Archive for the 'Collaboration' Category

How to RSVP on Zvents?

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

I’m a very happy user of Upcoming. Upcoming is a social calendar (now part of Yahoo!). It allows you to find, share, and follow events online. It is social to the point where I now get more than half of my events via my 80+ immediate contacts: I follow their “event stream” and pick out the things that I also like — works like a charm.

Today, I wanted to RSVP for the Lunch 2.0 meeting in Mountain View tomorrow. You can RSVP on their blog or on Zvents. So I thought I give Zvents a try.

Here’s the event on Zvents: Lunch 2.0

Two questions which I couldn’t get answered so far:

  • Where on the page can I RSVP?
  • Who else is going?

Either I’m totally blind, or maybe I’m missing the point and Zvents is not a social calendar?

Anyone have a clue please fill me in.


Monday, January 22nd, 2007

From the Beehive State comes another wiki project that aims at bridging the gap between citizens and people in office:

Politicopia gives people a solid handle on the Utah Legislature. Users create summaries of bills, pro and con arguments, comments, links, and more. For example, check out these pages:

Payday Lending
Vouchers for Private School Tuition
In-State Tuition for Illegal Aliens

Help Wanted. Anyone can edit or create a page. To discourage trolls and spammers, registration is required. This is an experiment in open democracy.

On the pro and con arguments, please stick to your side. If you don’t like the other side’s argument, rebut it on the other side of the ledger or tear it apart in the comments.

Be cool.

This is in some ways similar to Campaigns Wikia (which doesn’t seem to be very active at this point, as far as I can tell).

One challenge I see with a pure wiki approach in this context is the fact that in order for participants to contribute they must make edits. And while that is ok when collaboratively writing a document, it does not scale well when it comes to any type of polling or voting.

Secondly, the unstructured nature of the data makes filtering, aggregation, or visualization — in short, anything that helps with the consumption of large amounts of data — very difficult.

Via Personal Democracy Forum: The Revolution Will Be Wikified

Creating Building Blocks for Independents

Sunday, November 12th, 2006

Earlier this year, Tantek Çelik gave a presentation at the SXSW Interactive conference on “Building Blocks for Independents” and has meanwhile launched a wiki to help expand these ideas.

Friday, November 10th, 2006

I’m spending the day at the Citizen Summit at Citizen Space (Citizen Agency’s new office — nice place). As somewhat of an unexpected treat, Dave McLure did a round of is entrepreneurial improv theatre that he co-invented: Foo Camp 2006, HalfBaked, & the Art of Geekery.

How it works:

As a group, collect 50 words. Break up in groups of five. Choose two words and announce your company name ( Come up with a business plan (name, concept/product, revenue model, marketing plan, logo, tagline). Pitch to experts and VCs. Have your startup judged and voted on by the group. All in under 30 minutes. Celebrate the insanity!

Can you do something very quickly in short format? It’s all about speed!

This was first done at Foo Camp 2006. The winner then? Bottlecap Porn.

The winner today? Donut Divorve. Divorces are usually very time-consuming, costly and not a lot of fun. Donut Divorce wants you to be able to get a divorce in the time it takes to buy a donut. It’s an online service. Both parties can invite all their friends and family to help duke out the details of the split. Donut Divorce makes money by taking 10 percent of any settlement that’s reached, which — in part — will be redistributed amont the contributors. Of course, there’s point rewards and reputation systems and lots of web 2.0 bells an whistles.


Crowdsourcing — Opportunities for politics and government

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

What is crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing” is a term coined by Wired magazine writer Jeff Howe and editor Mark Robinson in June 2006. It describes a business model akin to outsourcing, but relying upon unpaid or low-paid amateurs who use their spare time to create content, solve problems, or even do corporate R&D. Crowds targeted for crowdsourcing include garage scientists, amateur videographers, freelancers, photo enthusiasts, data companies, writers, smart mobs and the electronic herd.


Crowdsourcing attempts to replace selectively hired, trained and managed workforces with mass volunteer participation and self-organization. While not a new idea, it is becoming mainstream. Open source projects are a form of crowdsourcing that has existed for years. People who may not know one another work together online to create complex software such as the Linux kernel, and the Firefox browser. In recent years Web 2.0 technology has evolved to allow non-technical people to participate in online projects. Just as important, crowdsourcing presumes that a large number of enthusiasts can outperform a small group of experienced professionals. The tagline for Jeff Howe’s website,, is The Rise of the Amateur.

