Crowdsourcing: Your Friend
Posted by Roger Renteria
Lately, I’ve been having difficulty trying to figure out how to make the best decision for many things. I turn to digital technology to get the help I need from my friends and colleagues on a multitude of things.
It’s easy to get things done quickly online and get the feedback you need from your tribe.
I rely on the Internet for help. Someone will have the answer I need and I am always happy to provide the answer for them when they ask. As a kid, I was told I was to fear the Internet and it was not a great place to be in. However, I disagree because I feel it’s a place where I can get reliable and honest feedback. I also can find good software and advice and most of the time it’s free. The only thing I need to pay for is an Internet connection.
One of my favorite sites right now is Quora. If you are unfamiliar with Quora, it is a social network where people ask interesting questions and anyone has the opportunity to answer them. If you ever get a chance, go on there and find something interesting to discuss. This is where I can spend more of my day reading articles from
- What are the most mind-blowing facts about airplanes?
- What tweak has made all the difference in your life?
- What was the strangest thing you have experienced as a foreigner/visitor in the United States?
- What is the cheapest thing you’ve seen a mega-rich person do?
There are many more, but I believe you get the point that people have some awesome stories to tell where you can get some great information because people are willing to share their stories on this platform.
For me, I’ll put my two cents:
- Why do people live in Albuquerque?
- What is the Public Transit system in Albuquerque, New Mexico, like?
And then I can ask questions and hope people can provide a decent answer
Seriously, if you know why technical writers are introverts, I encourage you to answer it!
I enjoy having Quora around for this reason. According to Rheingold, we “collaborate publicly without requiring or expecting any direct reward” (p. 155). Quora will curate questions and answered based on my preferences, so I can enjoy reading people’s answers which I deem worthy and I get to upvote or downvote their answer based on my thoughts. Above all, I’m here to learn on this social network and have an open mind about anything because I see the human condition written by others who are like me.
Giving Away Something Helps Everyone
My first participation in crowdsourcing was downloading and installing SETI@Home. I would help crunch data in exchange for a pretty screensaver. Yes, I know it would eat up processing resources and electrical power, but I felt I was doing something helpful running the program and looking at my units that I completed. Rheingold noted that I was part of a group of people who would donate time and computing power for “mass collaboration in response to” science (p. 168). It’s a feel-good thing where I could directly help “scientists understand the universe or assisting biomedical researchers who are seeking to cure a disease…” (p. 169).
SETI@home Classic screenshot from Berkeley.
One thing I missed was the Folding@home project where I could have helped in another way. By that time, I didn’t have the time and I moved on to using a laptop instead of a desktop and it would not be helpful for me to overheat my laptop. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t stop helping whenever I could on the Internet.
Occasionally I’d fix a problem a problem with grammar on Wikipedia, update a listing on Google Maps, or edit a manual on iFixIt. I love these kinds of websites because I’m invited to edit content to make it better. I actually enjoy the moment I can make a change on Wikipedia, which is kind of like a nice thing. At work, our content management system works in a similar fashion, except we have a few administrators (me and my co-workers) who approve content updates. What makes my job awesome is that I get to make those edits to the content updates before we get to click the publish button every time.
The Professional Network
Whenever I think of a social network that is helpful, it is my group of colleagues who are spread out across the world who know about technical communication and content strategy. Whenever I need help with a tool or understanding about a new concept, I can send them a message on any of the social networks I’m connected with. In a sense, Rheingold calls this a PLN, which is a “personally curated network of people I want to learn from and a network that learns together” (p. 228). What I try to do is maintain my network all of the time by following people I am interested in, ask questions whenever I can, and feed my network by providing answers. Somehow doing this for several years with my colleagues I’ve met at the Society for Technical Communication Annual Summits have earned me a place in the field. This year, I’ve presented a couple of times and am reviewing session proposals for the 2017 Summit. On the otherhand, I also have gained a couple of side gigs at another conference.
So far, maintaining and building that network online has taken me to places like Las Vegas, Portland, New Orleans, and Dublin. In fact, without this network I would not have had the opportunity to attend this class. I certainly attribute and appreciate these connections for giving opportunities at the right time. I have tried to return the favor by helping out with the Society for Technical Communication whenever I can.
I want to mention that Rheingold’s last chapter is a great summary of the book. In fact, during my conference I have had the opportunity to talk with a lot of colleagues about the books I’ve been reading in this class and a couple were considering to add them into their future reading lists. Let’s see where it goes from here! I may now have a new hobby to find books that are interesting that my colleagues would be interested in. No, I will not create a technical communicators book reading club (but I probably will).
The Long Tail…
When I read Chris Anderson’s presentation, The Long Tail, the first slides immediately made me think about Spotify and Netflix. They do such a great job of suggesting things based off of our interests because we have a nearly “unlimited selection” that “is revealing truths about
what (we) consumers want…” (Slide 4). One of the best things that has come to the world of consumer media is that I can get the media almost immediately instead of waiting for it to arrive.
- Movie date night with a girlfriend can be as easy as downloading a feature film in five minutes from Amazon.com.
- DJ song request instantly bought and downloaded to play within minutes even at the same dance event
- Class project which requires a book which can be downloaded instantly and read on any device
Lastly, I love how digital technologies are available on most devices. It’s not like I need to have a specific device to use my content. As long as I have a multi-use device, I can read, listen, or watch what I download. It’s not like the past where I need to buy a DVD player to play movies or a CD player to listen to music. However, I’m worried that our multi-use devices will become nostalgic. Tonight, I get to watch a movie on DVD, which required unpacking my DVD player from my box. Maybe next week for nostalgia-sale, I’ll find my VHS player stored at my parents, blow the dust off the VHS tapes and watch The Lion King.
Anderson, C. (2004, December). The Long Tail. [Presentation Slides]. Retrieved from http://changethis.com/manifesto/show/10.LongTail
Rheingold, H. (2012). Net smart: How to thrive online. The MIT Press. Cambridge, MA
About Roger RenteriaProfessional Life: I am a technical communicator, writer, and presenter. Hobby Life: I'm a blues dancer, hiker, and foodie.
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