the company (usually) doesn’t provide. On one extreme, crowdsourced
contributions are physical creations, such as is the case with Red Bull’s Art of the Can
contest (screenshot in Figure 24), where people create sculptures out of empty Red
Bull cans and photograph them or submit them to Red Bull.

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Figure 24. Red Bull’s Art of the Can happens online but the sculptures are real

As posited, there are many tools through which to interact with customers, and the
best tools of creation depend on the overall focus of the crowdsourcing initiative.
Proposition 5b is thus brought into focus and enriched.

5.5.3. Tools for the company

Measuring results in the social web is still in its infancy and there are still no
established standards for these metrics. Brian Oberkirch from LikeItMatters blog
sheds some light on the challenge of measuring social and collaborative action by
listing some key metrics in social media in a blog post descriptively named “Like
naling down a shadow”:

- Page views
- Feed subscriptions
- Comments
- Quality of comments
- Number and types of user submissions

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- Resyndication of our content
- Time spent on our site
- Media files consumed
- Unique visitors
- Email subscribers
- Traffic generated for other sites
- Numbers of bookmarks for our content
- Tags associated with out content
- Search engine effectiveness
- Offline public relations impact
- Downloads of a piece of content/software
- Satisfaction levels
- Inquiries
- Improved relations with developers, analysts, media, customers
- Sales
- Cross sales
- Reduced support costs

As can be seen, there are quite an amount of different metrics for a contemporary
marketing person master. One of the metrics that draws much attention in the
collaboration economy is that of engagement. Despite extensive work and discussions
on the subject, even this is not clear-cut. Jim Nail of iMedia Connection defines four
different types of engagement:

Media engagement: Ad-selling media organizations have pounced on


engagement like a pride of lions on a wounded wildebeest. They aim to prove
that their audience is more engaged with their media property than their
competitors. But they typically fall back on old-school metrics like traffic or
time spent with the medium. The ARF is trying to move beyond these metrics.

Ad engagement: Advertisers and agencies have begun to talk about how


engaging their ads are but, again, typically relying on old communication
metrics like attention or recall. These fall short of the ARF's new definition
because they only capture whether the audience saw the ad, while the ARF is
aiming for a more subtle measure of whether the consumer reacted to the ad.

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Engagement marketing: An approach that plans a sequence of activities to
draw the consumer through the purchasing process, e.g., running an ad that
drives the consumer to a website where they sign up for email that delivers
additional information over time until the consumer buys. This sequence
actually comes after the more emotional engagement the ARF is focused on.

Brand engagement: This sounds closer to the ARF's idea, but also often
defaults to old-school metrics like customer loyalty or the more recent Net
Promoter score. Important metrics to be sure, but the ARF is looking to identify
when the earliest beginnings of this consumer relationship happen so it can be
nurtured and grown.

Measuring true engagement is still a matter under debate among marketers, analysts
and agencies.

For better understanding the behavior of members in the community their interactions
need to be systematically tracked and better yet, built into archived knowledge that
can help the organization to better understand and drive the community, but also help
people understand the community aims and rules better. According to Joshua Porter
of Bokardo, not building this archived repository is a common pitfall in building
social applications:

“One strategy to avoid repeating the same things over and over again is to use
these interactions (between community management and members) to feed a
FAQ or a user’s guide. Whenever you start to see trends in help, add it to your
FAQ and add a section to the user’s guide. This will allow the community
manager to focus on the latest, more unique problems without having to rehash
older issues again and again.

This seems pretty obvious now that we’ve talked about a general case. But it’s
not so obvious when you’re in the heat of battle and these issues are cropping
up unstructured for the first time. The secret is to observe patterns in the
questions people ask but also in the underlying cause of the questions while
leaving enough design time dedicated to creating a healthy set of resources that
can serve future users.”

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The key seems to be then to plan these information-capturing processes and methods
beforehand as well as possible and also making it as automated as possible. Also
Chris Lawer is treading the same paths in stating that the role of knowledge in co-
creation should be mutually shared and that firms should provide:

Superior personalized experiences through setting up knowledge environments.


The firm’s specialist resources and capabilities enable the creation of new
customer knowledge and the continuous delivery of improved customer
experiences

In addition, having systematic tools for archived knowledge facilitates lifting relevant
content and contributions from among the clutter, helping making decisions on which
contributions are worthy and actionable.

A separate whole altogether is taking these contributions from among the community
and actually making them impact the organization in a way that truly changes how
things get done, products get made and customers get treated. While a crucial point in
overall performance of crowdsourced operations it is beyond the scope of the current
thesis to explore this in depth. It suffices for now to state that it is a necessary area to
focus on in operational management and further studies.

In the modern digital environment pretty much all things can be measured, but the
organization itself sets its own goals and metrics need to be built accordingly; this is
widely discussed among industry experts, although there is also widespread
recognition that standards still need to emerge and practices evolve. However, all
agree that sophisticated systems for monitoring community activity and flagging
relevant contributions need to be developed. Thus Proposition 5c can be seen as an
essential part of crowdsourcing planning. However, as important as measuring
contribution is, it is taking it forward within the company that ultimately makes or
breaks crowdsourcing success. This concern is also recognized among the industry
experts and seen as an important development point for many companies. It seems
justified to include to the FLIRT model also my Proposition 5d.

