I was just talking to some people about how on my travels I contribute to OpenStreetMap and Google Maps / Mapmaker mainly to help other travellers find stuff that isn't easy to find.

I much prefer contributing my work to OSM because it's run for free for people like me whereas Google is a multibillion dollar company and shouldn't really be soliciting free handouts from skint backpackers.

But this gave me an idea. Maybe there are some websites that offer real incentives to crowdsourcing activites such as money, free stays, free gear, free tickets to participants who contribute a lot of good info or achieve set goals.

Besides contributing to mapping, other possibilities would be reviews of places to stay or eat, photos of attractions, correcting out-of-date information, etc.

Does any such incentivized crowd sourced travel themed website exist?

  • 2
    An excellent question... It would be awesome if that kind of site existed.
    – rlab
    Commented May 21, 2012 at 9:00
  • tripadvisor, google places, facebook, twitter come to mind. There is also a danger to these sites and that is that really unique places become common.
    – user141
    Commented May 21, 2012 at 10:45
  • 1
    Another interesting business idea on travel SE. We should really start to implement at least one of them ;) Commented May 21, 2012 at 11:51
  • @Andra: None of those sites incentive your contributions, unless I'm missing something. I've put reviews and photos on TripAdvisor but then don't use it for a while because of this reverse Robin Hood effect. I've also added some details or flagged duplicates of places in Facebook but again it feels like rich corporation begging from poor backpackers. I get no warm fuzzies giving to those guys that I get from giving to OSM or even WikiTravel. Commented May 21, 2012 at 13:35
  • rlesko, Roflcoptr, MastaBaba: In fact I first wanted to bring it up in the chatroom as an idea for us hackers but it was down for servicing ... Commented May 21, 2012 at 13:37

1 Answer 1


This probably shouldn't be an answer, but it's going to be too long for a comment, so I'll put it here. Feel free to convert if you really don't like it here.

Providing tangible rewards for 'crowdsource' feedback hits two major obstacles which have not yet been solved.

  1. Verification. We already have very little way of determining if a review of a restaurant, hotel, or place was written by someone who actually went there. We just have to take their word for it. The only reason to believe them is "why would they bother?" i.e. who would bother to create a plausible-sounding review of a place they hadn't been to? As soon as you reward people, that changes. I'm pretty sure I could write 100 plausible-sounding reviews in a day if I thought it was going to get me a free vacation. (N.B voting doesn't help with this. If you go to the trouble of writing a fake review, then creating 25 fake accounts to vote it up is no extra trouble)
  2. Bias If an establishment is going to give out free stays for reviews, you'd better bet it's not going to give them out to reviewers who trash them. That's going to really cut down on the number of negative reviews, as reviewers compete to be as nice as possible and get their free stay.

If course both of these are problems now to some extent. And sometime in the future the internet may solve the problem. But not yet.

EDIT: Since writing this seven years ago it has of course turned out to be a major problem. Travel organizations and others are now routinely paying people to write favourable reviews on websites.

  • 1
    Interesting comment. First problem is solved via karma and administrators, like here in stackexchange. If you could "downvote" poor or inexact reviews it could disuade users for loosing time and only legitimate user will make reviews. Of course, it won't assure that only good users play, but part of crowdsource is to trust user. Second problem is not a problem really, not? Opinions are opinions and the sum of all kind of users opinions is what makes a review site rich in my own "opinion" :)
    – Ivan
    Commented May 22, 2012 at 14:32
  • Yes I thought a bit about these problems but didn't assume nobody had tackled or solved them. For instance the verification problem exists for crowd sourcing sites already when the incentive is only warm fuzzies/lulz for the good/bad contributors. Google Mapmaker seems to have trusted users watching new users and employees watching trusted users and new users. To be eligible for incentives contributors might have to "enter" like in a pre-internet competition by providing personal details or perhaps even enter by offline means... Commented May 22, 2012 at 14:37
  • ... Prizes, rewards, gifts etc could be given out after some large delay such as once per year to contributors voted worth by their peers, etc. I'm sure there are some ways people can come up with. I believe Stack Exchange already gives a few gifts out, but not immediately, not in big numbers, and not of great value. They don't seem to have a problem with people gaming the system to get more swag than they deserve. Commented May 22, 2012 at 14:38
  • There's a hidden assumption in everything mentioned above that the benefits of adding fake information is very low, and therefore few people will devote much effort to it. This is already being shown to be false in Wikipedia, where companies can make profits by giving their clients 'good' Wikipedia articles. Editing of Wikipedia by paid sources has already become a significant problem, and I'm absolutely sure that all political campaigns have someone making sure that Wikipedia contains only information favourable to the candidate. Commented May 22, 2012 at 14:40

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