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Crowdsourcing in software engineering

Many phenomena have come with the emergence of web 2.0, amongst which online crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is the word used to describe the development of the cooperation between organisations, such as government, companies, institutions or persons make use if a large group of unspecified individuals for the sake of consultation, innovation, policy making and research. These individuals might be professionals, volunteers or people interested in the specific topic. Crowdsourcing does not necessarily have to take place on the internet, however this blog post will focus of on crowdsourcing that makes use of the internet. The focus will be specifically on crowdsourcing within software engineering, as the thread throughout this blog post will be The paper “Crowdsourcing in Software Engineering: Models, Motivations, and Challenges” written by T. LaToza and A. van der Hoek in 2016.

Crowdsourcing has lead to all sorts of incredible accomplishments across industries, though not much attention has been paid to the achievements of crowdsourcing within software engineering. Crowdsourcing has proven successful for some forms of conducts within software engineering, such as functionality testing, usability inspections, programming questions and debugging. However, for crowdsourcing to become as impactful as in other industries, there are still some major challenges to overcome.

Crowdsourcing varies in many aspects such as the way in which the tasks are issued, the amount of people that collaborate, and whether the task is subdivided into smaller tasks. Therefore, different crowdsourcing models exist in software engineering.

Starting with peer production, best described as a crowdsourcing model based on mirco-participation from a large amount of independent individuals (Haythornthwaite, 2009). In most cases the contributions are made without a monetary reward. Instead, contributors are motivated by a common purpose, community purpose, reputation and increased experience with new technologies (Bauwens, 2009). Well-known examples are Linux, Firefox and Apache.

Next to peer production, competitions are getting bigger within software development. Instead of treating workers as collaborators, workers are treated as contenders. As collaboration is decreased in this form of crowdsourcing, a more diverse input is gathered since contenders each work individually. In some cases, a more diverse input could result in higher quality outcomes. These cases include tasks in which creativity is required such as design tasks, but also bug detection can be very suitable for this type crowdsourcing model (Leimeister et al., 2009).

Another model that is found in software development is Microtasking. In microtaksing, batches of microtasks are posted. These tasks are often completed by multiple participants at the time, and using voting and other types of mechanisms, the best solutions are selected. An example is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, a platform on which microtasking tasks are posted. In the software development, this model is most suitable for testing. Specific user scenarios or functionalities can easily be tested by the enormous amount of labour force, as microtasking is easily scalable and very fast. Screening and payment is done through the platform, and therefore it might be much simpler for companies to post the to-be-tested user scenarios on these platforms instead of hiring employees to do the testing.

There are many advantages that crowdsourcing can offer such as reduced time to market, participation of specialists for certain tasks and the consideration of multiple alternatives (LaToza and van der Hoek, 2016). However, the nature of software causes several major challenges that need to be overcome before these benefits can be reaped. The biggest challenge in software engineering is that in order for a task to be crowd sourced, it must have clear goals and a simple context, as the participant must fully understand the details and scope of the task.

Therefore, it is no surprise that the biggest successes of crowdsourcing in software engineering have been for small specific tasks such as testing and debugging. Yet, many software tasks are complex and hard to precisely articulate, making it hard to break them down in smaller and clearly articulated tasks.
Even if a successful decomposition method can be found for these complex tasks, can requirement specification take place in enough detail to successfully merger the decomposed task back into the complete whole?
In-house development, outsourcing, and contracting are still dominant in the industry. Even though crowdsourcing has booked some successes, it has not disrupted common practice within software engineering. Notwithstanding the fact that it does have the potential to do so, I am very curious to see what the future of crowdsourcing in this industry will hold.


Bauwens, M. (2009). Class and capital in peer production. Capital & Class, 33(1), pp.121-141.

Haythornthwaite, C. (2009). Crowds and Communities: Light and Heavyweight Models of Peer Production. IEEE.

LaToza, T. and van der Hoek, A. (2016). Crowdsourcing in Software Engineering: Models, Motivations, and Challenges. IEEE Software, 33(1), pp.74-80.

Leimeister, J., Huber, M., Bretschneider, U. and Krcmar, H. (2009). Leveraging Crowdsourcing: Activation-Supporting Components for IT-Based Ideas Competition. Journal of Management Information Systems, 26(1), pp.197-224.