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6. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS

I have taken a brief look at some central developments in end-user participation in


innovation and marketing through digital media. The transformation we are
witnessing is a genuine one and is to be taken into account while devising not only the
communications and marketing strategies of a company, but also its top-level core
strategy (Salmenkivi & Nyman 2007). Customers and users are talking and they are
too loud to be ignored or dismissed. Passionate users are challenging even the
companies themselves and their contractors and partners in their quest for creative,
winning ideas (Aunola, 2006).

Building on various previous models, such as Prahalad and Ramaswamy’s (2004b)


DART, Nambisan’s (2002) Virtual Customer Community, Bouras’ (2005) web-based
virtual collaboration communities, Füller et al.’s (2006) community based innovation,
the current thesis combines these with recent works dealing specifically with
crowdsourcing (although many don’t call it by this term), such as Piller’s (2005)
works on mass confusion and how to relieve it as well as Ogawa and Piller’s (2006)
work on de-risking business activities through collective customer commitment. It
takes into account companies’ changing relation to the customers, expanding on
Charron et al.’s (2002) thinking in engaging the customers into a two-way, multi-
polar dialogue instead of persuading them with traditional top-down communications.
The FLIRT model can indeed be seen as one of the models setting a new direction for
marketing in general

The current study thus defines a new concept and framework – the FLIRT model – for
evaluating modern customer collaboration – or crowdsourcing – initiatives. It deepens
our understanding of the qualification criteria and key success factors at play in
crowdsourcing activities. Below you will find a more detailed dissection of the
implications of the study, plus an evaluation of how this thesis reached its goals.

The FLIRT framework outlined here would seem to quite well answer the challenges
company new to the field of deep customer collaboration proceed with inaugurating
crowdsourcing efforts. It identifies true, relevant and timely issues and challenges in
the process of planning and conducting crowdsourcing and also lighter forms of
customer-engaging business activities.

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During my research time frame I noted an increasing number of people joining in on
the effort to make sense of the current phenomenon of customer participation.
Drawing on this collective wisdom and researching what themes were continuously
recurring in the discussion I finally came to my conclusion, validating the FLIRT
model of crowdsourcing in the light of qualitative evidence. However, the model stil
needs further validation through extended research and with the intensifying
discussion, the FLIRT model is open to continuous revision and restructuring when
necessary.

6.1. Theoretical Contribution

Starting with my original propositions, I have managed to illuminate their practical


significance in a crowdsourcing setting and also demonstrated elaborately some
different ways in which they manifest themselves in this environment in practice.

Starting with Focus, the first element, I was able to find backing for all propositions
and also elaborated them through case examples and expert opinions. The results are
summarized in Table 20. Combining the constraining attributes of business benefits
(e.g. Füller et al. 2006, McAfee 2006, Anderson 2006, Prahalad and Ramaswamy
2004a), customer-participant perspective (e.g. Nambisan 2002, Piller 2005, Prahalad
and Ramaswamy 2004a, Lakhani and Jeppesen 2004) and organizational capability
perspective (e.g. Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2004a, Ogawa and Piller 2006, Füller et
al. 2006, Charron et al. 2006) with the defining attributes of scope, scale and depth, I
have created a novel way of cross-examining constraints vs. definitions in tackling the
root challenges in setting up crowdsourcing initiatives. Furthermore, I have through
empirical evidence enriched the existing understanding of the applicable scope, scale
and depth through extensive listings on suitable alternatives. The Focus section,
therefore projects a comprehensive image for the first challenges a company is to face
when entering open customer collaboration. The propositions are listed in Table 20.

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Table 20. The realization of propositions - FOCUS

PROPOSITION COMMENTARY
Proposition 1a: Business needs are a key consideration Many different business areas were found that
in planning crowdsourcing activities crowdsourcing specifically answers to, from self-evident,
such as connecting with the customer, to even some
surprising ones, such as customers funding company
operations (sellaband)
Proposition 1b: Targeting a diverse set of customer On the other hand this proposition is supported, but on
participants is a key factor in planning crowdsourcing the other, it is widely discussed that a heterogeneous
activities group drives more activity and commitment.
Proposition 1c: Organization capabilities are a key Industry experts consider this issue important. Especially
consideration in planning crowdsourcing activities it is emphasized that crowdsourcing doesn’t necessarily
release internal resources, but might indeed constrain
them.
Proposition 1d: Establishing scope is a key element in As there are many different areas in which to apply
planning crowdsourcing activities crowdsourcing, this issue is a crucial one and should be
dictated by cross-reflecting scope with the constraining
attributes. Especially it is emphasized that it is not
always the best idea to ask people to create something,
evaluating, voting on, vetting, screening etc. can bring
fruitful results as well.
Proposition 1e: Establishing scale is a key element in It is seen in both case examples and industry experts’
planning crowdsourcing activities. opinions that scale is a matter of balance, too little or too
much of it will fail.
Proposition 1f: Establishing time-scale is a key element Also the time scale is a relevant consideration, and it is
in crowdsourcing activities posited that short-term campaign thinking is not always
the right way with social media.
Proposition 1g: Establishing depth is a key element in It can be seen in industry experts’ opinions that depth in
planning crowdsourcing activities community building is an essential question. Too much
depth can be a hazard for the company, but on the other
hand, a devout community rewards deep involvement
during times of crisis

