Posts tagged ‘one degree’
Note: this post was originally published on One Degree.
At a night club recently, I felt the need to tell a guy that I was taken. He then looked at my friend and said, “OK, what about her?”
It’s something I call the “Supermarket Approach”: if you knock enough products into your cart, eventually, one with a honey nougat centre will fall in.
I’d never think it a good plan to dump a bunch of things into my basket and hope the one I wanted would be there. Just as it might to be the best course of action to randomly target single girls.
Or send emails to every blogger in Canada.
“Hey, I like your blog and I want to tell you about a totally irrelevant product” and “Your [cut and paste] blog exists so I thought you, [your name pasted here] would be interested. You guess why.”
And while that’s not a targeted approach, if you do it enough, you will get some results.
“I do think that many marketers tend to think of bloggers as a sort of digital grist-mill, which is a big mistake. A lot of the time, in my particular context, the best pitches and experiences I’ve had have been with artists who are reaching out personally. They understand that marketing through blogs is a partnership, and that it should be mutually beneficial. We’re both after a bigger audience, after all!”
While it is time-consuming to research each blog/blogger and individually tailor pitches, doing so increase the likelihood that she/he will respond – and write about what you’re asking her/him to write about.
A personalised touch is respectful, sets a better tone and will help her/him view you (and your company) in a positive light. The best responses I’ve received as a marketer have been to pitches that focused on why she/he might like the product rather than on the fact that I’d love it if they wrote about it. And I’ve been most responsive as a blogger to pitches that were targeting me based on what I was actually interested in.
So how can you best do this? Let’s assume you’ve done some research and have a list of bloggers in mind for your outreach. Here are some of my suggestions, based on what I aim to do when I pitch. And, to avoid the continuous use of the generic term “blogger”, for the suggestions below, let’s assume her name is Jeanne.
To guage interest and how to tailor, you should try to read:
- A number of Jeanne’s posts. It will give you a better idea of her style and the topics and products she tends to write about. This might provide an angle for your pitch.
- The About and Contact pages along with the FAQs/ Pitch policy ones. Beyond her name and email address, these pages might provide insight as to whether Jeanne is in fact the proper person to pitch for the campaign. (For instance, say the product is location specific: an ice cream available only in Canadian supermarkets. A search leads you to her blog and a number of 2008 posts where Jeanne showcases her unique dessert creations and writes about how much she enjoys living in Winnipeg. Her love for baking might be enduring – but the About page informs you that she’s recently moved to Las Vegas for a job opportunity. Or that she’s since sworn off dairy and sugar. Or, maybe, that she’s not interested in receiving pitches.
When crafting your pitch:
- Make it short, easy to scan – and to the point. Describe the product in a way that doesn’t sound like the description’s been copied and pasted from the press release.
- Address Jeanne by name. Avoid mail merge – or be sure to double-check the fields. (As an aside, my favorite bad pitch had the following greeting: “Dear Author of ‘Monica Hamburg Presents: Your Dose of Lunacy’”. If only there was some way of determining who was writing this blog…)
- Be sure to introduce yourself and mention how you are involved with the company/project. It makes the pitch friendlier, more human and more transparent.
- Make clear very early in the pitch why you are targeting Jeanne specifically. Blogging is a community – and bloggers within niches or cities might know each other, so a templated “I know you’re revered in the foodie world” etc. might not be too flattering if Jeanne later finds that the same pitch was sent to many other foodie bloggers.
- Address the value of what you are proposing. What’s in it for her? You might choose to offer Jeanne a few products so she can run a contest for her readers. Many bloggers appreciate your providing something for their readers more than a treat you are willing to offer just them.
- Address what it is you’d like her to do. Don’t just tell her about the project and hope something will happen. (E.g. You might offer to send her the product so that she might write a review.)
- Create and link to a Media Kit/Page created for the product. This will allow you to write a brief and to the point pitch – and Jeanne to learn more, if she wants to.
Indeed, it is a more involved process than sending out a slew of the same pitches to a large group of bloggers. But it helps you learn about the people you are writing to.
