Crowdsourcing is an Ancient Discipline

Although strongly facilitated by computers and the Web, has been used in other fields without the use of the Internet. Of course it is a lot easier and much more efficient, but I would like to highlight a system that beautifully and naturally utilized this approach.
That system is calligraphy.
When was a new style of calligraphy invented? Who invented it? We only know the period, and a group of people who were active in creating that style. There are the big influential calligraphers, and the other ones with small contributions. The "source code" of calligraphy is contained within the letter itself. The length and height of a letter is determined by a certain number of dots above or beside each other. Popular opinion and taste are what determine which improvement is to be adopted, and with time, a certain style evolves. Who created it?
The Crowd...

How Crowdsourcing is Using Too Many Cooks, Without Spoiling the Broth

Outsourcing, insourcing, open sourcing... What's next?
I remember reading about a great method Walt Disney would use in developing his themes. It relied on tapping into the minds of anyone who wanted to participate.
Simply, the project manager would post the main theme / idea on a highly visible bulletin board, and all employees are encouraged to post their comments, add their insights, and share whatever feelings they have regarding that idea.
I thought, "wow! this is truly great in allowing people to contribute to one big idea, and a democratic and human way of allowing anyone to participate to whatever extent they want and can. This is really teamwork."
"Too many cooks spoil the broth" we were taught. Well... not with the Internet, and definitely not at Walt Disney.
Nowadays, we all know that this is the "normal" way of harnessing collective intelligence. Wikipedia is best example that demonstrates the power of global cooperation. (funnily enough, the master crowsourcer needs some support in their article on crowdsourcing. I, considering myself a crowdsourcer contributed with information I thought to be relevant)
Although we are all adding to the global information base through our writing, commenting, and all the social networking programs available, crowdsourcing is evolving to become one of the reliable business practices for product development, market research and design.
Several companies are adopting this method and actually rewarding the successfull contributors of the best ideas with cash.
A recent example that I stumbled upon was Cambrian House, which is a website named after the Cambrian era in which major diversification occurred on Earth. This is a company, focused on creating innovative products, software, and simply great ideas. They are also offering lucrative psychological and fianancial rewards for the greatest idea providers.
Ideawarz is one of their cool project competitions where sixteen ideas compete in four rounds, and the best single idea wins.
Crowdsourcing is another example of leveraging the long tail. Many people contribute with insignificant improvements on the same idea. But the combined total of these contributions make a really considerable difference.
Although it's a really exciting concept, limitations present themselves in sophisticated and technical products and services where highly educated people are required to crowdsource. With general products also, a significant number of people have to participate to really reap the benefits.