Quid pro quo

In the movie “The Silence of the Lambs”, in the moment when Hannibal Lecter is being interrogated by Clarice, the FBI agent, the great Anthony Hopkins says, “Quid pro quo …Clarice ..”. This latin expression could be translated as “something for something”, implying that in exchange for his information, Hannibal Lecter expected other information from the agent, he expected a reciprocal treatment.

Being pedantic, the correct expression would do ut des (which can be translated to “I give for you to give”), but the important thing is that both expressions allow to illustrate one of the fundamentals of crowdsourcing: reciprocity.

This reciprocity, defined as “correspondence between a person or thing with another”, is based on the fact that any activity done by the crowdwoker, in which will contribute with his work, money, knowledge and/or experience, should be rewarded in some way by the crowdsourcer. As stated in the post about the crowdsourcing definition, this reward may be economic, of social recognition, of self-esteem or of personal skills development.

This feature, what we might call the quid pro quo principle, will be one of the points that will help us to discern whether an Internet initiative is crowdsourcing or not.

For example, some authors have cited YouTube as an example of crowdsourcing. Following this quid pro quo principle, it is clear that it is not crowdsourcing. For uploading a video, which could be the proposed task, YouTube does not offer anything in return.

It is true that after a certain number of views, YouTube starts paying some money to the owner of the video. In that case, the task (the upload of a video) isn’t rewarded. What is rewarded is the good welcomed by the Internet users, resulting in displays and advertising.

It is also true that the votes your video receives, can be interpreted as a reward relating to the recognition. However, in this case the reward do not come from YouTube, but comes from the other users.


  1. This is a good blog on crowd sourcing. The article on crowd funding was simply superb. This is the first time I am hearing about such an idea. The types and the models provided here are also nice. Keep posting such ideas in future.

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