What’s in a crowdsourcing….

I was going to write an eloquent and heartfelt post regarding everything that’s wrong about the attempt by Golley Slater to rebrand by a hamfisted attempt at ‘crowdsourcing’ – another example why really we should be stricter about how the term is used, and why co-collaboration should probably replace it.

But then I spotted the always interesting Andrea Phillips had beaten me to is on her blog, Deus Ex Machinatio. Worth reading the post if you’re interested in ever trying to actually achieve something productive using crowdsourcing mechanics, and also if you’re interested in transmedia and game design/mechanics etc.

So I’ll get back to working and trying not to lose myself in playing with Google +. Despite being touted initially as a ‘Facebook killer’, it actually seems more and more people are coming round to thinking of it as a potential rival to Twitter in the curation of streams of content. Similar to how Twitter might have evolved lists, or how Tweetdeck used them to create a more workable interface at scale.


Open chance to talk at TED

This is rather cool. If you’ve never sampled the TED talks, I’d recommend having a look, as they definitely live up to the motto of ‘Ideas worth sharing’ on a huge range of topics, including creativity and marketing. And now there’s the chance for anyone to audition their own idea for a TED talk by April 25th.

There’s more details on the TED blog, but basically you upload a one minute video to Youtube or Vimeo, and then enter via an online form. And if you’re a finalist and can make your own way to New York you’ll be in the first ever public audition to either end up on the TED website, or appear at TED2012.

There’s not a long time before April 25th, but the one minute video is meant to be all about the idea and a sample rather than the finished product – and I’d imagine the typical person submitting will have already been thinking about the idea they think is worth sharing for a while now, but this gives them a chance to get it out there.


Crowdsourcing creative writing on Twitter

For every criticism of the presumed mindless nature of Twitter conversation, it’s just as easy to find it being used in an interesting and useful way.

For instance, published author Jeff Kirvin wasn’t sure of the way to kill a character in his current work, so he put the question out on Twitter. (HT Steve Rubel). And out of the suggestions he received he found some that might work, and enough to get him thinking more (Read more interesting details on brainstorming with the hive mind).

Not only is this an example of Twitter aiding creativity, which is a counterpoint to the idea that microblogging kills writing and full-length blogging, but it also shows an example of someone who isn’t hiding his work away until it’s complete – because, after all, the people tweeting suggestions aren’t likely to suddenlly find the drive to crank out 50,000+ words. So why worry about sharing some details and asking for some suggestions?

More on Digg – will business kill the community?

It’s been interesting following recent events concerning Digg, especially considering my previous posts outlining the personal and idealogical problems I have with Digg, and the alternative ways available to get crowd sourced news.

I just read a great summary post by David Chen on Mashable, ‘Digg’s recent bans and the limits of crowdsourcing‘ which is a comprehensive look at what David calls ‘building a flawed system’, and the lessons learned – as well as looking at why Digg has banned top users, and how the business strategy is changing.

It reminded me of something I’d noticed recently. Here’s a graph from Compete, comparing Digg (blue line), with an alternative social content site, Mixx.com (red line).

Now, while it’s obvious that Digg is massively ahead at the moment, it appears to have levelled off significantly – and at the same time, notice how Mixx has grown around the same time as the Digg banhammer started making an appearance?

Now look at Mixx in detail:

Anyone else see something kickstarting some growth around Apri/May 2008?

What to do when you are banned from digg. - Mixx

Two things spring to mind. One is that Digg has vocally supported the community, and allowed top users a longstanding reign over the rest of the site – which means changing things, particularly without a clear warning, is always going to lead to problems – the question will be how big the problems will become?

And secondly, so many web services which seem to embrace, support and provide a Web 2.0, social media type approach, actually fall down on the Customer Service which is preached by those using them. I’ve always found Digg support to be incredibly varied, but always anonoymous. And the fall back is always on ‘the best for Digg users’ without ever explicitly saying what that means.

Other social news aggregations and voting sites like Reddit have also seen some growth, although in Reddit’s case, it may be down to other factors, such as opening up their service to Open Source installations.

But the fact that the high profile, long term devotees of Digg could be powering the rise in a close rival (in terms of the type of service provided) could prove to be a very interesting case study – if the very people Digg banned turn out to be able to power the rise of a challenge.

An intriguing new Twitter profile…

First update of the week is a little bit of Twitter oddity. Following on the heels of Downing Street and Tower Bridge (Sample update: I am opening for the SB Lady Daphne, which is passing downstream), is a new Twitter account, Stopped Clocks.

It’s dedicated to locating and documenting all examples of public clocks which have ground to a halt in the UK as the first stage in getting funding to fix them.

And the reasoning behind it?

“We don’t like seeing stopped clocks, so we hope that one day we can get them fixed. More than that, stopped clocks are immensely sad things, they represent a disconnect with our past and our heritage so by drawing attention to them we hope that it makes people think about this, and pitch in to help.”

One of their earlier Tweets show they’re embracing new media to help bring the past back online:

the whole project depends entirely on crowd sourcing, so twitter is perfect

Keep up to date with the 140char RSS feed.