And leads to more contacts with honey nougaty goodness.
I was reading the Utne Reader recently and I came across an pretty ad for Fluevog with an artist’s drawing.
The accompanying text read:
“Do you have the world’s best Fluevog Ad stuck in your head? Get it out at Fluevogcreative.com”.
I went to the url and read that this contest was offering $1,000 (in Fluevog gear) and exposure to the winning ad artists.
So…. is an ad worth only $1,000 and will the exposure really benefit the artist?
My initial reaction is “probably not”, because I have concerns when it comes to artists and contests. And because my antennae prick up when I hear the word “exposure”.
See, “exposure” is a woefully overused term. It is a huge “incentive” (really need the quotation marks there) offered in the indie film world – especially directed at actors:
“Work for free (and coffee!) on our production. Great opportunity for exposure!”
Now, granted, the Fluevog ads are being placed in decent magazines – so this is actual exposure, for what it’s worth, as opposed to imagined (many films don’t see the light of day as their filmmakers don’t fully grasp the challenges of getting their film into a festival). And the winners also get bios on the Fluevog creative site (e.g. the ad I saw featured Heather Mulligan’s art and her bio is on the site).
But is there a true value for the artist in said exposure? This is not a rhetorical question. I would be interested in an unbiased follow up to this type of contest. It is entirely possible that someone else would notice the ad and hire the artist for a project. But is it likely? How many of the ads/artists will there really be a success story for? I’d sincerely like to learn what happens.
The prize amount irks me a bit, though. An ad results in $1,000 of product for the artists – which , by the way, in Fluevog dollars equals… about 2 pairs of shoes (perhaps less)? Fluevog could reasonably pay more reasonably. (Of course, I can never wrap my head around purchasing shoes that are $400+, so my understanding of the value factor is clearly limited. Oh wait, the value is only $1,000 no matter how much you love the shoes! OK, I’ll proceed then.)
In the Fluevog case, it also strikes me that the exposure might benefit one party to a degree greater than the other. The ad showcases Fleuvog. The artist’s concept is secondary – although I commend Fluevog for actual including in the creative, in addition to the artist’s name, their url (something I’ve rarely seen). (The ad I saw provided the link to Heather Mulligan’s Deviant Art page: www.auroracle.deviantart.com )
Of course, on the plus side, the artist may not get magazine ad level exposure were it not for the contest (and, in this case, I’m assuming that the exposure might have some value, which of course, is still up for discussion). And the artist could very well re-purpose something they already created (although I haven’t checked the rules on that) and just plug in a shoe or the name Fluevog or what not, and Boom!, ad created. So it may not, in fact, involve a huge effort on their part.
And, of course, there is the fact that here I am, & Pete is, talking about it. So the “tactic” is working, in some respect. (Although, again, perhaps more for Fluevog?)
But back to the bad side: Fluevog gets the ad(s) created for far less than they would pay an agency to create, and the art for far less than a fair price: I think this serves to devalue at both industries.
Now, I understand that nobody can be exploited in these cases without their consent. The artists have to agree and do the work – and the transaction seems to be clear. That said, the lure of “exposure” is a strong one – especially for artists – who sometimes encounter difficulties in terms of getting paid to do what they love.
Your thoughts? You might also consider weighing in Pete’s post on One Degree.
*At the risk of sounding like a hypocrite, I should note that I work on and enter contests. Obviously for those I don’t see the imbalance as much – although there’s always the possibility cognitive dissonance could be at play.
I have also written about the topic of artists, contests and crowdsourcing on the following posts:
(Note: This post was originally written for – and published on - OneDegree)
Our hearts raced.
Our friend picked up the phone.
“You smell bad!” we said in unison, masking our voices in creepy falsetto. Then we slammed down the phone and laughed.
I was a tween in a time before the ubiquity of Caller ID/Display and prank calls were in vogue. I was slightly ashamed of what we were doing, and yet we made the calls, and our ability to do this ugly, passive-aggressiveness and hurtful thing was facilitated by one critical factor: anonymity.
