“Crowdsourcing” means that the project originator does all the work

In a recent interview with Linus Torvalds (creator of Linux), I found this great quote by him. He is talking about something that people very commonly get completely wrong when creating an open-source or crowdsourcing project:

“The first thing is thinking that you can throw things out there and ask people to help,” when it comes to open-source software development, he says. “That’s not how it works. You make it public, and then you assume that you’ll have to do all the work, and ask people to come up with suggestions of what you should do, not what they should do. Maybe they’ll start helping eventually, but you should start off with the assumption that you’re going to be the one maintaining it and ready to do all the work.”

I have some experience with this, because 3-1/2 years ago, I made the same mistake. I started PuneTech with the naive belief that if I start a wiki with the purpose of creating a knowledgebase about all interesting technology in Pune, people would contribute to it and it would become a great crowdsourced resource. In reality, what happened is that I got lots of encouragement and thanks, but few actual contributions. I ended up doing most of the work myself. After a few months, Amit Paranjape joined the effort. But, by and large, the fact remained that most of the content had to come from me.

It is only now, after going at it for 3-1/2 years that people have started contributing more substantially. Vivek Shrinivasan and Meher Ranjan are actively updating the PuneTech YouTube Channel. Mayank Jain is creating the PICT PuneTech Group.

Moral of the story – when you start some new initiative in the hope that it will become a community activity, then be prepared to do all the work yourself for the first few years, and only then will it become a community activity.

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