Since 'Shoot The Summer' I've been waiting for an excuse to do another crowdsourced project. The challenge of what to do with the Essential Mix lead me to ask What are the assets of the show? After the music I'd say the next biggest asset is the community around it. So, this year I will look at how to bring that community together in an interesting and playful way to create something quite wonderful around the show.
With that in mind I came to this session hosted by Scott Belsky, Behance Jeffrey Kalmikoff, Digg, formerly Threadless.
Before defining the guiding principles they discussed the value of wisdom plus labour, both of which are key factors in crowdsourcing. The wisdom of Wikipedia is the knowledge around the project, whilst the labour is the editing and correcting that is required.
They also discussed the difference between a crowd and a community. A crowd has a common purpose, it’s based around an event. A crowd can disband at any point, like if at the end of a rock concert you leave, you’re no longer apart of that crowd. However, when you leave the concert you’re still a fan of the band,
and you are going to continue giving the band your money by buying their music and merchandise. The community
member puts work into the community, and it becomes self perpetual.
Before taking on a crowdsourcing project you need to be aware of the risks involved.
The Risks of Crowdsourcing
Discount sushi - Something that seemed like a good idea at the time but you kinda regret it afterward. It
filled a need.
Football Team Vs. Strip Club — A football team benefits when all members of the team work together, help each other and work towards a communal goal. Behind the scenes in a strip club is the opposite. Because girls are working for tips there is not mutual benefit in working together
Careless engagement - Does your community care enough? If it is
disconnected from reputation then it is a risk. If your only incentive is to
keep your job then you’ll only work hard enough so that you don’t get fired.
Wasted neurons — At the end of an open call, people have spent a lot of
time working on a project, and the vast majority of it isn’t used. You have to
weigh your time against the potential rewards.
No contextual reputation — If you’ve already got a great reputation in
your field, the level playing field created by communities isn’t your friend.
If you’re the new kid with great ideas, it is helpful.
Questions we should ask of any sourcing model
1. Can it foster community?
a. Is there incentive for conversation and learning?
b. Is there incentive beyond a specific transaction?
c. Is there a culture of collaboration?
2. Does it tap collective wisdom
a. If in gaining opinion or insight, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
3. Does it nurture participants
a. Does work benefit reputation?
b. Are participants building relationships?
c. Are resources being wasted?
d. Are the terms and facts are crystal clear?
For the first part of this session Derek went through the well told story of Francis Galton’s cow guessing contest from James Surowiecki’s book and laid out the 4 elelments of a ‘wise crowd’
The 4 elements of 'wise crowds':
1. Diversity. A group with many different points of view will make better decisions than one where everyone knows the same information.
2. Independence. People's opinions are not determined by those around them.
3. Decentralization. Power removed from one central location. Important decisions are made by individuals based on their own local and specific knowledge.
4. Aggregation. A way of pulling together all the views of the group into one shared vision.
Looking at these 4 elements of wise crowds Derek Powazek thought about them in the context of the web and came up with the following rules designing for Wisdom of Crowds.
1. Small simple tasks: Make it easy for your audience. A comment form is an open petri dish where anything can grow (for example dumb Youtube comments) however a very simple ‘Hor or Not’ will gather the wisdom accurately because of the simplicity of the task
2. Large diverse groups: Groupthing is what happens when participants put the priority of the group first. Design your groups so that they encourage a diverse selection to join. A great example of this was the Chevy Tahoe campaign. No one spoke out or said inviting the audience to create ads for a petrol guzzling 4x4 was a bad idea through fear or repercussion. The results weren’t pretty. Members of a large diverse would have because they had no vested interest in keeping everyone in the group happy. . 3. Design for selfishness: People don’t participate unless they are getting something for it. Design for people’s selfish motivation or you will only get bad or no participation. A good example of this is the banner on Threadless which says “Submit an idea for Fame, Friends and $2500”.
4. Result aggregation: Aggregate the data without turning it into a game? Once you display in a list that is voted for it becomes a game. When it turns into a game or contest it gets messy because people look for ways of hyping. Digg is playable. Favrd is a good example of how to aggregate in a non-playable way. It simply monitors ‘Favourites’ from Twitter.
The session got really interesting towards the end when he talked about 2 really fascinating experiments that demonstrated how important design was in creating a Wisdom of Crowds environment on the web. The first was based around colour. There was an advert for a camera place on blue and red backgrounds. When asked about the blue background ad people talked about the image in a more creative way whilst the people who saw the red advert talked in more detail. The reason being that blue is a soothing colour which creates a relaxing environment for users. We associate red with danger, as a result people become more alert noticing more detail for fear of messing up.
Our brains are good at taking diverse feedback – this is how we understand the world. If you takeaway some of the input our brains work twice as hard to fill in the gaps.
In the second experiment there were two groups who were asked sets of questions. The ‘in control' group were always made to feel their answers were right. The ‘out of control’ were made to feel like everything they answered was wrong. The groups were then shown photos of nothing but a cloud.
What happened next was remarkable. The ‘in control’ group found nothing in the picture. However the ‘out of control’ group found something in the picture other than the cloud. We fill in those blanks as a by-product of our insecurities. When you feel out of control, you make up stories that don't have anything to do with what you're being shown.
When you feel out of control the sense of insecurity and fear forces you to question things more, your senses are sharpened and you look for answers resulting in you making stuff up. They then went back to the ‘out of control’ group and asked them to tell a story about something they felt passionate about. After they spoke for a while about something they felt good about, their pet dog for example, they were shown the images again yet saw nothing.
These two experiments tell us a lot about how important getting the design for Wisdom of Crowds is. Colour, information and layout play a big part in preparing your crowd for providing wise data.