Crowdsourcing is at its simplest level a type of social interaction that is supported through Internet capable tools.  These tools support the secured notification, publication, distribution and archiving of the results of the crowdsourcing topics.  My methods of evaluating and selecting tools is to focus on process, people and technology in that order.  This allows you to focus on the critical aspects of process and people before selecting a tool to support the process.  Another practice of mine is to focus on free tools first to evaluate tool capabilities to support your objectives. 

These practices are especially fitting, and important, in the crowdsourcing tool selection process because the objective in crowdsourcing is participation and free tools eliminate one of the major hurdles to broad participation and acceptance.  Free tools run the gamut of capabilities and features to support a wide variety of needs.  Remember, in previous discussions I pointed out that LinkedIn provides a great model for your crowdsourcing activities and this especially includes the free access.  An additional and equally important aspect of free tools is the social tools market maturity.  The social tools landscape is rapidly changing bringing new tools and capabilities while at the same time tools that were popular suddenly lose popularity and fall behind in capabilities causing them to suddenly disappear.  Google itself may be one of the greatest examples of this practice.  Google regularly delivers new tools along with new features and functionality to their existing tools and on the flip side, they are also constantly evaluating their tools to retire. 

Google will retire a dozen or more tools annually in an evolutionary practice that improves the Google ecosystem.  This is just one example of a large enterprise that is pushing to move forward in social tools and capabilities, however the overall marketplace provides the same practice in a survival of the fittest evolution.  Over the last couple of years I have taken up and dropped social networking tools on a regular basis and in fact the rate of adoption and rejection is increasing.  The social networking and teamwork tools are at the forefront of the discontinuous change evolution process and in fact in many ways these tools and capabilities are driving the evolutionary process.

The crowdsourcing practice and methodology must embrace however at the same time is driven by the creative destruction concepts that have been a popular topic of discussion for many years in the mainstream business practices.  These practices make it particularly challenging to select a costly tool because of the high risk of choosing wrong.  Remember, the objective of crowdsourcing is a high level of participation across a great number of participants to deliver value added capabilities to the participants.  The key to early adoption and participation across the widest range of participants is a free tool.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you incorporate the different methods of communication to support your collaborative network needs and objectives?  Do you have a formal maintenance communication plan that your partners have participated in developing?  How does the informal communications methods impact and support the formal communications?  Have you developed an evaluation plan for your communications methods, a type of continuous improvement process for your communication methods and communications plans?