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I have committed to posting a blog a day and my personal resolution has dovetailed nicely with the WordPress Daily Post challenge. Yesterday I could not make my daily post happen and so today I am posting two blogs. I hope to observe the spirit of one entry a day even when life conspires to throw a few challenges ….

My Sunday blog, as I had promised last week, is going to be based on random articles I read, intriguing snippets I hear and tangential news items that I read about social media, marketing, books and writing. For me ‘crowdsourcing’ was the word of the week. I read a couple of different articles on un-related topics where this idea was repeated.

Image courtesy University of New Orleans

The first one was in Time magazine about the city of London making all its data available to the masses. London Datastore is part of Mayor Boris Johnson’s effort to make sure that public scrutiny will help politicians stay on the right path. An interesting development has been the way multiple websites that have emerged, which use the public data to offer new information and services for people. It has been an effective crowdsourcing experiment because members of the public have created a very useful online map of the London tube and a biking map of the city as well. While, there have been entrepreneurs who have built business ideas based on the freely available data, there are several people who have also set out to organize the data and make it user-friendly without any profit motive. The city would not have been able to achieve as much as the general public has managed to achieve in a very short time with a very limited budget.

An article in the New York Times about an online game designed to get people to devise new ways to fold RNA molecules referred to the idea of crowdsourcing for finding solutions. Scientists from Carnegie Mellon and Stanford see the potential in letting the general public take a shot at coming up with possible solutions. The notion that innovative thinking and insightful contributions can come from outside the world of academia is not new as “citizen scientists” have contributed to some other interesting projects as well.

Crowdsourcing is a reassuringly democratic idea where the whole world can seek answers for the problems that plague us. It is a principle that celebrates out-of-the-box thinking and posits the wonderful concept that anybody can save the day!

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