The Power Of The New Crowdsource? The Evolution Of Online Help




Crowdsourcing as we know it today is a terrible thing. It basically boils down to clients asking several, even hundreds of freelancers, to provide spec work in the hopes of getting their product chosen and getting paid.

No other industry I can think of does this, and is something that plagues the professional freelancers, as their work becomes devalued, especially if they participate.

But I’ve discovered something new. Something I think is revolutionary and possibly the most helpful thing for designers and coders alike – I’ve found the 21st century of crowdsourcing – and it doesn’t hurt us or the industry, nor does it involve clients.

The Evolution Of Online Help

I’ve been coding for well over 10 years now, ever since middle school. Back then, whenever I needed help, I would have to figure it out myself. There were no wikis, blogs or even Google (at least not the Google of today). There were books, but that was about it.

Then came forums, where you could post your code or design critiques on there and wait forever for a response. Then you’d have to wade through the trolls to find something constructive.

The came Google and blogs. Now, finding help was as simple as searching for it. However, even then it required extensive searching and wading through comments and blog posts, while trying 30 different “solutions” until you found one that worked.

While Google is still my favorite way to find help or plugins, it doesn’t help if the problem pertains to your site only. Of course you could always post your question on sites like StackOverflow, Codesnipp.it, Forrst or WP Questions, but what if there was an easier, quicker way to find help?

Then I made a discovery.

The New Crowdsource

The new crowdsource can help us with our problems. Instead of clients crowdsourcing designers and developers for free work – we turn it around. We crowdsource ourselves for solutions to our problems.

For example, the other day I had to code up something for a very large client. It used the best in CSS3 and HTML5 and worked wonders. Then they asked me to implement it inside of their site template. That’s where the troubles began.

First, because of the way their site was coded, there were layout issues. Those were easy enough to fix on my own. But then, none of the javascript worked, and it wasn’t throwing any errors! I’m by no means a javascript expert, it was 8:30 in the evening and I wanted to get this project done now.

So what did I do? I simply tweeted:

Any CSS/JS pros online right now that wouldn’t mind helping me with a super secret project?

In less than two minutes I had more than 10 answers. In less than ten minutes, my issue was fixed by someone who caught an !important rule blocking the JS from working.

The Power Of Twitter

In no other social medium, can you find help almost instantly. Several sites meant for help try to do this, but fail. There’s always millions of people on Twitter no matter what time of day it is. By sending out a tweet to thousands for help, you’ve just crowdsourced.

In the days of little to no patience, this is a wonderful discovery. I’ve now been able to find solutions to several of my coding issues in a matter of minutes, when it would’ve taken me hours to figure out. It always just takes an extra pair of eyes.

And the cool thing is, we don’t mind helping ourselves. We’re always so interested in others’ design or coding problems, that we’re quick to jump in and volunteer our free time. Shoot, so many people simply wanted to help just to see the secret project I was working on.

This goes to show how awesome the design community is. Can you imagine a lawyer or doctor trying to get free help from others? The design and development community is unique in the fact that we’re all so friendly and helpful to each other. Couple that with instant communication through Twitter, and you have yourself a huge crowdsourcing medium.

Use This Wisely

Of course, as to everything there are rules and etiquette. If you’re constantly asking for help several times every day, eventually people are going to start to ignore you. Only ask when you really, really need the help.

Also, make sure you thank everyone for the help, even those people who offered to help after you’d already fixed the problem. No one likes an ungrateful designer or coder. Thanking them ensures their tweet was heard and you appreciated it, whether they helped or not.

Your Thoughts

What do you think about this new kind of crowdsourcing? Can this be called crowdsourcing?





About the author:

Amber is a freelancer with over 10 years of experience and specializes in clean, semantic and valid 1.0 Strict XHTML, CSS and Wordpress development. She also writes a web development blog on her portfolio at www.amberweinberg.com.

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