Business needs should indeed come first when setting up the territory for
crowdsourcing activity. As Charron et al. (2002), Pitt et al. (2002) and Beelen (2006)
posit, the internet is the domain of the consumers, and companies need to recognize
that if they want to gain consumers’ trust, they need to play on the same level. As
Chen (2001) and Hong-Youl (2004) argued, brand building doesn’t stop in the
internet, it simply needs new forms – and crowdsourcing would seem to offer some
useful tools for this. As regards customer participants, Surowiecki’s (2004), Lakhani
and Jeppesen’s (2004) and Piller’s (2004), among others, requirement for a diverse
base of participants was widely considered as an essential requirement, but
nevertheless it was also noted that homogeneous groups drive the most participation.
This is a matter to be researched in further studies.

As regards Language, the tone and manner of discourse between the actors, I have in
the Language section brought into focus not only the authenticity (Freeman and
Chapman 2007) and transparency (Ogawa and Piller 2006) issues, but strongly
focuses on issues not always noted on a sufficient level in academic discourse when
discussing online collaboration: the social objects (Knorr-Cetina 1997, Zwick et al.
2006, Zwick 2006) – that may lie outside the focus of activity but which can be used

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to tie customers more strongly into the collaborative offering – and types of social
interaction (DeSanctis & Poole, 1994, Fulk, 1993, Postmes, Spears, & Lea, 1998,
2000, Walther, 1996), of which only a few should be focused on at a time in order to
not confuse the customer. These elements are tied into a comprehensive Language
element that widely answers the question of what should the company talk to its
customers about and how it should go about it. The realizations of different
propositions on this field can be seen in Table 21.

Table 21. The realization of propositions – LANGUAGE

Proposition 2a: Social objects, shared objects of value to Social objects are given much weight and are indeed
the participants, are a key consideration in planning confirmed as a crucial element in planning crowd-
crowdsourcing activities. engaging activities
Proposition 2b: In addition to the social objects, different Types of social interaction are seen almost as relevant to
types of social interaction are a key element in planning planning crowdsourcing activities as social objects. Also,
crowdsourcing activities. a comprehensive tool for screening types of social
interaction was discovered
Proposition 2c: Authenticity in brand and company This matter is deemed crucial among industry experts.
presence is a key element in planning crowdsourcing Fake blogs and other ways of deceiving the public are
activities. considered a complete waste of resources.
On an additional note, community managers for
companies were discovered as a relevant form of
approach towards the communities.
Proposition 2d: Transparency in roles and processes is a This was seen as essential, although in short term,
key element in planning crowdsourcing activities entertainment focused crowdsourcing campaigns the
company representatives can also be fictional.

Other Language-related issues were deemed essential as well. Relating to e.g.


Hargadon and bechky’s (2006) and Nambisan’s (2002) social interaction types, there
was found a relevant vehicle to depict focus of social interaction in a given service
and this framework I readily adopted as a part of my FLIRT model. As regards
company presence, a matter raised by Freeman and Chapman (2007), among others,
authenticity and honesty were seen as absolute necessities when dealing with
crowdsourcing. Community managers, advocated in the empirical material by
Owyang, Sundar and Salazar, were a new addition to to the company presence issue,
and while personal engagement from the company’s side is not critical in short-term
campaigns, community managers should be considered in longer-term crowdsourcing
efforts.

As regards incentives, I have built a solid and comprehensive view on what all kinds
of incentives are possible on specifically crowdsourcing initiatives, be they intrinsic
(e.g. Ahonen, M., Antikainen, M. and Mäkipää, M. 2007, Harhoff, Henkel and von
Hippel 2003, von Hippel and von Krogh 2003), extrinsic subjective (e.g. von Hippel
and von Krogh 2003, Sansone and Smith 2000, von Hippel 2001, Lakhani and von

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Hippel 2003) or extrinsic subjective (Franke and Shah 2003, Boggiano and Ruble
1979; Wiersma 1992; Shu-Hua, Hall, Wentzel, Lepper 1995). I also enriched this
contribution significantly through empirical evidence and I haven’t come across
similar wide view on incentives in previous academic work. The main findings in this
area are shown in Table 22.

