Merrie Ringel Morris '01, Microsoft Research

Friendsourcing vs. Paid Crowdsourcing:  Understanding the Tradeoffs

Human computation takes many forms, from the formal (e.g., paid crowdsourcing marketplaces such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk) to the casual (e.g., “friendsourcing” via question-asking on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter). In this talk, I will present findings from two recent research projects that compare and contrast these approaches. First, I will present an experiment involving a prototype novel social shopping experience, in which in-store shoppers obtained real-time feedback from both Facebook friends and Mechanical Turk workers about purchasing decisions; the study’s findings illustrate some of the subtle trade-offs inherent in selecting crowd- or friend-sourcing. Next, I will describe an experiment aimed at assigning an economic value to the abstract “social costs” associated with friendsourcing. I’ll conclude with examples of some systems that combine crowd- and friend-sourcing in novel ways to create unique user experiences.


Meredith Ringel Morris is a Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research. She is also an Affiliate Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering and in the Information School at the University of Washington. Dr. Morris’s research area is human-computer interaction, with a particular emphasis on computer-supported cooperative work and social computing. She recently co-authored the book Collaborative Web Search: Who, What, Where, When, and Why? (Morgan & Claypool, 2010). Technology Review recognized her work on collaborative information seeking by naming her one of 2008’s “35 innovators under 35.” Dr. Morris earned a Ph.D. and M.S. in computer science from Stanford University, and an Sc.B. in computer science from Brown University. More information, including her full list of publications, can be found on her website,