2012-02-05

Crowdsourcing Parenting Advice: A Shift from the Norm?

Introduction:




As many of you know, I'm an avid Google+ user and frequently post on various topics from my personal life to Linux.  Lately, I've been testing out an idea.  They say that "it takes a village" with regards to raising children.  I thought that I would test that theory "the internet way" by posting parenting related questions to my stream on Google+.  Basically, if I'm hitting a snag with my two kids in some way, or if there is a situation that I think poses a deeper dilemma, I post about it and see what kind of feedback I get.  I've done this a few times, the most recent of which was today and can be found at this link.



Before we go further...


Let's first define "Crowdsourcing".  The following is taken from this Wikipedia Article:

        "Crowdsourcing is a distributed problem-solving and production model. In the classic use of the term, problems are broadcast to an unknown group of solvers in the form of an open call for solutions. Users—also known as the crowd—typically form into online communities, and the crowd submits solutions. The crowd also sorts through the solutions, finding the best ones. These best solutions are then owned by the entity that broadcast the problem in the first place—the crowdsourcer—and the winning individuals in the crowd are sometimes rewarded. In some cases, this labor is well compensated, either monetarily, with prizes, or with recognition. In other cases, the only rewards may be kudos or intellectual satisfaction. Crowdsourcing may produce solutions from amateurs or volunteers working in their spare time, or from experts or small businesses which were unknown to the initiating organization."

There's obviously more to it than just that paragraph, but for the purposes of this article, I think we're good.



Shifting Paradigms:



Traditionally in the USA, a mother and a father are supposed to follow a particular model with regards to parenting.  Dad is the enforcer, sitting on the couch, reading his newspaper and only getting up when it's time for dishing out punishment; the mother is there to nurture, to feed, and to get exacerbated by trying to keep the kids under control.  Does this remind you of any 1950's pictures of what the traditional family is supposed to be like?  Good, now, scrap that image.  We're living in the 21st century now.  We have computers on our desks, in our pockets, on our laps, in our classrooms, and even in our towing and garbage collecting trucks.  Everything is connected via the internet in some way or another.  We are in the most inter-connected time that history has ever seen.

So why are we not leveraging these connections for more than journalistic buzz-words centering around Silicon Valley?  We are in the midst of the global consciousness every time we open a browser or communications app, why not leverage that collective knowledge for more?  Do we really need a scientific study to state that "There are people from all over the world connected to the internet, and at least some of them are smarter than you or have come across the same situation that you are dealing with now"?  Of course not!

So, what is needed? A "proof of concept".  People are usually pretty leery of doing anything "new" unless they can see that someone else did it first, it's just the way we're "wired" so to speak.  Ideas take a while to catch on at a "viral" level, that's okay.  We just need to have the open minds needed to receive these ideas and do something with them.



 Technological Effects:




Don't think of "Technological Effects" as meaning "A new device to do things for you".  That's not what I mean.  Technology makes subtle changes over a period of time just as well as it does bringing something along that is ten years before its time.  Sometimes, the only changes that happen are in how we use existing technologies to do new things.  I'm not saying that the concept of using the internet to ask a question and get several answers is by any means "new", I am saying that utilizing the global consciousness for more "mundane" things does have a benefit.  Why spend several hundred dollars an hour with a family therapist for an issue of "how do I get my daughter to accept that she's too big for a booster seat" when there are, literally, millions of other parents on the planet who have had the same problem at one time or another and have dealt with it with success?  I'm not saying that family therapists don't have their uses, and I'm not advocating replacing those therapists solely with crowdsourced information, not by any means.  But, as a supplement, crowdsourcing everyday problems, ideas, and questions is a great way to connect with other people, to gain wisdom and knowledge from the "collective", and ultimately to take the "it takes a village" scenario to the next level.



Conclusion:




This isn't a "new" concept at all.  People have been writing to "Dear Abby" and other forums for quite some time.  What is new is that we are moving away from strict "sharing" and moving towards actual engagement.  Platforms like Google+ allow us to hold conversations in near-real-time and to reach large groups of individuals who all contribute, daily, to the collective knowledge and wisdom of the collective knowledge and wisdom.  It is expected that when you post something on a social platform that you are willing to talk about it, to dig deeper, and to come to a conclusion.  This shift is happening slowly, but, thanks to Google+, it's happening on a much larger scale.  All you have to do is ask.

By the way, I consider my small experiment to be a success.  Agree or disagree? Feel free to contact me on my Google+ Profile.
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