Without this cloak we were kind to our friend with whom we, clearly, had some issues. There were certainly more effective and decidedly more respectable ways to address our problems. Did we have the emotional maturity to do so? Clearly not. And the lack of identity gave us free reign to express our feelings honestly – and distastefully.
The benefit of online anonymity is often provided in the extreme. It enables users to offer information or perspective without fear of retribution or recrimination (e.g. whistleblowing, expressing political points of view under repressive regimes). Stigma is also a consideration: a person might be hesitant to attach their name because the revelations might lead them face discrimination (e.g. at their workplace for certain points of view or for their sexual orientation) and someone, for instance, who experienced sexual abuse or is dealing with depression might want to comment on a blog post or forum to express solidarity – but not if it meant revealing their identity to everyone.
Of course many anonymous remarks don’t fall under these categories. And while online anonymity, which has long been a contentious issue, allows for the expression of honest points of view, it is also an appropriate shelter from which to fire off damaging or defamatory remarks. It is theorized that “Good Lamps Are the Best Police” and anonymity – and even the illusion of anonymity – provides a cloak under which to operate, and is an excellent sanctuary for those wishing to use the internet for hateful comments, intimidation and character assassinations.
Recent occurrences have once again thrown this issue into the spotlight. There are, as just a few examples, a court case which requests the unveiling of anonymous posters who made defamatory comments, a newspaper which revealed their discovery that the anonymous comments on their site which were “disparaging a local lawyer, were made using the e-mail address of a judge who was presiding over some of that lawyer’s cases”, Anonymously authored blogs exist, as do as skewed Amazon reviews made under a pseudonym and social sites or applications that encourage anonymous feedback.
The sad truth is that people sometimes comport themselves differently when their identity is not known. Even those comments which express honest dissenting opinion frequently lack respect when posted anonymously. The anonymity adds yet another layer of distance from the other party: without the person in front of you, you can avoid considering his/her emotions and possible reactions, but now that you that your identity is also concealed, it is easy to dispense with any civility at all.
Take for instance a comment on a blog that remarks something such as:
“This post makes it clear you are a complete moron. I would be embarrassed to be you.”
With anonymity the opportunity is presented to phrase even one’s legitimate opinions in an inconsiderate and scathing way. Were there an obligation to attach one’s name – and all the reputation that may go with it – the user might be more inclined to take into account the other party’s humanity and feelings and rather than release vitriolic comments, perhaps provide constructive criticism.
Scott Rosenberg of Salon.com makes the argument that moderation rather than “real names” would help to encourage responsible discourse. This makes good sense with respect to online conversations not descending into “barroom brawls” but does not address the difficulty in distinguishing between true and untrue statements made online. And, without attaching identity, there is also no way of gauging the perspective/conflict of interest of the party.
Writes Randy Cohen: “’Says who?’ is not a trivial question. It deepens the reader’s understanding to know who is speaking, from what perspective, with what (nutty?) history, and with what personal stake in the matter.
Certainly, anonymous posters aren’t the only ones who write distastefully or choose to grind their axe online. But this allowance does grant a great deal of power without responsibility. Power on its own can be a dangerous intoxicant. Without repercussions it becomes even more worrisome.
Recall the question: “Would you kill someone if no one would ever know you did it?” Replace “kill” with “defame” and you have a fair concern for the internet age.
Note: If would like to recommend articles or books, please feel free to suggest in the comments, or contact me through Twitter.
(Note: This post was originally written for – and published on - OneDegree)
What constitutes an attack on the web and why does it happen?
Some situations are very clear while others can be interpreted differently from the angle at which one views or is participating.
One thing is certain, online communication may not parallel offline life. And it doesn’t always match the user’s “true self” or intent either.
A common rule of thumb in Computer-mediated-communication is that you view the other party as standing in front of you during the conversation. The inclination then is to be more careful, both in tone and in wording.
Psychologist John Suler refers to the online propensity towards the opposite as “The Online Disinhibition Effect” whereby people “act out more frequently or intensely than they would in person” (as well as self-disclose more).
