Moving the crowd at Threadless: Motivations for participation in a crowdsourcing application

Crowdsourcing is an online, distributed problem-solving and production model already in use by businesses such as,, and This model, which harnesses the collective intelligence of a crowd of Web users through an open-call format, has the potential for government and non-profit applications. Yet, in order to explore new applications for the crowdsourcing model, there must be a better understanding of why crowds participate in crowdsourcing processes. Based on 17 interviews conducted via instant messenger with members of the crowd at Threadless, the present study adds qualitatively rich data on a new crowdsourcing case to an existing body of quantitative data on motivations for participation in crowdsourcing. Four primary motivators for participation at Threadless emerge from these interview data: the opportunity to make money, the opportunity to develop one's creative skills, the potential to take up freelance work, and the love of community at Threadless. A fifth theme is also discussed that addresses the language of ‘addiction’ used by the interviewees to describe their activity on the site. Understanding this kind of ‘addiction’ in an online community is perhaps the most important finding for future public crowdsourcing ventures. This study develops a more complete – though ongoing – composite of what motivates the crowd to participate in crowdsourcing applications generally, information crucial to adapt the crowdsourcing model to new forms of problem-solving.

Brabham, D. (2010), 'Moving the crowd at Threadless: Motivations for participation in a crowdsourcing application,' Information, Communication and Society 13(8), pp. 1122-1145.


  • Research publication, Case study-worker
  • United States
  • Yes
  • professional services
  • Online contestant specialist work
  • Threadless
  • worker demographics, motivation
  • English
  • Information, Communication and Society (Publisher)
  • Qualitative research
  • 2010
  • Subscription
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