Table 22. Realizations of propositions – INCENTIVES

Proposition 3a. Intrinsic incentives are a key Intrinsic motivations, such as fun and curiosity seem to
consideration in planning crowdsourcing activities. hold true according to the expert opinion as well.
Challenge is seen to be playing an important part and
collaborations that don’t offer real challenge are worse
off.
Proposition 3b. Extrinsic subjective incentives are a key Community-related benefits are crucial in stimulating
consideration in planning crowdsourcing activities. communal activity and even seemingly small community-
related features, such as ranking lists, can enhance
participation.
Proposition 3c. Extrinsic objective incentives are a key Crowdsourcing offers novel ways to share benefit with
consideration in planning crowdsourcing activities. customers, such as revenue share. Extrinsic objective
benefits are on the rise as people want rewards for their
time.

Incentives were quite loudly voiced in both bad and good. While some writers argued
that crowdsourcing companies systematically exploit their customers, it has
nevertheless been noted that customers draw other, quite significant benefits from
participating, like challenge and creativity as well as learning from others and gaining
social capital. It was noted on many occasions that money and material benefits are
rising in importance in the consumers’ minds.

With the Rules section, I took on the important but many times forgotten notion that a
set of rules is necessary for collaboration to be both safe and effective for all parties
involved. Three wider areas of rules were identified as crucial in setting up
crowdsourcing operations: rules of access and initiation (e.g. Nambisan 2002, Füller
2006, Bouras 2005), rules of interaction and conduct (Duparq 2007, Nambisan 2002,
von Hippel and von Krogh 2003, Schwartz and Tomz 1997) as well as IP transfer and
legal issues (e.g. Füller et al. 2006). Also this kind of comprehensive rules-oriented
approach to collaboration has been missing from current literature. A summary of the
key findings can be seen in Table 23.

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Table 23. Realizations of propositions – RULES

Proposition 4a: Rules of access and initiation are a key Rules of initiation to the community do seem to rise to
consideration in planning crowdsourcing activities. importance at the crucial moment when a person
decides on registering with the community. This process
should be as light as possible and later information could
be stepwise added.
Proposition 4b: Rules for interaction and conduct are a Especially in crisis situations, such as the Digg Revolt, it
key consideration in planning crowdsourcing activities. is crucial that there are rules in place that can be
referred to so as not to make the participants feel let
down by arbitrary moderation or management.
Proposition 4c: Rules for IP and legal issues are a key Legal and IP issues need to be in order, if not for the
consideration in planning crowdsourcing activities. competitors sneaking in your community (because they
can’t really be stopped), then for making it clear to all
parties the rules and processes of exchanging rights to
customer contributions.

Rules of access and initiation are shown to rise in importance when a person is
deciding on whether or not to join a community. To extensive procedure might cut the
process there. Rules as regards interaction and conduct rise to importance especially
in crisis situations.

Finally, I brought concrete tools of interaction into the discussion with a new angle.
E.g. Nambisan (2002), Füller (2006), Bouras (2005) as well as Prahalad and
Ramaswamy (2004a) have all talked about the platorms for collaboration, but don’t
take into account that nowadays companies don’t need to build these platforms
themselves, as there are many free or low-cost hosted alternatives on the web along
with existing communities that already have substantial customer base. This owned-
3rd party-hybrid discussion is new to the academic discourse and will surely spark
debates on costs vs. benefits. Also tools of creation (Nambisan 2002, Dahan and
Hauser 2002, Ogawa and Piller 2006) are in crowdsourcing not necessarily hosted by
the company but can reside in many places and be owned by parties other than the
ones engaging in the dialogue. I also raised the critical question of how should a
company monitor its investment (Nambisan 2002) and take relevant action when
needed. The key findings in the tools section as listed below in Table 24.

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Table 24. Realizations of propositions – TOOLS

Proposition 5a: The technical platform is a key The platform can be arranged in one of three main
rd
consideration in implementing crowdsourcing activities. modes: proprietary, existing 3 party, or a hybrid of
some kind
Proposition 5b: Tools for interacting with the brand and These tools can be classified as 1) a fully online service,
creating the desired input are a key consideration in 2) requiring installable software (provided by the
implementing crowdsourcing activities. company or not) or 3) requiring physical devices, such
as cameras or even raw materials from which to make
the contributions.
Proposition 5c: Tools for monitoring and capturing While metrics with measuring engagement within social
customer contributions are a key consideration in media and collaborative marketing are still at their
implementing crowdsourcing activities. infancy, it is agreed that tools sifting out the relevant
contributions from the non relevant are important and
should work with as little user input as possible.
Proposition 5d: Tools for converting customer This relates to the inner processes of the company and
contributions to useful knowledge and making decisions is seen as an important last step not only for getting
are a key consideration in implementing crowdsourcing useful contributions to work but also for showing
activities. customers that their input really matters, thus
strengthening loyalty among the customers.

Tools need to be in order in order to enchant the increasingly web-savvy customer.


There can be seen three main ways to arrange the platform for crowdsourcing and
three main ways to arrange the tools for creation, while tools for the company, for
monitoring, capturing, converting and acting on customers’ contributions are certainly
still in their fermentation phase when it comes to measuring crowdsourcing success.