The assumption with alcohol (which has a similar dis-inhibitory effect) is that we need help in loosening our tongue, and that the “true self” emerges under these conditions. Suler points out that that, in terms of online communication, this may not be the case:
“The self does not exist separate from the environment in which that self is expressed. If someone contains his aggression in face-to-face living, but expresses that aggression online, both behaviors reflect aspects of self: the self that acts non-aggressively under certain conditions, the self that acts aggressively under other conditions. When a person is shy in person while outgoing online, neither self-presentation is more true. They are two dimensions of that person, each revealed within a different situational context.”
Further, many consider making negative comments more acceptable and less severe than enacting such behaviors offline. One reason is that there are often no real world repercussions (especially when the commenter is anonymous) and for those wanting to bully it is a perfect vehicle.
I can’t see you …
But not all intents are as malicious, sometimes there is simply a “lack of awareness” for the other party’s emotions. Additionally, offline,“[t]he self-conscious emotions of shame, guilt and embarrassment” are shown to “play an important role both in regulating our everyday interactions and also alleviating interactions that have been disrupted.” But online it is easy to post harsh words as “[t]ext communication offers abuilt-in opportunity to keep one’s eyes averted.”
Avoidance of attacks or negative judgments is why some people choose to not post (for instance, a YouTube video, or not to have a blog), or why some may even opt to shut down their online presence on a social site pursuant to an onslaught of negativity. To consider the impact that just one “bad apple” can have, think about the way one person’s presence in the offline world can lend negativity to an environment. Just as a workplace can be tainted by the behavior of one colleague so can one’s interest in participating in online discussions be dampened by interactions with one person. What was once a comfortable and positive haven can rapidly morph into a minefield, one where a user may question each decision to post or spend unnecessary time dealing with a fallout.
Insult is in the eye of the beholder.
In a Master’s Thesis which studied of concept of “flaming” on YouTube , the author, Peter J. Moor, pointed out that interpretation was key. Just as in email, lacking knowledge of the sender and/or his/her body language leads to interpretation of message other than was intended. While some comments were made to insult the party, in some instances miscommunication was also present. Referring in this case to those posting videos on YouTube, though it can well apply to other forms of online communication (e.g. blog post comments, twitter responses etc.):
“posters may think too often that comments are primarily aimed at them, and they may think that comments are intended to be offensive or provoking when they are not. Also, they may interpret comments different from their intended purposes …”
A telling example discussed in the paper played out as follows:
“Thompsen describes how some of his ideas in a philosophical discussion are met with disagreement. The sender of the reply, who is called “B” and is known to Thompsen in real life, expresses his disagreement and ends his message with “Sorry, but knowledge/experience/reality in any formulation shouldn’t be subjected to that sort of crap.” (p. 54). Thompsen is not sure about the intent of this reply especially because the word “crap” is used. He feels frustrated and offended, which he makes clear in a reply to B. When B responds, it appears that his first reply had no offensive intent at all. Also, the word “crap” was wrongly interpreted as such: “Of the “crap” line, well, I have been hearing that line used about the kind of work I do for a long time now from hard-core quantitative types and I guess it just rubs off. Don’t take it personally.” (p. 61).” 
Another part of the thesis examined appropriateness of the communication, in that what one group would consider offensive another would deem completely acceptable. Within these communities, logically, the insult wasn’t, in fact, an insult. Interestingly, once we cross communities in any sense, we encounter these difficulties. But what constitutes a community? Family dynamics have some bearing on a person’s communication style (e.g. confrontation, non-confrontation). And different social circles have various way of interacting. Think for a moment of your circle of friends. You wouldn’t dare mix some of your connections – who wants to risk the fallout that could occur when “Gentle Dave” is faced with “Evil Steve’s” remarks?
Similarly, I have a friend with whom our method of affection is to insult each other as viciously as possible. It’s a game, a form of improv – and we’re aware of it . But were we to deal with everyone in this capacity, we’d soon find ourselves without work, or friends. Different jokes for different folks, I think they say. Since, we don’t know all folks and their different styles of communication, nor intent, what can we effectively surmise during online confrontations? And how do we instill an awareness of how things may be interpreted?
