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Crowdsourcing Development?

Crowdsourcing is a hot trend. Take a task that would usually be done by an individual or a team of people within an organization and distribute it to an amorphous and uncontrolled group of people on-line, “the crowd”. That is crowdsourcing.

One of the first crowd-sourced hits was Wikipedia, the non-profit collaborative encyclopedia. Using information provided by the “community” it is the most popular reference site on the internet. Another well-known example is Trip Advisor. It’s not Frommer’s or Fodor’s opinions we seek, it’s what the crowd thinks about the hotels, guides, or restaurants at a destination. A Day in the Life of America kicked off a series that captured one day in various locations with photos by photo journalists across the world.

So, can the “crowd” determine the shape of our cities? The proliferation of articles, books, even software on the subject means we can expect more on-line involvement in the process of planning communities and developing projects. To assist interested folks, there is even a new book in the “for Dummies” franchise.

As someone who has been practicing community engagement for more than 25 years, I’m a believer, but I have to ask if crowdsourcing is just an updated version of good community outreach? And, if it is, should it replace the old one-to-one conversations? It could certainly reach a more diverse, perhaps representative audience than the presentations developers are forced to make to community groups.

Will a project planned by the crowd, pass muster with the decision-makers? 

Will it reduce the influence of the NIMBY element or magnify it?

Should developers use crowdsourcing to decide what to build?