The main theoretical contribution of this thesis is the formation of a new, original and
timely end-to-end framework for planning, establishing and evaluating crowdsourcing
activities. It adds new viewpoints to the discourse of customer collaboration, and also
challenges some existing concepts. I believe the FLIRT model to hold a significant
theoretical contribution to the research of the topic.

Illuminating the wider phenomenon it takes on cultural and sociological changes in


explaining the rising importance of crowd-engaging methods and techniques.
Furthermore, it binds the long tail effects (Anderson 2006) to the rise of
crowdsourcing and takes into focus Surowiecki’s (2004) wisdom of the crowds
thinking as a rationale for choosing crowds over elite teams in solving problems. It
also posits collective customer collaboration as being the next phase in the continuum
from market research to lead users and modern, digital research methods and finally
into crowdsourcing.

The FLIRT model’s contribution, then, lies clearly in acting as a kind of theory
unifying the different works on collaboration but also enriching and restructuring the
framework via empirical material and case examples, thus creating a comprehensive
end-to-end model on crowdsourcing. The FLIRT model in its final form can be seen

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in Figure 25 (the strategic levels of different FLIRT elements) and Figure 26 (the
FLIRT elements and first-level subelements).

Figure 25. The FLIRT elements according to their strategic level

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Figure 26. The FLIRT elements and sub elements in the FLIRT framework

In addition to providing the FLIRT model, the current thesis presents a socially
oriented, extremely efficient way of utilizing netnography to gather up expert insight.
As shown in my study, netnography facilitates efficient harvesting of active
discussion of industry experts, researchers, managers and consultants through modern
pull and subscription-based methods of gathering research material using RSS
readers, search engine alerts, etc. Furthermore, modern netnography facilitates
extracting meaning and understanding on a given phenomenon through usage of
social bookmarking tools, collaborative categorization of raw information and
actively engaging in online discussions.

6.2. Managerial Implications

As the aim of this thesis was indeed creating a managerial tool, the managerial
implications are quite clearly visible in the Findings section. However, I would like to
repeat the main managerial implication for my thesis, and their applicability:

In setting up crowdsourcing operations, there are five main steps to take and with
each step, a crucial wholesome part contributing to the success of the collaborative
effort is established.

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Focus needs to be established for directing the collaborative effort to activities and
areas that are relevant for the needs of the business as well as interesting for the
customers and also can be executed with the companies capabilities.

This first phase is basic groundwork that each company should go through thoroughly
before advancing to next levels. Basically the Focus elements are all very basic
questions of fitting the different basic constraints and needs together. My clear and
visual presentation however helps a great deal in comprehending the key questions in
the right context and order.

Language is a crucial key element for the collaborative effort, for deeply engaging
the customers a company must know their customers and be able to talk about things
that matter to them, steer social interaction to the right direction and also present the
company or brand in an authentic and transparent manner.

The key in the Language part could be summed up as “know what your customers
care about, talk to them about it and remember not to screw them”. Although simple
sounding, this thinking is often what’s most hardest to the companies engaging in
crowdsourcing activities. I do see the Language part as one of – if not the most –
influential part for managers and directors when they’re reading this.

Incentives are needed to reward participation and performance, but money alone is
rarely the answer. Intrinsic motivations like challenge, creativity and fun are many
times the most important factors but also extrinsic subjective incentives, such as
reputation, status and joining a common cause matter significantly.

In incentives companies should not fall for the obvious trap of offering money and
leaving other things unattended. As stated, other motivators are often stronger and
money can even destroy a well functioning creative community.

Rules are needed so that everyone understands the protocols of access and initiation
into the community and shares an understanding of the founding objectives and
guidelines directing the action. Rules for creation and exchange of ideas and
interaction ensure that participating is easy, fun and safe for all those involved. Also,
rules for IP transfer as well as legal issues need to be addressed.

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The IP transfer and legal issues sub element is probably the most timely and relevant
for companies as they are pondering how to share revenue and benefits but also
intellectual rights to co-created material with their customers.

Tools is the last of the FLIRT elements. Deciding on the platform for the community
and the tools of creation is to be given thought and building an own platform from
scratch is not always the best alternative. The company also needs internal tools for
effectively harvesting the input of their customers and converting it into meaningful
action within the organization.

The key for companies to understand here is that the organization does not have to
build things itself. Not all means of collaboration involve substantial investments as
there are a multitude of existing communities and community tools on the web – free
of charge or for an amount fraction of a cost of building a new service from scratch.

These are all things that managers can put to use right away, as empirical evidence
suggests that the thinking presented in this thesis is a valid way to make sense of the
problems involved and my propositions are indeed relevant to most crowdsourcing
and collaboration efforts regardless of the area or field of business. It is still worth
noting that despite the FLIRT model processes in orderly fashion from the strategic
via the tactical level and ends up with technical issues, developing and directing
crowdsourcing should indeed be a reciprocal and interactive process where the
contribution of the crowds is systematically and continuously evaluated also when it
comes to developing the community and its founding principles.

