My crowdsourcing radar used to consist of Google Alerts and a RSS feed from Technorati. Then I installed TweetDeck on my laptop. I'm not sure if it was the best or the worst thing I've ever done. I had thought of Twitter as a broadcast tool, but it's become far more valuable to me as a listening device. I used to say that keeping track of crowdsourcing's growth was a full-time job (the punchline being that I already have a a few full-time jobs). Now it would take an entire newsroom (okay, a small one) to cover the diverse, imaginative—and occasionally wrong-headed—ways crowdsourcing is manifesting in our culture. Anyway, here were a few of the more significant developments from the week:
Open for Questions, or Open for Vote Rigging?
President Obama held the first crowdsourced press conference. The administration used Google Moderator to collect questions from citizens, and vote for those already posed. Results were decidedly mixed. The marijuana lobby turned out in force, effectively stuffing the ballot box for decriminalization topics. My colleage Nick Thompson has done my work for me here, here and here. The long and short of it is that one interest group gamed the system to vote their concerns to the top. As scores of other people have pointed out, decriminalization is a legitimate topic for a press conference, but hardly represents a pressing issue. My read: Open for Questions highlights that the ideastorm model of crowdsourcing is still very much in a beta phase, useful for some applications and counter-productive for others.
An Index of Crowdsourcing
Boy has this been a long time coming. Anjali Ramachandran, a strategist at London-based digital agency Made by Many, posted a wiki with 135 companies currently engaging in some form of crowdsourcing. It's a great start, and Anjali is asking us all to help expand it. Such efforts are crucial to the maturation and understanding of crowdsourcing. The phenomenon has grown so rapidly (and so haphazardly) that it's exceeded any single person's capacity to track it. I know there are a lot of crowdsourcing junkies reading this post. I'd encourage you all to go contribute.
Um, Do You Know How We Can Get Out of This Mess?
Ireland's economy has been especially hard hit by the Great Recession. Enter "The Ideas Campaign," or "the People's Campaign for Economic Growth," an open innovation project operated and paid for by Irish Web consulting firm, AMAS. Here's Springwise: "Launched just a week ago, the Ideas Campaign is asking the citizens of Ireland to propose innovative ideas to boost economic activity in the country across 19 key areas including manufacturing, technology, construction, retail and education." Great idea. Horrible execution. The ideas are collected, vetted and posted back to the site without any opportunity for the community to vote, comment or otherwise interact with them. A perfect use for aforementioned Google Moderator. Would the Dope Lobby—or more to the point, some special interest—have gamed this site like they did President Obama's? Possibly, but that's an argument for enhanced moderation, not locking out the crowd's input on, well, the crowd's input. If it works for Ireland, maybe Iceland will give crowdsourcing a spin.
Smartsourcing vs. Crowdsourcing
Pete Peterson has a very thoughtful essay at techPresident this week in which he examined the Obama administration's mixed results from such crowdsourcing experiments as the Citizen's Briefing Book (another ideajam that was stampeded by the drug lobby). He advocates bringing together "select group of citizens."
The government can serve a vital role as convener – bringing together smart people from a variety of viewpoints to collaborate and debate online over particular policy initiatives. These policy discussions – whether in wiki or blog format – can be kept transparent and open to the public’s view, but as we have seen during the Transition, these must be controlled in such a way as to prevent hijacking by small, organized groups."
I couldn't agree more. I would just like to point out that smartsourcing (great term!) is crowdsourcing. In my original article on crowdsourcing as well as in my talks, I've always said, "First—pick the right crowd." This has theoretical underpinnings. Scott E. Page, who's probably done more work than anyone in collective intelligence, calls this a "crowd of models." Diversity will trump ability, he notes, but only if a certain level of talent and ability are mixed in with that diversity. At any rate, Peterson's post is the read of the week, in my view.