collaborative filtering or publicity stunt?

netflix is netflix crowdsourcing or just sending out a million customer feedback postcards? this author thinks so. should you consider crowdsourcing in your practice? and what am i talking about anyway? here’s a primer that should spur you to ask whether this idea could apply to you.
first we have to establish what the meaning of ‘is’ is …what the meaning of “is” is

web 2.0 is the partial fulfillment of the promise made by dot.com companies some 5-10 years ago to deliver services in new, more collaborative, less expensive, ways by utilizing the collective power of individual devices hooked up together into a “wolrd wide web.”

the web was born in about 1994 when Tim Berners Lee gave a face to what until then had been a platform for exchanging raw data by university types who used it as a cheap, geek friendly resource recently de-classified after development by the department of defense in the late 60’s and 70’s as the ARPANET (advanced research projects agency network).

arpanet the DOD’s original idea had been to establish a way for their multiple installations to maintain contact without relying on a central information point that would be vulnerable to attack. as with most government projects however, the end result was antiquated the moment it was complete. the government then did what they always do — sold the output of the project for next to nothing as surplus. and in no time the internet was born.

got all that? good. now for something we’re sure you’ll really like.

bullwinklesomething we’re sure you’ll really like
one of the more interesting concepts floating in this cloud of web 2.0 hype is the idea that has come to be known variously as as crowdsourcing, mobsourcing, collaborative filtering, or simply the wisdom of crowds. whatever you call this phenomenon, it really just refers to the the simple notion of extracting hidden resources by, well, asking for them. in other words, if 2 heads are better than one, try 1,000,000 and see what they come up with. and since opinions are like … uh, bellybuttons … everybody has one so you won’t run short.

does this method work? consider that our ever-more-powerful computers mine reams of previously unreachable, untouched, unitelligible data every day and that data-mining of this variety makes up such legal technology leaps as electronic discovery.

putting theory into practice and back into theory

in the end, crowd sourcing or collaborative filtering is aimed at establishing a better way of doing things, or at least aimed at coaxing out the best of the ideas that are already in the field. and that could mean a lot.

so how would a collaborative filter apply to your firm? have you asked your clients lately about the value of your services? do you want to know? what worked with respect to one client may or may not be useful to another. of course you don’t know until you ask and knowing is half the battle. crowdsourcing anyone?

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