Have there been any successful "crowd-sourced" products?

“a camel is a race horse designed by committee.”

Sorry if I’m hijacking this thread, but I just had to show you what I saw in a Norwegian car magazine this week. Apparently your design is the result of the GM-Segway colab… and hey, a 4 out of 6 isn’t that bad! Truly taken on a life of its own.

mofex, wow, that is Ca-razy! Not bad for 4 hours spent on a Sunday… can you send me a good scan of that and the cover of the mag? I’ll owe you one!

Are products (physical products, because they are “static”) unable to be crowd sourced because a physical product can’t have options?

What I mean is: an on-off switch is one ‘thing’, not like a virtual on-off switch on a gui, that can be a switch, a slider, a menu.

I can’t see how an object can be crowd-sourced, unless it is something like a customized car, where you might see 10 different ways to modify it, and one-way becames so popular, so the next iteration of the original car has that customization.

How does that loop get closed, or will it require future technologies i.e. here’s the cad file for all to use on your desktop 3d printer, here’s the modified cad files that various people tinkered with?

I actually discovered the http://www.quirky.com/site thanks to your question.

I think Treadless and all the others do a wonderfull job of crowdsourcing. But that’s because of the simple 2D-and-a-half nature of the product. Its almost a copyshop job “print my Tshirt on the web” except with the added value of the crowd.

But this (wonderful) exemple doesn’t apply to product design. Far too complex. Printing a Tshirt with modern machines must be almost as easy as printing on paper. Having a physical product with different parts, electricity, packaging, a lot of R&D needed etc…? Not gonna happen. In the Quirky model at least.

The money they ask is ridiculously low in comparison with whats needed to actually invest on moldings and so on. I feel its some kind of Ponzi scheme. You send your idea of a better mousetrap, and loose $99. No big deal. Did I mention I don’t believe in this business model ?
Looks like naive recently graded design school ex-students believed the Internet 1.0 bubble can be back. For physical products.
Except a photoshop rendering of a gadget doesn’t mean the product design is “complete” and in “Pre-sales”. Faaaar from it.

I don’t even worry about the “design by comitee problem” as I see those more as a voting system. Crowsourcing for Tshirt is not commitee works. Many send proposals. Many votes. There is a winner. Its more design plus automatic consumer research than design by comitee. A least the actual potential buyers rejected/didn’t choose it.
Not the marketing morons from outer space you find in “clientsfromhell.com” !

Went back to quirby.com right now. It’s worst that what I remembered.

Has anyone mentioned Local Motors?

What a great concept - good to see someone putting their money where there mouth is.

I found a few articles about local motors:


As far as I can make out, whole car designs are submitted as per a competition, which are voted on, but then an unclear process of ‘engineering validation’ occurs (the car they are making now ‘Rally Fighter’ originally had a mid mounted motor but is now front mounted to bring costs down- who made that decision?). And they use lots of off the shelf parts to lower costs as well (Honda Civic rear lights)- I can’t tell if this is part of the crowd-sourcing decision

Because those who vote on the design don’t have to buy the car, is it really crowd-sourcing or a design competition where the owners have the usual “we reserve the right to change, modify blah-blah-blingdy-blingdy-blah” the chosen design?

It depends on what you consider “successful” and what you consider “Crowd sourced”.

I wouldn’t consider a bunch of kids submitting designs in a competition and a build shop selecting one to prototype crowd sourcing, that is just free.

Have they built one prototype? Not exactly a success yet… yet, I’ve seen some of the CEO’s speeches, I’m sure they will be successful, but I don’t think they will be crowd sourcing.

I think the local motors example is exactly what “crowd-sourced” means:

but it’s not necessarily the best solution.

“Though crowdsourcing companies control the process, they do not control the crowd” from Crowdsourced Advertising: How We Outperform Madison AvenueDaren C. Brabham / University of Utah – Flow

I’m still not sold on the “Wisdom of Crowds”- do crowds take risks?

Not really. What they are doing is very different than what crowd sourced software is doing.

I think you’re confusing crowd sourced with open sourced. Sanjy009 is right, the Local Motors initiative is exactly what “crowd sourced” means. From Wikipedia:

“Crowdsourcing is a distributed problem-solving and production model. Problems are broadcast to an unknown group of solvers in the form of an open call for solutions. Users—also known as the crowd—typically form into online communities, and the crowd submits solutions. The crowd also sorts through the solutions, finding the best ones. These best solutions are then owned by the entity that broadcast the problem in the first place”

I’d agree that the jury is still out on whether Local Motors can be considered a success though.

The question is Have there been any successful “crowd-sourced” products. But has there been any “crowd sourced” product (at all) ? That made it to the shelves, that is.

[Obviously open-source collaborative software development and T-shirts doesn’t count]

I think I might have become confused exactly what crowd-surfed products means… it’s a collaboratively designed product? or is it some kind of manufacture on-demand type product?