On to you.
[Part 3 will appear... soon]
 “The Online Disinhibition Effect“, John Suler (PDF)
 “The role of shame, guilt and embarrassment in online social dilemmas, Asima Vasalou, Adam Joinson, Jeremy Pitt (PDF)
 “The Online Disinhibition Effect”, Suler (as above)
 “Flaming on YouTube”, Peter J. Moor (PDF)
(Note: This post was originally written for – and published on - OneDegree)
The internet keeps us tapped in and our lives are fuller for it. But, as we are all aware, online communication is a mixed blessing.
My kingdom for a context. Context is so critical – it can be absent from many online postings. What is the background? What happened right before that YouTube clip or what is really going on with that person? Why is there such hostility on a post comment? Further, we often lack nuance and information that clues us into intention, such as tone of voice, personality, relationship of involved parties, as well as facial expression and body language. We make instantaneous judgments – and they’re not always accurate.
Someone is being so passive aggressive right now. With the ability to vent publicly in a fast moving stream of communication, being passive aggressive just got a whole lot easier. The blurring of public and private lines complicates matters too. You’d like to vent about a coworker or about a recent conversation with a client, but the other party is following your communication, and so the message gets disguised. Sorta. Or you delude yourself into thinking that your words will propel another party into action. I have a friend who posts frequently on Facebook to her boyfriend about how she is feeling about their relationship. Only it’s not directed at him. And it’s thinly veiled. Still, something like, (and I’m making this up) “someone better clean up his act or he’s gonna get dusted” tells us everything – while accomplishing nothing.
Time is the friend. It is often said that time heals all wounds. Lack of time, in my opinion, rubs salt into them. Recently, I was part of an unfortunate public internet exchange. It was on a forum where I had a duty to address. The rapidity of the communication form created an urgency to respond. In the thick of it, I was lost on how to handle authentically and would have preferred time and space to process and act properly. Admittedly, I still might have made similar mistakes but, with time to consider, hopefully less.
To clarify, I’ll continue. And continue. Addressing matters publicly isn’t always effective – or the best option. True, social sites make it possible to have a open discussion and valuable debate. At the same time, it encourages protracted conversation. And with character limits not all of what needs to get said gets said. Which leads to more postings, which further escalates and creates that false sense of urgency.
In my quest to be more Replicant. backspace. logical, I frequently read psychology books and articles. (I also gave an informal talk on its relation to social media recently.) There are particular issues with the online space as well as offline problems that are heightened by online communication. This series looks at some of these in relation to social media. As well as some of the ways in which psychology proves the gains of our participation.
The series will begin April 1st.
My “Mistakes, Mayhem and Music – April 24, 2009 Week in Review” is now up on One Degree.
You can read it there. It’s funky, fly and fresh ;)
My 2008 favorites post is now up! Read “Wassup, Jeep Liberty and SuperHeros” Wassup, Jeep Liberty and SuperHeros on OneDegree.
This is the third part of my series on Crowdsourcing, originally
published on One Degree at:
“I wonder how this genetic gold rush effects the search for infectious agents? After all, we now know that whatever genetic predisposition there is towards ulcers it’s the Helicobactor pilori that accounts for the vast bulk of the cases. Also, it’s becoming clear that bacterial infections in the walls of blood vessels plays a roll in arteriosclerosis and infarcs. Schizophrenia seems to have an infectious component as well. With everyone tumbling into the genetic gold mine how much science is going to be done searching out infectious diseases?”
- From a comment posted on Wired.com by arpad
I began the last article with a rant about the quality of comments posted to YouTube (as an example of why it’s understandable to fear the crowds). As evidenced above, the crowd can respond wisely. And comments on sites such as Wired.com can produce more astute feedback, than say YouTube. (Note, I’m biased here, I can’t love Wired more than I already do – were it a guy, I would blush and wave at him, as I do firemen.)
