Sunday, March 9, 2008

Collaborative Transcription as Crowdsourcing

Yesterday morning I saw Derek Powazek present on crowdsourcing -- user-generated content and collaborative communities. While he covered a lot of material that (users will do unexpected things, don't exploit people, design for the "selfish user"), there was one anecdote I thought especially relevant for FromThePage.

A publishing house had polled a targeted group of people to figure out whether they'd be interested in contributing magazine articles. The response was overwhelmingly positive. The appropriate studies were conducted, and the site was launched -- A blank page, ready for article contributions.

The response from those previously enthusiastic users was silence. Crickets. Tumbleweeds. The editors quickly changed tack and posted a list of ten subjects who'd agreed to be interviewed by the site's contributors,
asking for volunteers to conduct and write up the interviews. This time, people responded with the same enthusiasm they'd shown at the original survey.

The lesson was that successful editors of collaborative content endeavorshave less in common with traditional magazine/project editors thanthey do with community managers. Absent thecommand-and-control organizational structure, a volunteer community still needs to have its effortsdirected. However, this must be done through guidance andpersuasion through concrete suggestions, goal-setting, and feedback. In future releases, I need to add featuresto help work owners communicate suggestions and rewards* to scribes.

(Powazek suggests attaboys, not complex replacements for currency here)

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