IdeaScale has been updating the blog more regularly these days. When we’re not blogging about new features and cool user experiences, we’re mining the interwebs for interesting blog fodder based on our established search criteria. It should be no surprise that one of our watched terms is “crowdsourcing”. We dabble in crowdsourcing a bit here at IdeaScale, so recently, when weird news stories began appearing about an outfit called Crowd Sourcing International, our curiosity was piqued. The Dallas-based company seems to have its own idea of what crowdsourcing means. And what they think crowdsourcing means looks a lot like a classic pyramid scheme to a lot of folks.
Crowd Sourcing International–which was named Narc That Car or Narc Technologies until a couple months ago—has what’s at first a respectable (or respectable enough) mission. They’re supposedly attempting to “crowdsource” the collection of vehicle tag numbers to be used for a number of purposes including tracking stolen vehicles and assisting government agencies with curbing nefarious acts like child kidnapping. They pay their members for their data collection efforts and in turn sell their data to… well… we’ll get to that in a minute.
The business model goes something like this: members have the opportunity to earn easy, easy money by simply writing down the license plate numbers of ten cars a month. A cool $20 every month. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, however, so for the privilege of this easy money, one must buy into the Crowd Sourcing International program–an upfront administrative cost of $100 (for which you’re most likely given a few 3-ring binders with a lot of paper. While paper does grow on trees, 3-ring binders do not). So along with this initial cost, there’s a $24.95/mo charge for maintaining the website each member is provided. Since members are paid just $20 for the 10 monthly license plate numbers they collect, where is the real money making opportunity? The opportunity lies in getting other people to join to collect license plate numbers.
The whole collection of license plate numbers part, upon which this program is based, seems a little fish oily. As it turns out, law enforcement says that the information is not useful to them, and claims from Crowd Sourcing international that their data is cross-checked with the DMV appear to be legally implausible. Interestingly, the company is hard pressed to name any single buyer of their treasure trove of data–and they’re defensive about it to boot. Since the license plate numbers seem to be of no value to anyone, members may as well be signing up their gullible/desperate friends to… count the number of fingers on their hands and submit it for their monthly Hamilton.
Based on this business scheme, if you can convince the next guy to buy in and you’re not the last guy in the door, you might do okay for yourself. But what the hell does this have to do with crowdsourcing? Crowd Sourcing International’s bastardization of the concept of crowdsourcing is being watched closely. They’ve earned a big fat F from the Better Business Bureau, but the fact that they’re still recognized by the beaurau at all implies that they’re hanging on for now. Have you had any experiences with Crowd Sourcing International? Have we misrepresented an honest money-making opportunity here? Let us know by leaving a comment.