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Is Crowdsourcing a Good Source?

Since Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 has gone missing, crowdsourcing has been a major effort put in place to try to find the plane. Approximately 3 million users have gone onto Tomnod, an internet crowdsourcing site that asks users to identify objects in satellite imagery. The missing Malaysian Airlines flight has spurred what might be the biggest crowdsourcing effort ever. But how helpful has this really been?

First off, what is crowdsourcing again? Crowdsourcing is “the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community.”

Right, so why will this help? The idea behind crowdsourcing is you have a large group of people doing the work for you. The benefit comes from so many human eyes being involved in the process. According to an article on MSN, “users can access [Tomnod] and scan micro-portions of the map, each about the size of a city block, tagging anything that looks like wreckage, rafts, oil slicks, or other signs of the aircraft. Areas tagged by multiple people get passed on to expert satellite imagery analysts.”

TIME reports that “around 2.9 million areas of interest have been tagged by internet users scorching satellite data.” The setbacks of crowdsourcing are easy to think of: What if people are wrong?

On a smaller scale, it seems that crowdsourcing could lead to a wild goose chase. But on such a large-scale as this is, and multiple tags being required and expert opinions received, the benefits of this crowdsourcing effort may far outweigh the risk.

Samantha LinnettComment