Is Crowdsourcing Making Us Stupid?

I bet my followers on twitter would have given me the answer quickly, and I wouldn't have looked like an idiot in front of the whole class

Note: this post is not addressed at any one person or group of people. Just an observation. But if you’re taking it personally, well, then….

Well, is it?

We all know that social media is great. It brings people together and helps businesses (and individuals) market themselves with extremely low barriers to entry. But is it making us dumb?

I’ve noticed a trend lately of folks either on twitter or other channels asking questions. No big deal. But these questions aren’t detailed or complex. No, they are ones that either could be solved with a 10 second Google search or looking at the settings page of whatever the program is. So why spend the time to ask a random group of people and wait for the answer?

I’ve always prided myself on having some pretty good critical thinking and problem solving skills. My parents told me it was important, that I needed to be able to solve whatever problems were thrown my way. It has translated well into my work, both corporate and freelance. That ability has enamored me to employers and co-workers when my somewhat surly attitude otherwise wouldn’t. Basically, I’m the ‘fix it’ person when it otherwise fails.

So why the crowdsourcing hate? What’s the difference between asking twitter and asking the person next to you in class? Simple: you don’t learn. Having the answers given to you at any sign of confusion does absolutely nothing to solve the problem. It’s easy to pass it off as something you ‘don’t need to know’, but the skills are just the same. Either you can figure things out or you can’t. Which kind of person do you want to be?

{ 7 comments }

Marie November 30, 2009 at 1:20 pm

First, you should be thankful that people pass off certain skills as unnecessary to learn. It keeps you in business to an extent, right?

I agree that most of us don’t fight very long with a problem before we give up and cry Uncle. It’s sad really. It’s also why the Asians are kicking our butts at pretty much everything.

Also, on the crowdsourcing note – it is a personal pet peeve of mine when people crowdsource ideas to blog about. “What do you guys think my next post should be about?” Well, if I had some great idea, why would I share it with you?? It irks the crap out of me.

Norcross November 30, 2009 at 2:12 pm

I wonder if it’s a matter of ‘saving time’, at the sacrifice of increasing knowledge. I know I’m one of the people that thrives when given a “I can’t figure this out” question, but asking simple questions is just asinine.

Wojciech Kulicki November 30, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Very unique angle in this post that I had never considered. True–crowdsourcing is great for complex problems, but I do see a lot of the tweets/questions that you’re referring to out there. (i.e. “Where is the power button on this thing?”). It may be a social media thing…but I see it in the workplace too. Maybe it’s a generational thing as well?

@Marie – Allow me to play devil’s advocate for a second. Isn’t the idea of blogging to cater to your readers? So isn’t asking your readers what they would like to hear about a good thing? (As opposed to asking other writers in your genre, of course…who could just write about that very thing…). Maybe it’s just me, but I am all about sharing.

Norcross November 30, 2009 at 2:16 pm

I see it in a lot of places across a lot of age groups. While our generation may be the biggest offender, but granted that’s the group I have the most contact with.

As for Marie’s mention of asking for posts, I see it on both sides. If your blog is catering to readers in an informative way (i.e. how-to’s, reviews, etc) then I could see asking. But if it’s more personal experience / observation based, then it just seems odd to ask someone else for your opinion.

Marie November 30, 2009 at 3:45 pm

I agree with Norcross on it depending on what you blog about. It’s when people have blogs that share their “musings” on a given topic that I get annoyed. If your blog truly serves a community and helps people then by all means ask the people for what they want, I just don’t get asking for topics when all you’re going to do is share an opinion.Maybe I’m weird, though :)

Grace Boyle November 30, 2009 at 2:29 pm

I absolutely love to troubleshoot and find my own answers. It’s one of the most fulfilling things I can do for my intellect.

With that being said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking questions. I don’t think there are ‘dumb questions’ because some people really rely on other people’s thoughts/advice or maybe they have their own answer, but are curious to hear of others’.

You’re right, there are both kinds of people. My mom for example (ha, yes, tech support) always has someone helping her. Whether it’s with her computer, around the house, or just for a random project she’s working on, there’s some expert there by her side. My dad, is the exact opposite. He takes things into his own hands and likes to fix problems on his own. Neither are wrong, but it shows a lot about each person. I’m like my dad and actually don’t like to ask for help…a blessing and a curse.

This is an interesting topic because we all think and act so differently. I’m curious to see what other people think!

Norcross November 30, 2009 at 2:37 pm

I’m with you on the premise of advice and opinion issues. If I’m looking at some software or gadget, I’m all for crowdsourcing to see if people have issues that I’d want to avoid. And I also know my limitations with certain things, so I’m more apt to get help on something that I know I have issues with (I don’t do anything other than basic electrical work on the house, for example).

But the other day I saw a tweet about someone who was asking a metric conversion rate. That’s not asking opinions, that’s just lazy.