Posts Tagged ‘mass collaboration’

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.

Actually, Crowdsourcing is Evil

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

(note: if you are reading the blog rather than RSS please excuse the design. There have been problems following the Worpress 2.9 upgrade, and I’ll get around to fixing them once Christmas 2009 is behind us.)

Following yesterday’s post about 102 misguided translators blaming crowdsourcing for their woes I have come across an article in the New Scientist with the headline, ‘The sinister powers of crowdsourcing.’ Unlike the translators this reporter actually has a point in noting that the effectiveness of crowdsourcing can also be applied to less alturistic activities than online encyclopedias and cause-driven movements. For example, law enforcement officials in Texas have installed a network of CCTV cameras to monitor key areas along that state’s 1900-kilometre-long border with Mexico. To help screen the footage, a website lets anyone log in to watch a live feed from a border camera and report suspicious activity.

Another example is a system called Internet Eyes, which pays online viewers to spot shoplifters from in-store camera feeds. It’s going to launch in the UK in 2010, and I look forward to being a vigilante for my local Boots pharmacy. A more disturbing application is an Iranian website which is offering rewards for identifying people in photos taken during protests over June’s elections.

The fact that the benefits of mass collaboration are being used by the forces of evil further evidences that their impact. That can only be a good thing.

Merry Christmas!

Is charity a profitable strategy?

Monday, December 14th, 2009
The Angel

He didn't answer my LinkedIn connect request!

Reid Hoffman is the man you want to have as your angel investor. He gets it. And if he gets your company then that’s a sure sign that you might just be on to something. Not that he has actually cashed in on that $1bn LinkedIn valuation just yet. However, once he does there are signs that he might do a Bill and Melinda and apply his expertise to philanthropic ventures.

At Silicon Valley’s TEDxSV on the weekend he confirmed that he wants to be a public intellectual. He went on to explain that he thinks that the same tools that drive social media can help cause-based foundations create platforms for change. TechCrunch reported that, “One of the things that Hoffman finds interesting is that corporations, because they have the reach of millions of people…can make cause-based initiatives part of their web based platform. This is exemplified by Facebook’s Causes application.”

Personally I am more interested in seeing LinkedIn list as a profitable company, and seeing Facebook convert its 350 million members into cash, than I am in looking at how cause-based organizations can use crowdsourcing to drive change. Let’s see the model refined and proven as a for-profit strategy first.

That’s just my personal area of interest though, and there is no reason that companies and charities can’t move in parallel. The issues that cause-based organizations are trying to solve are usually extremely complex, and if they can leverage mass collaboration to solve these problems then the profit-driven companies can probably learn a lot from how they do it.

Customers Become the Brand
Also, I would like to explore the idea of companies using their business web platforms for charitable activities. Bringing in their customers as part of this might just make it a profitable venture. A brand sharing a common world outlook with its customers – as they engage together in charitable activties the customer moves from outside to inside the brand. Now that’s brand loyalty.

Reciprocal Links are Dead

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

reciprocal-links-are-deadIf you are a purist, with a hat whiter than the pope’s, then you probably advocate growing your web site’s traffic organically by producing good content, and connecting with other sites related to yours that are also producing quality content. These connections can come via comments, or natural links that make sense in the context of the content produced. It’s a system that works well for non-commerical blogs, but what if you are trying to make a dollar and a cent out of the internet?

There are plenty of ways to drive traffic to a site, but the granddaddy of them all is gathering backlinks from sites related to yours, ideally using anchor text related to the keywords that you are targeting. Backlinks increase your search engine ranking, which brings in the best traffic – the organic kind that is searching for information. (Note: the anchor text must vary, otherwise Google will see what you are up to and penalize you for not taking the purist approach.)

This is not news. Everybody knows that backlinks are critical, and therein lies the problem. Once everyone knows that links are important, everyone starts trading reciprocal links with each other, and the only way to compete is trade more. That is where we are at today. Once your site is up you should probably be spending 80% of your time linkbuilding. And link building is boring.

My advice to those that are going to take on this mindless and boring task, is to request circular links, not reciprocal links. This is where you offer to link to Target Site from your Linkout Site, in return for Target Site linking to your Money Site. This way the Money Site gets a one-way high quality backlink, without Google discounting it because it is reciprocal. And yes Google does make that discount. The Target Site gets the same one-way benefit so everyone gets a better SERP boost.

In order for this to work you need to have a Linkout Site that is of comparable quality to your Money Site so that people see it as a fair trade. The best way to do this is create a really good article of at least 800 words, with photos and video and host it somewhere such as Squidoo. It will soon get a decent Page Rank, and should be attractive for an exchange, especially as its URL will have keywords that Target Site is happy to be linked from.

If you come across a Target Site that uses the same strategy then you will just have to settle for a Straddled Link where you both post links from Link Sites. It’s still better than a reciprocal. As far as I know straddled link is a new term, but it’s something that sophisticated MFA players have been up to for some time, often in private exchange clubs that are below the Google radar. It’s not really the positive mass collaboration of crowdsourcing, but it gets your site ranked.