The attention span component certainly plays a large role in the quality of comments: YouTube viewers are looking for a quick fix (I watch it too, so I’m not judging), while Wired readers often aim to delve deeper into the pot and hence stick around long enough to make often well-articulated, well-thought-out comments. This can sometimes be true as well for the level of participants in crowdsourcing projects, especially when their motivations are primarily based in passion.
And, in a subtle way, we all tap into the wisdom of crowds every time we search for information on the web – initially by using a search engine (Google “which organizes websites based on how they link to each other” or Wikipedia founders’ Wikiasari) and then when we, among other things, assess the poster’s/site’s reliablity.
Wondering how to insert a Windows Media player into your blog? (I was) – well the information is out there, posted by someone who knows more about the subject than you (OK, me). And, just like the companies who employ crowdsourcing, we must filter the information (in our case, choices) to find the best answer (e.g. this site explains it all clearly and is clean and organized: I think I’ll trust it, rather than one that looks like Geocities circa 1998).
Only a select few of the comments on Wired.com, in fact, make it into the actual magazine. Filtering is critical and not everyone’s contribution is focused, relevant or equal.
“Used properly, [Crowdsourcing] can generate new ideas, shorten research and development time, cut development costs, and create a direct, emotional connection with customers.” In fact, when appropriately integrated, Crowdsourcing “can be a great way to access new ideas, find solutions to problems or quickly build out that impossible task”. You can use Crowdsourcing to encourage feedback, get others to vet and weigh ideas, have problems addressed and solved early in the process, help market and promote your product, and even reduce risk by giving customers what they want (e.g. Threadless).
Of course, it’s not right for every company. But if you want to make Crowdsourcing work, here are some tips.
Pick Good Crowds, Ask Good Questions
It is imperative that you are clear on whose input you are soliciting – is it everyone? Likely not. You may only want the feedback of a select few. “For any crowdsourcing activity, the first step is to pick the right crowd! Equally important, you must ask the right question” and “it’s a good idea to focus the discussion around one area and clearly define what you’re trying to achieve and what the community is all about.”
Many cite InnoCentive as a perfect example of filtering the crowd since it “limit[s] audience participation by natural selection. People who join InnoCentive Inc.’s “open innovation marketplace, for instance, tend to be scientists, engineers, inventors and business experts because they’re called upon to respond to highly complex challenges posted by organizations, or “seekers.”
There is something to be said about how not knowing everything about a company allows people to come up with more creative ideas and solutions and be more inclined to (dare I say it… yes, I dare) “think outside the box”.
But some that claim decision making is near impossible without that understanding and that it is imperative that contributors be familiar with the specific company/industry/and or task at hand. “[A] microchunk isn’t really just a simple task – it comes with a history. Much thought and time and action has been put into whatever it is to get it to the current state. An understanding of that history is necessary if you are going to move the task forward, even if the work itself (the microchunk) only takes a few minutes.”
Watch out for the lowest-common denominator, or an information cascade, especially with regards to voting. Winners of voting can merely be the ideas that most people agreed on, not necessarily the best one. And voting itself can easily be influenced by others if results are made visible during the process.
Voting, however, is a nebulous arena since it is a function that the crowds do best (e.g. “American Idol has produced highly successful artists”). “When a company like John Fluevog Boots & Shoes asks its fans to submit and vote on new shoe designs – that is a model based on the wisdom of crowds. The wisdom of the mass is more likely to identify a winner than a select few.”
Making Your Site User-Friendly and Ready-to-Wear
As mentioned in Part 2 of this series, one of the reasons these types of projects fail is the platform. Programming and usability of the site should be a priority and should be solid before you get the crowds involved. You don’t want them to arrive, find nothing there or discover that the site is difficult to navigate and leave. We’ve all left a site because it was impossible to navigate, or simply, boring. It is infinitely more destructive when you need the crowd to be completely engaged, stick around and come back often.
“The most important piece of advice I can give you about this is to make your site/product/software useful even if you only have one user. People keep trying to create sites where users can share all this stuff, but unless you build a critical mass, the site isn’t very useful.”
Anyone contributing their time needs to feel that they are getting something in return. Only if this is the case will contributors stick around and continue to participate.