6.3. Limitations and Ideas for Future Research

As stated already in the objectives section, the FLIRT model built here is not, nor was
it meant to be, a statistically proven model. Its meaning was to establish a solid
framework that could be further validated and elaborated with future research. This is
also its biggest contribution to the academia, as it will surely serve as a good platform
to build future work on.

A key issue that was at the final phases excluded from this thesis was the definition of
participant roles in crowdsourcing efforts. I had already built a model describing four
different participant roles (Creators, Critics, Connectors and Crowds), but as the

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thesis began to grow impossibly broad, I had to exclude it from this paper. The
question of participant roles is nevertheless a very interesting and crucial one within
crowdsourcing and definitely needs further research if the phenomenon is to be
understood at the fullest possible level. Also the issue between homogeneous and
heterogeneous participant groups and their performance in different kinds of
crowdsourcing settings is a relevant one and requires further research.

Also it would be very interesting to delve into the Language part more, as it is a
crucial element in the FLIRT model and especially large companies continuously find
it very difficult to find the right tone. Critical discourse analysis could serve well in
this context.

As regards Incentives, a contingency model would be beneficial to assess which


incentives dominate which settings in crowdsourcing.

With the web 2.0 still in motion, it would also be interesting to Tools and the shiny
but useless paradox in order to find out which attributes and features make Tools
attractive and which discourage their use.

Finally, what’s really interesting is that while only 1 million of the more than 215
million social networkers regularly active today are older than 50, by the end of the
year that number could explode to tens of millions, as Paul Lee, Director of
Technology Research at Deloitte predicts. How these people with a lot more buying
power than their younger tech savvy brethren are taken into account in social
networks but also in crowdsourcing is a question I find very intriguing.

141
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152
APPENDICES

Appendix 1. Previous literature and the FLIRT model

Table 25. Previous academic work and the Focus element of the FLIRT model

FOCUS

business objectives

organization capabilities
customer participants

scope

scale
depth
Concepts and their contribution to
Authors the FLIRT model

Orava and Perttula 2005 types of revenue direct consumer,


direct 3rd party, indirect x
Charron et al. 2002 Effects of social media on brand
x
loyalty
Charron et al. 2002 trust in media x
Beelen 2006 consumer power x
Chen 2001, Hong-Youl 2004 new tools for brand management x
Gruen et al 2005 C2C interaction value for marketer x
Ragunathan and Corfman 2006 C2C experience sharing and
increased value for consumers and x
brands
Rosenbaum and Massiah 2007, Prolonged interaction and increased
Bickart and Schindler 2001, Charron credibility x
et al. 2002
Bagozzi and Dholakia 2002 Economic, social and personal value x
Füller et al. 2006 Image enhancement x
Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2004, De-risking experiments
Ogawa and Piller 2006
Alam 2004, Füller et al. 2006 Better performance of new products
and services through co-creation x
Füller et al. 2006, McAfee 2006, Faster scaling and adoption of new
Anderson 2006, Prahalad and offerings x
Ramaswamy 2004
Cothrel 2000, Füller et al. 2006, Lowering costs, failing cheap
Charron et al. 2002 x
Reid and Brentani 2004 Highest of value for co-creation in
x
fuzzy front end
Füller et al. 2006 fewer prototypes produced by the
company leads to less resources x
spent on market research
Füller et al. 2006, Prahalad and Faster development
Ramaswamy 2004 x
Cothrel 2000 Lowering staff costs x
Jeppesen and Fredriksen 2006 Additional intellectual resources x
Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2004, finding novel and unconventional
Lakhani and Jeppesen 2007 solutions to existing challenges x
Cothrel 2000 More resources for routine tasks x
Füller et al. 2006, Muniz and O’Guinn Increasing customer retention
2001 x
Cothrel 2000 Faster feedback cycle x
Füller et al. 2006, Cothrel 2000 Better understanding of customers x
Berthon, Hulbert, Pitt, and Leyland Better customizability with customer
1999 needs x
Cothrel 2000, Antikainen 2007, More revenue
x
Charron et al. 2002
Nambisan 2002 Need for wide participant base x
Piller 2005 Completely open invitation reduces
x
mass confusion best

153
Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2004 Need for heterogeneous participant
base
Füller et al. 2006 Which attributes should customers
x
have in order to participate?
Surowiecki 2004 Wisdom of Crowds x
Füller et al. 2006 Knowing where the customers are is
x
key
Lakhani and Jeppesen 2004 Need for heterogeneous participant
x
base
Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2004 What it takes from the organization to
participate x
Nambisan 2002 Depth and handling risk x x
Füller et al. 2006 Openness and added risk x x
Ogawa and Piller 2006 Collaboration and reducing risk x
Füller et al. 2006 Co-creation and collaboration require
x
significant resources
Füller et al. 2006 Training and proper orientation of
staff required x
Charron et al. 2006 relinguisihing control necessary x
Flowers 2008 Understanding scope, scale and
x x x
depth of co-creation efforts
Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2004 Customers as multipliers of
company’s R&D efforts x