The online community co-creation of Movember

It all started as a joke; 30 Australian men decided to undertake a fundraising activity to raise money for prostate cancer, testicle cancer and depression amongst men. The fundraising activity entailed the following: not shaving your moustache for 30 days during the month November. Movember was born. The fundraising activity transformed into a yearly event raising donation for prostate cancer, testicle cancer and men’s health in general. By 2014 the Movember foundation managed to raise more than 409 million euros.  By stimulating men to participate with Movember, the foundation tries to encourage early discovery of cancer and reduce the number of preventable deaths due to these types of cancer and other health issues.

When thinking of successful business models, charity foundations are not the first things that pop into mind. However, the enormous success of the Movember foundation is too striking to go unnoticed. One could say it has transformed into a global movement. How does this foundation differentiate itself from other annually re-occurring charity events? Let’s start with how it works:

First, to participate in the challenge, participants have to register to the foundation’s online platform. After that they can opt to grow a moustache for 30 days or to set a distance goal that the participant can either run, cycle, walk, row or swim towards. Another option is to host a Movember event, this can be anything from sports competitions to music events. The last two options also allow women to participate.

And what exactly is the success factor behind this strategy? It’s hard to pinpoint a single factor, especially because of the lack of research that has been done in the field value co-creation campaigns like Movember. Rather it is a multitude of factors combined that has made the Movember campaign such a thriving success.
The campaign is mainly reliant on the community participation and conversation through social media and worth of mouth, and hardly uses different sources of marketing such as above-the-line advertisements (Ogrodnik, 2014). By empowering its participants, Movember has handed the control over to the community. Instead of funding a campaign, participants run their own campaign (Meade, 2013). The Movember foundation makes use of so called “ value co-creation” (English and Johns, 2016).
As described by Nelson et. al 2014: “Value co-creation positions customers as consumers and producers alongside multiple actors within a network of continual, contextually contingent interdependent exchange” (English and Johns, 2016).

Firms or foundations are not longer the sole producer of value, rather they increasingly let the consumers participate in the creation of the value. Rather than approach consumers as end-consumers, they let consumers actively engage, creating mutually beneficial circumstances in which value is jointly created. Often this value is much greater than the company/foundation could ever have achieved alone (Darmody, 2009).

the Movember foundation would never have managed such an enormous reach by undertaking all its advertising itself. Instead by creating a platform for participation, it allowed its participants to playfully interact and create a social community, which ultimately led to Movember going viral with world-wide exposure.

So when the clock hits 23:59 on the 30th of November, does that mean that Movember is over? No it does not. After the yearly campaign has finished, it’s time to focus on all the achievements and the results that come from the raised funds and to think about possible new causes that Movember can support.

So what are the downsides of Movember’s strategy? One of the key challenges of such a viral campaign is to stay consciously linked with the cause. There is a large amount of people that have heard from Movember, and know that it is about growing a moustache in November, but are not aware of the charity message behind the campaign.  Furthermore, some big corporations actively promote the campaign, however the foundation has to be careful not to be taken advantage of. Sometimes the line between social corporate responsibility and the corporate’s brand building can be very thin, as some are earning on “moustache merchandise” and do not donate anything to the foundation (Beanland, 2014). Critics say that Movember is a good example of how egocentric charity has become, that participants use it as a public display for promoting their moral values, a form of exhibitionism (Brussen, 2012).

In my opinion, if using people’s exhibitionism to raise money works, it works. I’m very curious to see what the future for Movember will hold.


Beanland, C. (2014). Take a punth on it: From Veganuary to Decembeard – How each month of. [online] The Independent. Available at:

Brussen, B. (2012). ‘Beste snordragers van Movember, jullie actie is smakeloos, kinderachtig en pathetisch’. [online] Available at:

Darmody, A. (2009). Value Co-Creation and New Marketing. [online] Available at:

 English, R. and Johns, R. (2016). Gender considerations in online consumption behavior and Internet use.

Isaac, A. (2015). How Movember is outgrowing moustaches. [online] the Guardian. Available at:

Meade, A. (2013). Movember: from grassroots to global growth. [online] the Guardian. Available at:

Ogrodnik, I. (2014). What makes the Movember movement so successful?. [online] Global News. Available at: