The image to the right is a still publicity shot from a British TV show called The IT Crowd. It is apparently hilarious, and follows the lives of some “sysadmins” or what we would call network support people or simply IT guys. In a recent blog post, the creator of the program is asking for fans’ help in populating the set for the next season with interesting, geeky stuff. This technique of getting strangers to do work for you using Web 2.0 tools is called “crowdsourcing.” Perhaps the best example of crowdsourcing is Wikipedia, where millions of contributors come together to produce an excellent end product. Other frequently cited crowdsourced projects are Linux, Mozilla, and similar open source software development efforts.
What could you crowdsource in a bar environment? And why would you do it? I can think of a number of examples: you could have a place to vote, both at the bar and on the bar’s website, for which band you would like to see play there on an upcoming evening. Or what new beers to bring in on tap. Or what sporting event would be shown on the big screen Saturday afternoon. Or what items to add to the food menu. Or whether to get a pool table, or foosball, or airhockey, or pinball machine, or couches, or nothing for the back room.
By allowing your patrons to influence or even make some of your bar management decisions for you, you stand to gain (at least) three advantages:
1. According to “wisdom of the crowds” theory, if you have a large and diverse enough group of people contributing, the decisions will be more consistently correct than any one person could make alone.
2. You add to the feeling of belonging that your customers experience – if they are part of the “tribe” that determines what goes on at your establishment, they will have more loyalty to it.
3. People are more likely to show up and consume a food, drink, or event they helped bring about than one arbitrarily selected by the bar owner.