Over the past few days I've been at an open-source event called Oggcamp. It's been great, it's a good way to meet likeminded people, and I've learned a lot. What's really interesting about oggcamp, though, is the way it's set up.
Oggcamp (although it's not unique in this) runs as an unconference. Most of the talks aren't scheduled beforehand, and a system of sticky notes on a whiteboard is used to schedule talks on the fly, on the day. Anyone who wants to give a talk just has to write it down, others vote (by making a mark on the sticky note) and the highest voted talks are scheduled for the day. This is a surprisingly effective method for true crowdsourcing - any visitor just needs an idea to become a speaker.
You might think this would lead to a mass of very low quality, unprepared talks, but it doesn't. Sure, talks are hit and miss, but they are at any conference, and oggcamp remains one of my favorite conferences I've been to.
Oggcamp also reminds me of another great crowdsourced project, the Hacker Public Radio podcast. Users upload podcast episodes to the site which are then scheduled for release without being listened to beforehand.
You'd also think this practical anarchy would lead to a huge amount of abuse, but it doesn't. Audio quality can be spotty, but the content is there, and in the many years HPR has ben around, I've never seen it abused.
I see this as the truest form of crowdsourcing, where there isn't moderation and review, everything is purely done through community involvement. The common thread between these two examples is the open source and hacker community, but I don't think this working is exclusive to that community. I think any place people respect each other can crowdsource like this.
So I suppose the secret to good crowdsourcing, even when it's completely unmoderated, is trusting your community to do good things, and everybody in that community respecting each other.
So really, nothing new there then.