Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Crowdsourcing and whales

I am currently reading Jeff Howe’s book Crowdsourcing. (Definition: outsourcing tasks to an undefined large group of people.) I find the concept both fascinating as well as very promising. While reading the book, it occurred to me that I had actually witnessed an example of crowdsourcing just last week, while I was on a cruise in Alaska.

There were over 2000 passengers and a good number of them had excellent (foot-long) telephoto cameras. From the ship's decks, they’d shoot photos of whales. The ship staff included a naturalist and in a presentation she explained that each whale’s tail had unique designs (its finger-print of sorts). She then asked that anyone who had managed to get decent photos of a whale’s tail consider uploading those photos to a marine database in Seattle. The volunteers and professionals there would then use scanning software as well as the date and time of sighting to track the movement of the whale herds worldwide.

After returning home, I looked it up and sure enough, even USA Today had run an article about this back in May 2008.

The reason I mention crowdsourcing in a retirement blog is that I believe that just a few years down the road, retirement won’t be the step change it is today, a phase of not working after a 9-to-5 corporate job. Rather, people will slowly transition into participating in ever more ‘crowdsourced’ projects and activities, some of which may augment their incomes and many that won’t. A much more diffused version of retirement.

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