Posts Tagged ‘crowd’

Time for a new online encyclopedia?

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Wikipedia is the fifth most visited web site in the world, and the most often cited example of crowdsourcing, but there is trouble in paradise. Created by Jimmy Donal Wales, and its army of users, some say that Wikipedia’s credibility issues are expanding along with it. Is it time for a new online encyclopedia?

Wikipedia has always had its critics, but the Britannica-lovers are getting more vocal of late. The problem is that Wikipedia’s volunteer editors are not increasing at the same rate as the articles, thus the quality of the content is under threat. Compounding this is the fact that the site is being very slow at introducing quality-control measures. Set up with a utopian vision, even a simple change such has having new user entries checked prior to publication is facing resistance because it is seen as being contrary to the wiki ethos.

The site may have reached a tipping point at which expansion reduces the quality of the product. This is a dangerous state of affairs, as once an encyclopedia has too many examples of errors it can rapidly lose the credibility on which it relies.

Right now there is also no clear way to measure who the good editors are, and it is not known how Wikipedia will attract the increase in editors that it needs. Furthermore, there is no way for a reader to assess the quality of an article when they land on the site. The site has crowd contribution, without using that crowd resource to make sure that the cream rises to the top. Should they Digg the site up a bit?

What interests me is that Wales thinks that Wikipeida’s dominance is safe because of its charitable status. He says of Google, “They don’t look at us and see a $1bn revenue opportunity they should be competing for.” I disagree: even though Google’s Knoll is only just over 100,000 articles I wouldn’t count them, or a new entrant, out of the game. Just because Wikipedia doesn’t monetize its eyeballs it does not mean a new company can’t. And if Wikipedia’s problems do expand, then expect a nimble competitor to come in and offer an alternative. One thing we can say for certain is that the top five sites is not going to be a static list over the next few years.

What do you think would make a Wikipedia killer? Have editors share in the AdSense revenue of the pages they edit?  Have an international network of universities create the encyclopedia in return for branding and revenue share?

Voting Twice: The Age of Wikipolitics

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Crowdsourcing is Profitable!

The Conservative government’s recent offer of a £1m prize to any software developer that can create a web platform to engage the public in the policy-making process has been held up as electioneering and form over substance. I consider that a bit harsh, but there are some problems with the proposal.

The idea is that this prize will come into effect once the Tories win the next election. That’s stumbling block number one, because you can never discount Mandy’s dark forces. But politics aside, I have an issue with this being partisan. A much better approach seems to be that taken by the USA’s Expert Labs where a non-profit independent entity has been set up to achieve three goals:

  1. We ask policy makers what questions they need answered to make better decisions.
  2. We help the technology community create the tools that will get those answers.
  3. We prompt the scientific & research communities to provide the answers that will make our country run better.

I think that this is a good template, and with proven performer Anil Dash appointed as Director it has a great chance of success.

My second issue is that whilst going out to the crowd to see who can produce the best platform is in line with the mass collaboration ethos I wonder whether it will inspire decent entries. I can’t see it generating the same sort of excitement, or wealthy backers, as launching a man into space:

The Ansari X Prize, a $10 million award for the first privately built, manned rocket ship to fly in space twice in a span of two weeks, captured the imagination of many engineers and high net worth individuals. Eventually it was won by a rocket funded by Microsoft founder Paul G. Allen that achieved the feat on the 47th anniversary of the Russian Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to be launched into space.

Also, the rules for winning Ansari were very clear cut, whereas judging crowdsourcing  platforms is far more subjective.

By the time the conservatives win the next election, if they do, then I am sure that this idea will already have been refined by the feedback they are getting now. And whether or not Cameron succeeds, the trend to wikipolitics in developed countries is clear. Individuals in democratic societies will be able to vote and contribute post-election.

Making $470m with a Bunch of Comments

Friday, December 18th, 2009

yelp-googleBack in 2004 Yelp started a web site that listed local businesses, and encouraged people to contribute ratings and comments. Take a look at Pandora’s Jewelry store for an example of a page that is content-rich thanks to the crowd contribution. I have a ratings plug-in on some of my web sites, but what you need to make these things work is the critical mass because people need to see comments before they make comments. Reaching this tipping point is the secret sauce that converts a simple idea into a valuable web property.

Yelp had the benefit of $31m in venture funding to invest in developing a great interface and generating traffic, and now TechCruch is reporting that they may cash in to Google for $500m.  It’s not a bad return for the founders, who are former PayPal execs.

In an earliet post I reported how Google has started suffocating organic search results by pushing them down below the fold. A big part of this is the interactive local maps with ads popping out of them. If the Yelp acquisition goes ahead we can expect more of this. If you are an internet marketer targeting the long tail, then it might be time to start thinking about investing in an authority domain, or raising $31m for that great idea you have.

Right now you can make a few thousand bucks a month from information and affiliate sites, but my sense is that this is going to get harder and harder. With people accusing Demand Media and its eHow site of polluting the internet, then mini sites of lower quality will get taken down with it if there is a clean up.

I welcome your comments below – it’s my $470m strategy.

Good Godin He’s Done it Again!

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Nobody works a crowd like Seth Godin, especially if it’s his own.

This week, marketing’s answer to Alain de Botton launched the free presentation ‘What Matters now.’ You can download it here. The project gathered some of the smartest digital thinkers and asked them each to contribute a slide on what we should be focused on right now. Then boom – it’s launch time, and each one of the contributors announces it on their blogs, and the download becomes a Twitter trending topic for seven hours.

On the first slide of the download our guru informs us that ‘In a digital world, the gift I give you almost always benefits me more than it costs’ and at the same time lets us know that his new book Linchpin is coming out in January. Aha.

The presentation itself is a mash-up where the contributors fuse their personal styles with Godin-like sage and concise advice. It’s pretty good, but I just wish they’d asked Scott H. Greenfield to contribute – there’s a man who’ll get internet marketers thinking. One of my highlights was the Long Tail’s Chris Anderson, ‘Peer production, open source, crowdsourcing, DIY and UGC—all these digital phenomena are starting to play out in the world of atoms, too. The Web was just the proof of concept. Now the revolution gets real.’ My, it sounds exciting! The diagram below is a good one too.



This is the second wave of Seth’s book launch strategy, following on from him sending a pre-release copy of Linchpin to the first 3,000 people who made a donation of at least $30 to the Acumen Fund. This latest effort is twofold. First he has accessed the tribes of the contributors, and secondly he has brought these contributors further into his inner circle. No doubt we will see Aaron Wall and others reviewing Linchpin in January.

If as Guy Kawasaki says on his slide ‘the future belongs to people who can spread ideas’ then Godin is sitting pretty good, and  I need a few more readers, so why not hit my RSS button? Oh yes, I’m supposed to give you something first.