Lakhani & Jeppesen 2007, Boutin Open source problem solving in


2006a, Brabham 2008 various settings

Trendwatching report Customer made: contests, ongoing


development, create and sell, x
ongoing conversations
Ogawa and Piller 2006 Co-creation as source of new
product designs, connection with
customers, preselection of ideas,
minimum order size, commitment, x x
incentives, reorders, organization,
relation to conventional product
development and market research
Nambisan 2002 idea generation, co-creating, testing,
providing end-user support, x
Füller et al. 2006 Community as source of innovation x
Brabham 2008 Crowdsourcing as a model for
x
problem solving
Halperin 2007 B2B crowdsourcing x
Piller 2005 Overcoming Mass Confusion x
Greenberg 2007 Community vs marketing sites x
Collins and Gordon 2005 Depth and loyalty x
Lakhani and Jeppesen 2004 Insiders and depth x
Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2004 five key questions for managers in
x x
co-creation
Afuah 2006 customer capabilities x
Lengnick-Hall 1996 customer capabilities x
business objectives

organization capabilities
customer participants

scope

scale
depth

FOCUS

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Table 26. Previous academic work and the Language element of the FLIRT model

LANGUAGE

social interaction
social objects

company presence
Concepts and their contribution to
Authors the FLIRT model

Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2004 engaging emotionally and


intellectually is key x
Knorr-Cetina 1997 Social Objects x
Zwick, Detlev, Dholakia and Nikhilesh Epistemic consumption objects
2006, Zwick 2006 x
Law and Singleton 2005 The amorphousness of social objects x
Suchman 2005 Criticsim on objectualization of
interaction x
Rutter 1987, Sproull & Kiesler 1986, Impersonal interaction
x
1991
DeSanctis & Poole 1994, Fulk 1993, Types of personal and social
Postmes, Spears, & Lea 1998, 2000, interaction in digital services x
Walther 1996
Myers 1987 Many forms of establishing identity
online x
Lombard and Ditton 1997 Increasing amount of possibilities for
x
manifesting presence online
Hargadon and Bechky 2006 Four types of interaction: help
seeking, help giving, reflective x
reframing and reinforcing
Nambisan 2002 Nature of interaction orientation key in
virtual customer communities x
Freeman, B. and Chapman, S. 2007 Authenticity in brand and company
presence x
Ogawa and Piller 2006 process transparency x
Nambisan 2002 Role transparency x

1
155
155
Table 27. Previous academic work and the Incentives element of the FLIRT model

INCENTIVES

intrinsic subjective

extrinsic objective
extrinsic subjective
Concepts and their
contribution to the FLIRT
Authors model

Lakhani and Jeppesen 2004 Enjoyment of challenge is key x


Nambisan 2002 Creation of incentives and
motivating customer one of 3
x x x
major challenges with virtual
customer communities
Von Hippel 2001 Incentives are needed x x x
Harhoff, Henkel and von Hippel Amateurs are not conserned
x x x
2003 about loss of IP at low price
Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2004 Individual in center also in social
x x x
media
Lyman 2007 Gift economy does not equal
x x x
common good
Roberts, Hann, Il-Hom and Intrinsic and extrinsic incentives
Slaughter 2004, Hann et al. x x x
2004
Bandura 1995 Self efficacy as intrinsic incentive x
Ahonen, M., Antikainen, M. and Regular quality contributions
Mäkipää, M. 2007 make people feel self efficacious x
Lakhani and Von Hippel 2003 Personal learning from activity
x
itself
Harhoff, Henkel and von Hippel Fun and enjoyment
2003, von Hippel and von Krogh x
2003
Lakhani and Jeppesen 2004 Enjoyment of challenge is key x
Von Hippel and Von Krogh 2003 Intrinsic doesn't secure long term
engagement x
Sansone and Smith 2000 extrinsic motivations can boost,
regulate and maintain the interest
in doing a task. Career and status x
enhancement are examplesof this
Roberts, Hann, Il-Hom and Intrinsic and extrinsic incentives
Slaughter 2004 coexist x x x
von Hippel 2001, Lakhani and helping the cause with like-
x
von Hippel 2003 minded people
Von Hippel 2001 Helping to build community x
von Hippel 2001, Lakhani and Expectations of reciprocity
x
von Hippel 2003
Franke and Shah 2003, Harhoff, Improvements on own ideas and
Henkel and von Hippel, 2003 thinking x
von Hippel 2001, Lakhani and Reputation
x
von Hippel 2003
Anderson 2006 jobs, tenure, audiences, viral
resume and lucrative offers of all x
sorts
Sansone and Smith 2000 Increase in ranking boosts
contributors’ subsequent intrinsic x
and extrinsic motivations.
Lerner and Tirole 2002 Promotion in rank enhances a
contributor’s status in the
developer community and x
increases incentive motivation
Roberts, Hann, Il-Hom and 1) welcome commercial efforts, 2)
Slaughter 2004 nurture status/opportunity
motivations and 3) capture a x
competence component in the
feedback system