Back in July, over on Tim’s blog, I asked:

I wonder if this could be applied to the world of politics as well: Citizen engagement, crowdsourced policy development, only an engaged citizen is a good citizen etc.

Now two very critical postings by Chris and Tara make me want to get back to this.

Chris: Crowdsourcing — the neue sweatshop labor

Wired got it wrong when it established the term, putting business interests ahead of the community’s — suggesting it’d discovered a gold mine of cheap labor that could become the next wave after international outsourcing. What Wired should have said of course, casting it in such a light, was that it’d discovered the next source of legalized sweatshop labor where you never even need to meet face-to-face, let alone account for, the people doing the work.

Tara: Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

The word crowdsourcing makes me sad.

Why don’t people just say: “wanting you to give your time to my project for free” or “could you do me a favor that will never be returned?”. It sounds so much nicer.

I don’t think I agree. If the terms are transparent and participation is strictly voluntary, I don’t see why crowdsourcing is necessarily a bad thing. Obviously, it may require a lot of effort in building relationships and community (much more so than with traditional outsourcing, I would guess, and something that not all corporations may be capable of doing).

On the contrary, I see enormous potential for crowdsourcing in the area of politics, government, and citizen participation. In a way, projects like AmericaSpeaks (to name just one among many others who were present at the NCDD conference in San Francisco this past August) do just that: they help governments and organizations crowdsource the process of finding smarter solutions and building consensus around them.

And why does that make sense? Because even if they wanted to, governments and the people involved in politics are oftentimes simply not capable of doing it on their own. Without consulting their citizens, they seem less likely to find the right solution to a complex, messy and controversial issue, let alone bring about consensus or get group buy-in. Instead, since citizen involvement is usually not an option due to organizational and budget constraints, they have to go it alone, achieving mediocre results at best.

This is what we have been used to. And this, in my opinion, is one of the main reasons why so many people around the world are frustrated with the political class, with the people who represent them, with the system as a whole.

Now what if…

What if there were an easy and fun way to do this type of collaborative work between governments and their citizens on the web? What if engaging your citizens became a viable option — efficient, affordable, rewarding for both sides? What if, as a government, for the first time in history you could ask the people for help when you need it?

Would citizens be interested? I believe so, and it’s worth a try. I am pretty convinced that more people have a pretty good idea of what makes a good citizen, and they would love to contribute a lot more than they already do — if only it wasn’t so hard.

And as for payment? My guess is you wouldn’t even need to pay people for this type of work, at least not in money terms. If you can convince someone that their contribution as a citizen, their time and effort, their learning about an issue, engaging with their peers, trying to understand each other’s points of view, trying to move things forward, going through all the sweat, tears, pain, and difficulty — if you can prove to that one citizen that all this wasn’t just a waste of her time, but instead, that her input really made a difference, then you will have rewarded her already.

RedBlue — An experiment in cross-spectrum dialogue

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

Tom Atlee, The Co-Intelligence Institute, just sent a notification about the following project:

RedBlue will be an interactive Internet application that will provide an exciting yet safe way to engage directly with someone on “the other side” of the political spectrum. This new approach to civic engagement is designed to leave behind the confrontational and polarizing forms of discourse that dominate today’s Red vs. Blue debates and reintroduce Americans to the old-fashioned notion that in matters of public policy, there can be room for reasonable people to disagree.

RedBlue will create a private, one-on-one online dialogue process by matching participants with contrasting views. “Counterparts” will learn about the ground rules of productive dialogue, then engage on a difficult issue by viewing or reading a fictional narrative scenario that frames a front-page issue in personal, rather than theoretical, terms. Their email-style discussion will be monitored by a “virtual facilitator” that will make suggestions, provide feedback, and offer to step in when the heat of the moment threatens to derail the civility of the dialogue.

Another interesting approach. My guess is whoever gets this thing right might be in for something big.

