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Saturday
Sep122009

Crowdsourced product development at Quirky.com

I expressed my skepticism last week over the effectiveness of crowdsourcing creative work and most of the commenters agreed.  I suggested that crowdsourcing at its best should be collaborative, not winner-take-all.

A real collective creativity platform may now exist: Quirky.com is a site to bring "community developed" products to the marketplace.  Would-be inventors submit their ideas to the site, the crowd of Quirky users votes on the best idea to go into development, and then the site community makes decisions on design before the product moves out for manufacturing. The original inventor earns 12 cent for every dollar the product brings in and other contributors also share in the future value of the product.

At first glance, the concept is a big odd. As an inventor, you PAY $99 to share your idea with little chance of it turning into something big and the assurance that, if it does, you've just given up a big share of its future profit. Yet, I still love this site. It's probably not the place to bring your sure-fire brilliant idea, but the site is full of funky, oddball, just-might-be-big proposals for small manufactured items. If your idea is terrible, the site community will let you know so and save you the hassle of moving forward with it at greater expense. If your idea has promise, you'll get objective feedback from a community of interest that may greatly improve the concept. And best of all, Quirky has agreements with manufacturers to actually move a concept into production.

It's a fun way to be an armchair inventor and submit an idea that you've been thinking about for a while --whether it's a "sexy thigh holster carry", "thimble mouse", or "curvy groovy wrist rest" -- and see if it goes anywhere. Surely not a mechanism to profoundly change the world, Quirky is nonetheless a fun collaborative creative community and I like the market approach to rewarding thoughtful participation.

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