2
156
Von Hippel and von Krogh 2003 Contributors whose identity is
known to the community enjoy
greater benefits from revealing x
their innovations than do those
who are less integrated
Franke and Shah 2003 Concrete rewards are often
necessary in order to justify the
company benefiting financially x
from openly revealed information
and contributions.
Franke and Shah 2003 Intrinsic motivations (challenge,
mental stimulation, control,
curiosity, fantasy) may even be
downplayed by monetary
incentives as the shift in x x
motivational orientation from
intrinsic to extrinsic can
negatively affect interpersonal
interactions and creativity
Boggiano and Ruble 1979, Overjustification effect can be
Wiersma 1992, Shu-Hua, Hall, brought on by extrinsic objective x x
Wentzel, Lepper 1995 incentives

extrinsic subjective
intrinsic subjective

extrinsic objective
INCENTIVES

3
157
Table 28. Previous academic work and the Rules element of the FLIRT model

RULES

Interaction and conduct

IP and Legal
Access and initiation
Concepts and their contribution to
Authors the FLIRT model

Nambisan 2002 Access and initiation into the


community are key in designing virtual x
customer communities
Johnston 1989 Human rejects x
Füller et al. 2006 User access and participation
eligibility are key questions in x
community-based innovation
Bouras et al. 2005 the community needs to choose who
participates in the community and
members of the community choose to x
participate in it
Bouras et al. 2005 one of the key requirements for the
development of a web-based virtual
collaboration community is enabling x
multiple, shifting and overlapping
membership and participation
Mitchell-Wong, Kowalczyk, OpenSocial movement and social
x
Roshelova, Joy & Tsai 2007 portability
Duparcq 2007 The purpose and participants of the
community affect the platform, which
in turn affects policing – governance, x
rules and boundaries – in the
community
Nambisan 2002 Rules need to set the degree of user
x
control in ongoing interaction
von Hippel and von Krogh 2003 The participants’ self-rewarding
through private benefits related to
intrinsic motivations that are not
x
available to so-called freeriders may
diminish contributors’ concerns about
freeriders
Schwartz and Tomz 1997 Leaders who can choose who is a
member of a social category can
secure a more talented group and x
more effective production of goods
and services.
Füller et al. 2006 Legal claims for the exploitation of
consumer ideas and inventions can x
be problematic in co-creation

4
158
Table 29. Previous academic work and the Tools element of the FLIRT model

TOOLS

Creation and contribution

Monitoring analysis and action


Platform
Concepts and their contribution to
Authors the FLIRT model

Gommans, M., Krishnan, K., Consumer savvyness and quality


Scheefold, K. 2001; Lorenzo, Oblinger consciousness as regards features
and Dziuban 2007 and user-friendliness of online x x x
services is increasing
Moroney, L. 2006, Open AJAX Web services and their building
Alliance 2006 principles and methods as regards
possibilities to enhance user x x x
experience
Benatallah, B., Duma, M. and Sheng, Open source and peer-to-peer
Q. 2004, Floyd, I., Jones, M., Rathi, D. methods quicken and enhance the
and Twidale, M. 2007, Panke, S., development cycle of online services x x x
Kohls, C. and Gaiser, B. 2006
Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2004 Staying aware of technological
advancements and capturing
opportunities from emerging
technologies to enhance user x x x
experience is key in developing
environments for co-creation
Nambisan 2002 Customer contributions can be limited
by the high cost of providing facilities
or mechanisms to structure and x x x
channel those customers’ inputs
Bouras et al. 2005 Customer co-creators require co-
location, a common physical or virtual x
space for collaborative activities
Nambisan 2002 Customer co-creators will need to be
somehow integrated with internal x
teams
Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2004 Recognizing both the technical &
social aspects of co-creation x
experiences is key
BBC 2007 “Glossy but useless” x
Füller et al. 2006 Community identification important
regardless of whether an own x
community will be built or not.
Bouras et al. 2005 one of the key requirements for the
development of a web-based virtual
collaboration community is enabling x
multiple, shifting and overlapping
membership and participation
Mitchell-Wong, Kowalczyk, OpenSocial movement and social
Roshelova, Joy & Tsai 2007 portability
x

Nambisan 2002 it needs to be kept in mind that


customers may need higher levels of
product / technology knowledge in x
order to co-create
Ogawa and Piller 2006 modern crowdsourcing in many cases
utilizes tools that go beyond testing
alternative company materials, x
instead focusing on original customer-
created material

5
159
Füller et al. 2006 Efficient design of the interaction with
the targeted community members
regarding the particular development x
task and the individuality of the
selected online community is key
Nambisan 2002 A major challenge for the company in
collaboration ventures is capturing x
customer knowledge and input
Nambisan 2002 Longtitudal and informal knowledge
gathering is more beneficial than x
cross-sectional and formal types
Nambisan 2002 Separation between knowledge
acquisition support and knowledge x
conversion support

Creation and contribution

Monitoring analysis and action


Platform
TOOLS

6
160