Crowdsourcing cognitive surplus

Crowdsourcing cognitive surplus refers to utilising the collective intelligence of large groups of people, often through open source software development.
Crowdsourcing cognitive surplus - Crowdsourcing Week

Written by Clive Reffell

Oct 5, 2023

Crowdsourcing cognitive surplus refers to the practice of using digital technologies to tap into the free time and expertise of large groups of people in order to collectively solve problems or create content. People can share spare rooms through Airbnb, crowdsourcing lets people share their brains. This approach to leveraging the collective intelligence and creativity of a diverse and distributed crowd often results in faster and more innovative solutions than could be achieved by traditional methods. It counters the traditional model of companies working and developing in silos, and then competing in public. Examples of crowdsourcing cognitive surplus include open source software development, citizen science projects, and online communities for collaborative problem-solving.

How does open source help?

Open source refers to software created by a developer who pledges to make the entire software source code available to users, and it can help in several ways:


Open source projects are built collaboratively, with many developers eventually contributing their expertise, ideas, and code. This allows for a diversity of perspectives and the ability to solve complex problems that one person or team may not be able to do alone.


Open source encourages innovation and experimentation by providing a platform for developers to build on existing code and create new applications. This can lead to new and exciting software and tools that may not have been possible with proprietary software.


Open source software is often free to use and distribute, making it more accessible to people who may not have the financial resources to purchase proprietary software. This can also lead to more equitable access to technology and tools for people in different parts of the world.


Open source software development projects are typically transparent, with all of the source code available for anyone to review and contribute to. This can help to build trust in the software and ensure that it is secure, stable, and reliable.

Overall, open source can help to create a more collaborative, innovative, accessible, and transparent software ecosystem that benefits everyone.

What open source software development tools are available?

There are many current tools available for open source software development, collaboration, and management. Some of the most popular ones for using collective intelligence include:


A distributed version control system used for tracking changes in source code during software development, and coordinating work on those files among multiple people.


A web-based platform for hosting and collaborating on Git repositories. It is used by millions of developers around the world and offers features such as issue tracking, pull requests, and code reviews.


A project management tool that helps teams to plan, track, and manage software development projects. It is used by many large organisations and offers features such as agile boards, scrum boards, and kanban boards.


An open source automation server used for building, testing, and deploying software. It is used by many organisations to automate their software development process and ensure that their code is of high quality.


This is a free software library for machine learning and artificial intelligence that provides a flexible platform for building and deploying ML models.


A platform for containerising applications and running them in a portable, isolated environment. It is used by many developers to build and deploy applications more easily and efficiently.

These are just a few examples of the many tools that are available for open source software development and collaboration using cognitive surplus. The choice of tools will depend on the specific needs of the project and the preferences of the development team. Do you know others you can let us know about that utilise collective intelligence?

About Author

About Author

Clive Reffell

Clive has worked with Crowdsourcing Week on sourcing and creating content since May 2016. With knowledge and experience gained in a 30+ year marketing career based in London, UK, he operates as an independent crowdfunding advisor helping SMEs and startups to run successful crowdfunding projects, and with wider social media and content marketing issues.

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