“Crowd sourcing” is a buzz phrase often employed in conversations about new media. In theory, online media outlets will be able to utilize the wisdom of the crowd (i.e. their readers) to find out first-hand information about certain subjects. One of the most famous examples of this is the blog Talking Points Memo utilizing its readership to uncover the U.S. Attorney firings scandal.
Lately, though, I’ve seen a number of stories highlighting another way of using online crowd wisdom: Crime solving.
The latest example of this appears in a New York Times article. Two thieves pull up to a car dealership and take a relatively rare car on a “test drive.” They never return with the car, and not long afterwards the dealer posts a note on an online forum giving the details of the theft. After multiple sightings of the car, the implementation of both Google Maps and Facebook, and several camera phone pictures of the thief, the guy was nabbed and the dealer got his car back.
The NY Times article has dubbed this tactic “open source crime solving.” Now if only someone could create a website specifically for this specific kind of crowd sourcing.