Crowdsourced micro-volunteerism with The Extraordinairies
Saturday, July 4, 2009 at 05:27PM
Melody in Extraordinaries, Online Community, crowdsourcing, volunteering

It's a theme we've seen before: joining technology, social committment, and micro-contributions to create collective social good. Similar to the approach of Kiva, The Extraordinaries seeks to pair individuals with a good cause and lower the barrier of entry of contributing to social good by requiring only micro committments.

The target demographic of The Extraordinaries is clear : people who want to volunteer, but are too busy to make the time. Beextra taps into their "wasted" time -- waiting for the doctor, sitting on the bus -- by arming them with a simple iPhone app that provides them small, discrete tasks that take less than a few minutes to complete. The tasks range from translating subtitles for a non-profit's movie, tagging images for a museum, and having a quick chat with an aspiring college student to provide advice.

The natural question seems to be : Will capturing 5 minutes of people's time here and there collectively really create an enduring impact? For certain types of tasks, crowdsourced micro-working seems to have a great success. During the NASA Clickworkers project, space enthusiasts collectively analyzed 80,000 photos in 2 months -- a project that would have taken one scientist over 2 years. During the search for the wreckage of Steve Fosset's plane, volunteers sifted through aerial photos with GPS tags remotely in an accelerated approach to covering the immense expanse of desert ground when time was of the essence.

The Extraordinaries team has won accolades and grants ranging from the John S. and James L. Knight foundation to UNICEF to Kiva. But even if the impact is apparent, will volunteers find this remote, micro-impact style of volunteering to be meaningful and rewarding? It will be all about the types of tasks that Beextra offers through the app. So far, the list is quite diverse and the interface is incredibly intuitive. As more and more people get smartphones, The Extraordinaries app may prove to offer a compelling do-good option for the millions of us with a couple of minutes to spare and a desire to contribute to something big.

Article originally appeared on (
See website for complete article licensing information.