The concept of crowdsourcing is not new. The practice of harnessing ideas, services or content from a larger pool of unknown population has existed for many centuries. For example Oxford English Dictionary got created through an open call to the community to identify all the words in English language along with their usage; this call yielded 6 million submissions over 70 years! The Indian Government effectively used crowd sourcing to obtain entries for the symbol of the India Rupee which finally led to selection of the current symbol. On a lighter note, in India we do see crowdsourcing all around us. A crowd of helpful volunteers trying to help fix or push-start a broken automobile is a common sight here!
Though harnessing the collective wisdom and services of crowd has been in common over for a very long time, the term crowdsourcing was coined only recently in 2005 to describe how businesses were using the internet to outsource work to individuals.
From a testing perspective too, the industry is not far behind. In the past few years we have seen companies being formed which specialize on crowd-testing.
So what is so special about crowd-testing?
Testing is all about assuring readiness of a system or a product to be deployed for end users. Towards achieving this objective, crowd-testing helps in the following ways:
· Often the testing function is challenged in its ability to get diverse users to try and break the system in order to unearth hidden defects. A rigid and process driven testing which relies on pre-developed test cases may not be enough to uncover defects and usage issues. Of course, exploratory testing techniques can be used but this is still executed by a limited number of people. A more diverse set of testers can more effectively find hidden problems.
· Consumerization of IT and BYOD has led to phenomenal increase of smartphones requiring systems to be tested in multiple devices and networks. Any investment here will be prohibitively expensive!
It is to be noted that crowd testing can at best augment the mainstream outsourced testing services and not replace it.
Incentives for crowd sourcing participants can vary depending on the objectives and crowd selection. While monetary incentives do play an important part here, it is not necessarily the only one. It has been proved time and again with interest groups that the main motivator for participation has always been professional pride, peer and community recognition rather than hard economic considerations. The success of open source communities is a testimony to this fact.
In Infosys too, we are experimenting with crowd testing with a leading bank in APAC region. We hope to tap the wisdom of our crowd testers to unearth usability and functional defects which otherwise would not have been found in regular testing.