E-Democracy Forum Rules

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

As the Campaigns Wikia mailing list is struggling with the challenges of how to have a meaningful discourse via email, Steven Clift gives out invaluable advice:

… you need a well defined set of rules and a forum manager empowered to warn/remove those who violate civility rules. You also need participants willing to use the delete key on the posts that might politically offend them but are not uncivil (rather than pay for a moderator or censor).

He then points to his very own E-Democracy Forum Rules:

Based on a decade of experience, these rules provide a citizen-based foundation for online civility by focusing on public issues in order to promote effective public agenda-setting through dialogue. These online public forums about the sharing of ideas and information rather than being right with one’s ideology or winning an argument. Our forums are not designed for debating abstract political philosophy or ridiculing others for their beliefs, backgrounds, or speculative motivations.

Online civility, in my view, is another key concept for any type of web-based deliberation project.

System One: advanced wiki made in Austria

Friday, September 15th, 2006

This looks interesting: System One screencast (via Techcrunch).

From their site:

System One combines human intelligence and machine power in an intuitive web-based application.

And from the screencast:

System One filters the information flood — individually, relevant, in real time.

I met Bruno Haid, System One’s Head of Strategy, at the Hyperscope 1.0 release party in Menlo Park last week. I look forward to talking to him some more at the upcoming Blogtalk Reloaded conference in Vienna.

Interesting, too, how we just saw the demo of Aachen, Germany-based Mnemomap at the recent Web Monday Silicon Valley, who are trying to do similar things on the public web.

Summer reading

Sunday, July 23rd, 2006

Ordered a bunch of books today that had accumulated on my Amazon wishlist over the past few months:

  • Defensive Design for the Web: How to improve error messages, help, forms, and other crisis points (Voices That Matter) — 37signals
  • A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (Center for Environmental Structure Series) — Christopher Alexander
  • The Deliberative Democracy Handbook: Strategies for Effective Civic Engagement in the Twenty-First Century — John Gastil
  • Cultivating Communities of Practice — Etienne Wenger
  • Visualizing Argumentation: Software Tools for Collaborative and Educational Sense-Making (Computer Supported Cooperative Work) — Paul Arthur Kirschner
  • The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter — Juanita Brown
  • Hollywood Haven: Homes and Haunts of the European Emigres and Exiles in Los Angeles (Studies in Austrian Literature, Culture, and Thought Translation Series) — Cornelius Schnauber


Saturday, June 10th, 2006

I caught this nice little piece of conversation between Mike Arrington and Gil Penchina where they talk about Flock (towards the end of the latest edition of Talkcrunch: Episode 8 - Gil Penchina On Leaving eBay for Wikia, starts at 24:00 minutes)

Gil: In terms of a smaller company that I’m pretty passionate about I have to say Flock ranks up there as probably my favorite early-stage company. Bart, who is the CEO, was at Mozilla and was, you know, looking around going “Boy, here’s a foundation that’s doing something really amazing but all these companies keep coming and trying to partner with us and they can’t because we’re a foundation. So, I’m gonna go off and build a commercial open-source browser and be more partner-centric,” and Flock has built an incredible product and they’re actually, you know, beta testing, you know, the next version right now. So, you know, Flock has built a great browser, they have created quite a following, they’re very partner-centric and have been partnering with a number of people. And, you know, my map is that the browser business needs… to be successful in that business you need a 4-5 percent share. And that on a 5 percent share of the browser business Flock can go public. So yeah, I’m pretty bullish on a company that has to lose to be able to go public.

Mike: So I’m running the current version of Flock on my Mac, and it’s amazing. I mean, it’s absolutely wonderful. It’s a completely different product than it was in the fall…

Gil: Oh yeah.

Mike: … when I liked it as well. But, you know, the ability to interact with Flickr and with… and I haven’t even used the blogging part of it [...] but the rest, just an absolute pleasure to use and I can’t wait for them to launch and I think they are going to do it in a week or two.

Gil: Yep, yeah, it should be, they were, you know… should be any day now — so you have the new version that has the picture integration and all that?

Mike: Yeah.

Gil: Yeah, it’s really cool.

Mike: It’s really cool, yep. So… I’m looking forward to that launching.

Gil: I’m very bullish on this one…

It’s even more cool when you listen to it. To me, there is so much Silicon Valley in that little piece of chat I don’t even know where to start.

Anyway, my point is: I’m back to Playing with Flock.