This article discusses the contribution of readers in creating the feature content of an entire issue of Mechanical Engineering magazine. The only parameter to this project was that the ideas for articles be focused on at least one of ASME’s three strategic initiatives. That is, they should relate to energy, engineering workforce development, or global impact and outreach. The project started by spreading the word about the initiative. Over the course, the editors solicited readers’ input, streamlined their comments and suggestions, presented readers with a list of ideas they had submitted, and then asked the readers to vote on them. Two ideas from each of the three ASME strategic areas were used. Writers were identified who would bring the most interesting perspectives to each of the topics, and then those writers were asked to write essays. The result of the 12-month process was the first crowdsourced issue of the magazine.
Global Impact Engineering Workforce Development Energy
A year ago, at an editorial meeting, we were discussing article ideas for 2011 and the obvious struck: Why not ask for your direct input so you, our readers, could create the feature content of an entire issue of Mechanical Engineering?
So we did. The result after a 12-month process is this, our magazine's first crowdsourced issue.
To pull this off, we used the same social media tools—Twitter, Facebook, blogs, e-mail—that have been used effectively in crowdsourcing initiatives throughout the world and have led to significant humanitarian efforts and even social change.
During Haiti's earthquake last year, for example, crowdsourcing initiatives helped locate trapped people, identify clean water supplies, and bring medical help to the injured. Two years earlier, in Kenya, during a post-election crisis, a Web site called Ushahidi, which means “testimony” in Swahili, was developed to map reports of violence. Ushahidi still exists as a platform to collect and map crisis situations throughout the world. This year, crowdsourcing efforts helped enable, if not directly spur, uprisings that toppled regimes in and around the Middle East.
We never presumed, certainly, that our crowdsourcing experiment would have the depth of social impact that the others have had. Our motivation was and remains to build on the engineering esprit de corps. We hoped to empower our community of readers to tell us what's important—and you did.
The only parameter to this project was that the ideas for articles be focused on at least one of ASME's three strategic initiatives. That is, they should relate to energy, engineering workforce development, or global impact and outreach.
We started the project last December by spreading the word about the initiative. Over the course of the past year we solicited your input, we streamlined your comments and suggestions, we presented you a list of ideas you submitted, and we asked you to vote on them.
We used two ideas from each of the three ASME strategic areas. We identified writers who would bring the most interesting perspectives to each of the topics, and we asked them to write essays on them.
Crowdsourcing reminds us that the ability to influence change rests within us. Each of our individual voices counts. We appreciate your input and your excitement for our initiative; it has been an important and ongoing dialogue.
The following six articles represent the fruits of Mechanical Engineering's Project: Crowdsourcing.