There really is nothing new in Web 2.0

It’s been said before, but having chatted with some of my readers, and having been unable to quickly find a previous online example, I though it’s worth restating: There’s nothing new in Web 2.0.

And by that, I mean there’s nothing new about the facilities Web 2.0 offers. And now for some examples:

Tagging: Every time you’ve labeled anything in your life, you’ve tagged it. Putting your bills in a folder, putting a sticker on your homemade chutney, or creating a mixtape of songs. If only we’d called it labeling, rather than tagging, I’d have saved myself a few hours of explaining. And a Folksonomy is just what happens when information is structured by people labeling it.

Social networking: Every time you’ve been introduced to someone via a friend, or found yourself chatting to someone you’ve stood next to at a concert, or at the football, you’ve networked socially. Facebook and Myspace are the internet equivalents of your local pub, or the reading group at the local library.

Blogging: Diaries. Fanzines. The family newsletter tucked inside Christmas cards. Newspaper columns.

Crowdsourcing: Happened hundreds of years ago. Sticking up a ‘Wanted’ poster and offering a bounty was crowdsourcing people to catch a criminal.

Social news aggregators (e.g. Digg): Just recording online the same opinions you’d get chatting around the office coffee machine/smoking area.

Word of Mouth, Buzz, Social Media Marketing: When your pipe sprung a leak last night, and you came into work and asked your friend if they knew a good plumber – that’s Word of Mouth. Buzz is just getting lots of people talking and recommending. And social media marketing is just using the new online gathering places.

I did lie earlier.

There is one new thing about all Web 2.0 technology which radically changes everything we know. It’s made it so much easier to do all these things, that the amount of people involved, and the effects, have been amplified 100s, 1000s or even millions of times. It’s always happened. But now it’s happening on a global scale, and in a way that can change the fortunes of businesses.

An amazing piece of crowdsourcing by a newspaper/website

Just a short update, due to my need to finish decorating a nursery and cooking the evening meal. But I had to share one of the best examples of crowdsourcing I’ve seen, and by newspaper and website. (I picked this up via Jeff Jarvis)

Documents relating to the assassination of John F Kennedy have been discovered in a vault by the Dallas Country District Attorney, and he’s made them available to the Dallas News. So what did the Dallas News due with the huge amount of documents, which had been compiled by the District Attorney at the time of the assassination, and never made public?

They’ve started making huge chunks of the documents available as PDFs and available for public download. And they’re asking their readers to look through these amazing documents, and let the Dallas News know if they find anything interesting.

In the old days, such a huge amount of documents would probably have ended up with a junior staff member or similar spending weeks looking through them, and despite their best efforts, missing important news.

Now, though, staff and the public can look through. And with a topic like this, you can bet there are plenty of interested academic and amateur experts rushing to read through all this new info, and who are probably better placed to judge if something is new or ground-breaking than a Junior Reporter who might have never covered the subject before.

I’m certainly intrigued enough to download some of the PDFs and have a read when I get five minutes…

The incredible secret of good posts

I don’t intend to turn this into a guide to blogging, as there are already plenty of sites that do a great job. I’ll admit to being an avid and fascinated reader of Problogger, and Blogging on Blogging.

But I do think there was one point missing from the recent post of great content at Problogger. The gist of the post is how to write great blog content by enriching and adding to links and articles you find, rather than regurgitating them. Plenty of great ideas in there, from which many online media companies could learn…

But the one suggestion I would add is this: “Before you write about a new social networking site or application….try using the thing.”

Some places do this well. I tend to get a lot of news from downloadsquad.com for this very reason. Every time I read about a new application, I know that someone on their team will have used the thing, and can tell me how easy it is, and how well it performs. That’s why I’ve tended to mention Myspace and LinkedIn a fair bit, because I’ve used them enough to have a reasonable idea of what is possible. Indeed, I’ve somehow fallen into the Top Ten Experts on LinkedIn Answers, which most would say is a flaw in the system!

It’s also why I haven’t mentioned The Venice Project, or the revelation that it has revealed it’s true name of Joost. I am actually registered as a beta (not better!) tester, I have the set-up.exe on my PC, and I’ve actually made a couple of beta test suggestions. But the problem is that I haven’t had the chance to set it up on my home PC, and can’t log in via the company firewall, so I don’t have anything to add to the 100 million other posts on the same subject. (Although some suggest targeting topics like Joost or the I-Phone to boost blog hits…)

It’s also an easy to way to see which sites are capable of holding attention. I keep meaning to log back into Cambrian House, but lost interest. I think it was a combination of things, including the lack of personality inherent in attempting crowdsourcing. I’m still disappointed my three-day free trail of MyBlogLog has reverted to the standard package, but I think I’m sufficiently disappointed to probably pay some cash to upgrade shortly… So you’ll know where to blame if ads start appearing here to fund it… Feedburner also gets daily clicks.

It’s a dilemma whether to blog about something new for the sake of it, or to sign up, test it, and then try to say something more valuable in the long run… so I’d welcome suggestions on what you think is the right balance…