The topic/project needs to inspire passion in its contributors: Michael Sikorsky of Cambrian House notes that “[CH’s] members care less about money than they do about meaning. Their labor has to hold meaning for them.”
Speaking about crowdsourcing project, Assignment Zero, Jeff Howe observed: “What the interviews make clear is that contributors volunteered to tackle subjects about which they were passionate and knowledgeable. In this they held a considerable advantage over professionals, who often must complete interviews with little time (or inclination) for advance research.”
Further, in order to keep the crowd around, the arrangement has to be transparent and inspire trust “For the community to be truly engaged, it is extremely important for the company to be very transparent.” You can keep the crowds posted and in the loop in many ways – one example would be Cambrian House’s weekly updates and emails (Jasmine Antonick, VP of Communications, at a panel discussion).
Antonick also notes, “people will not work on something if they don’t feel that they are gaining”
And, be absolutely certain to reward. If you want to inspire loyalty it is imperative that you compensate people who work for you (even those in the “webosphere”) in one form or another. Mzinga’s Aaron Strout emphasizes that it is about partnering, rather than exploiting.
And your fairness will reap rewards in kind, because “[b]y providing rewards or incentives consistent with the value of the ideas being submitted, you can get greater participation from qualified users and a higher level of confidence in the quality of the ideas being submitted.”
Accept the Loss of Control
Being “out there” is not always easy (e.g. I can hear the snide comments coming from my friends when I wrote that sentence). Similarly, when you ask for input, you may not always like what you hear.
“Crowdsourcing isn’t for everyone, so make sure you have the fortitude required to make the effort pay off. Humility, a thick skin, and a receptive management culture are key prerequisites. Be prepared to see and hear some things you might not want to. The people who participate may really like your business or your product, but the way they articulate it may be very different than what you’d do yourself.”
Leadership (without censoring)
Crowdsourcing is not all that democratic – it can’t be. “Groups need leaders because they need direction.” “…having an expert in place as a product manager can provide guard rails to keep things on track. The product manager can bring a single, unified vision and – this is critical – can communicate back to the community why a particular idea is not being used.”
Collaboration in crowdsourcing is possible as long as there is essentially a leader or guiding force. Then people can vote and do whatever is required of them within that structure. Collaborations which involve almost complete consensus is very difficult to achieve, and when it is, that consensus averages out into a sort of blandness.
“Every authentic example of collective intelligence that I am aware of also shows how that collective was guided or inspired by well-meaning individuals. These people focused the collective and in some cases also corrected for some of the common hive mind failure modes.” (Jaron Lanier)
Even when you open your world up to include the crowd, as Charles Leadbeater, author of the upcoming book “We-Think” writes, “It rarely works as a free-for-all. It requires some core norms and rules of behavior, but not many. It does require leadership but of a particular, open, conversational kind. It thrives on decentralized cooperation and people taking responsibility for working together. So it needs a leadership that makes the conditions for that possible.”
These organizations need organization. Although “a self-policing community (possibly, with some moderation) can help weed out low-quality input and spam”, it cannot all be turned over to the masses. A caveat: monitor and moderate gently: “Once you slow communities down they realize they are being censured or they’re being interrupted, and their natural momentum begins to either slow or dissipate.” (quote from an interview with Barry Libert)
Examples of Successful Crowdsourcing
- Lego Mindstorms NXT, Tremor, Threadless, Trendwatching, GoldCorp and Netflix’s contests
- Cambrian House
- Citizen journalism (such as Nowpublic, Gannett, and Muckraker’s use of crowds)
- And others
The series concludes with, the “Concluding Thoughts” (Hey, I used up all my clever titles in the past two posts…). (Wanna prove crowdsourcing right? Suggest a better title by contacting me or submitting one below.)
2 parts of my 4-part series on Crowdsourcing 101 are now up on One Degree.
Part 1: “Crowdsourcing – The Basics”: http://www.onedegree.ca/2007/12/crowdsourcing-1.html
Part 2: “Are You Afraid of the Crowds?”:
My article on marketing to Boomers is on One Degree!