  • Whoops, I missed that wikipedia entry above *

OK, I stand corrected.

I have mixed feelings about the idea of crowd-sourcing.

On one hand, it seems like an exploitation to me if it is done on a top-down level. An example of this is http://www.crowdspring.com where ‘competitions’ are organised as a way to collect design ideas for free, with the only jury being the client himself. I myself have taken part in one of their logo design thing for some company, only to see the works of other competitors changing their designs according entirely to the comments left behind by the client, with no discussion or debate of what is good or bad. How can that be of any good, no matter for the company or for the designer? It ends up that most of the site’s content is of stock quality at best, in my view.

On the other hand, I see great potential in open design in terms of what the open-source software people have been doing quite some time ago, with a community set up to tackle design issues in sharing opinions and work (CAD files/image files) under a creative-common license, and building upon each other’s files. See http://www.openp2pdesign.org/ for a better explanation.

Oops. I should have done some research. Actually Quirby makes products. They even made it to Wired’s december christmas wish-list with the Scratch’n’scroll mousepad. :blush:

This ‘Wired’ article blows the horn for Local Motors and crowdsourcing products:


interesting quote:

“The tools of factory production, from electronics assembly to 3-D printing, are now available to individuals, in batches as small as a single unit. Anybody with an idea and a little expertise can set assembly lines in China into motion with nothing more than some keystrokes on their laptop. A few days later, a prototype will be at their door, and once it all checks out, they can push a few more buttons and be in full production, making hundreds, thousands, or more. They can become a virtual micro-factory, able to design and sell goods without any infrastructure or even inventory; products can be assembled and drop-shipped by contractors who serve hundreds of such customers simultaneously.”

It makes product design sound so easy. Similar to how anyone who creates party invitations using Word is also a Graphic Designer, and my Mum using string and a doorknob is a dentist.

Gizmodo smacked down Wired today for that piece, and makes a note about Local Motors:

Chris Anderson has an important message from the future: Did you know you can outsource manufacturing?

In the cover story of the latest issue of WIRED, Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson makes a claim that at first, soaked as we are in the “maker” DIY culture of the internet and science fiction, doesn’t seem completely preposterous: “micro-factories” are the “future of American manufacturing”—as the title proclaims, “Atoms Are the New Bits.”

The problem is that they so aren’t. Atoms are real, finite things. Until 3D printers can do more than squirt out mono-material resin sculptures—inevitable, perhaps, but not within the next decade—even the at-home revolution that Anderson puts up as an example of a new way of manufacturing consumer goods isn’t actually new at all. Until that glorious day, Anderson suggests American enthusiast makers outsource the dirty work to China.
“Today, micro-factories make everything from cars to bike components to bespoke furniture in any design you can imagine,” claims Anderson.

We used to call “micro-factories” “small businesses”, but that was before we knew they were a revolution.

It’s painful for me to point this out, because many of the people involved in this so-called “revolution” are my friends. They’re smart people doing admirable, clever things. But at best they’re changing the way hobbyist and boutique manufacturing works. The future of mainstream industry remains about the same as it’s been for the last thirty years.

Reinventing Wheels
Let us fisk. Anderson’s opening example is Local Motors, a shop which is building a $50k “crowdsourced” car with a Creative Commons-licensed design:

“The Rally Fighter’s body was designed by Local Motors’ community of volunteers and puts the lie to the notion that you can’t create anything good by committee (so long as the community is well managed, well led, and well equipped with tools like 3-D design software and photorealistic rendering technology). The result is a car that puts Detroit to shame.”

I think the Rally Fighter is nifty, but get real: It’s not all that different that designs from major manufacturers. Moreover, you’ll find in the very next paragraph that the design sprung first from the mind of a single person, a design student named Sangho Kim.

So great. There’s a car company building a kit car that uses a BMW crate engine. You can download their plans—but not their parts—for free. They plan on selling a couple thousand.

So what?

There are dozens of kit car manufacturers in the United States. Add in the custom car companies like Devon or coach builders like Sportsmobile and you’re up into the hundreds.

It’s very neat that they designed their car with input from others online. But until I can go down to the local Local Motors dealer and test drive one for myself, you can hardly call it a revolution. Open source is a nice way for information to disseminate, to make a project better; its addition does not guarantee a revolutionary—or even successful—business model.

Chris Anderson sucks.

His only role is of provocateur, and he’s not really all that good at it.

The new business model is FREE!

Science is DEAD!

bah humbug.

Some of the DIY CNC stuff is amazing. RP might get there, but it still has a long way to go.

Quirky is trying to crowd source, but as some of their recent Coroflot job ads point out, they need good designers and MEs to make it work. IMO they are nothing more than one of those “invention” companies with a bit of committee polling sprinkled on. Not to mention they seemed perpetually stuck in Apple accessory mode.

Nice pull from Gizmodo CG.