Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Crowdfund brings community financing

SA lacks an angel funding network to help online start-ups develop prototypes of their products.

This is the view of Eve Dmochowska, one of the board members of a new initiative, the Crowdfund. “SA cannot compete in the global online sector if it isn't funding start-ups in the beginning stage,” notes Dmochowska, adding that venture capitalist firms are mostly interested in investing large sums of money for proven ideas that generate revenue.

According to Dmochowska, the concept for the Crowdfund started about a month ago, and the initiative has been successful. “I don't know what the benchmarks are, but also I don't have to. A million rand in under a month is very favourable.”

The Crowdfund works by getting masses of people together who invest R1 000 or more, up to a limit of R10 000, she explains. Dmochowska says the investment amount is kept small so should the investment be lost, it becomes immaterial.

When asked about the average amount people were prepared to pledge, Dmochowska said individuals were willing to contribute around R3 000 each.

She says the money is pooled into the Crowdfund, a trust being managed by legal firm Bowman Gilfillan. “Everything is governed by the board and its trustees,” she adds.

“The Crowdfund board approves the use of the fund to finance between 10 and 20 teams that have excellent ideas, with the goal of converting the ideas into workable prototypes in exchange for equity,” she explains. “It also provides valuable mentorship, facilities and services where applicable.”

Dmochowska notes that the economies of scale play a role in the Crowdfunding initiative, which refers to the way pooling a large number of small investments creates a much higher capital.

“Once a workable prototype is developed, a formal venture capitalist network is approached for further funding, at which point the Crowdfund most probably cashes out.”

Dmochowska says there are six criteria that potential entrepreneurs must meet in order to apply for Crowdfunding. “It needs to be an online technology, and must have global applications and aspirations. It must be innovative, appealing, and have a viable and clearly defined business model.”

She adds that the project must be able to complete stage one of the development process within the budget of R50 000 to R100 000.

With the threat of social engineering and scams prevalent as the 2010 Soccer World Cup approaches, ITWeb asked Dmochowska about the potential threat of scams, as the concept could be a mechanism for scamming people out of money.

“Scams from where?” she says. “We don't just hand over money... we work very closely with the start-up all the way.”

According to Dmochowska, the Crowdfund only started officially accepting submissions yesterday, and have already received quite a few submissions.

“We will only start accessing each of the submissions from next week, when we have our first board meeting. But there are definitely some that I think have great potential,” she concludes.
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Root's Crowd Sourcing Launch Deemed A Success

Just about a week after launching its free beta app to help map wireless network performance, Root Wireless reports its crowd sourcing program has generated 1.25 million data points.

The 1.25 million didn't come in just one week; the program started before that, but on March 22, the company opened the beta up to Android and BlackBerry smartphone users. Root is not releasing the number of beta users it has lined up - just that "thousands" of people are involved.

"We're thrilled with the results that we've had so far," says Root Wireless CEO Paul Griff. In the past week, the company has gathered data from every state in the lower 48 and even though it isn't currently targeting areas outside the United States, it has seen download activity from Canada and Mexico.

Root Wireless is using crowd sourcing to collect data because it enables the company to collect far more information in a shorter time than using its own scouts to do mapping in U.S. markets.

The data points, which include everything from signal strength to upload and download speeds and connection failures, are anonymously aggregated into a pool to be used to determine how well a carrier's network performs in a given market. For now, the company is concentrating on the big four U.S. national carriers.

Root's "light" application, which beta users download to their smartphones, runs in the background and was engineered so as not to affect the battery power or performance of the device. Because the app runs in the background, the company is designing a special version for the iPhone.

The Root Mobile application will be released for handsets running Windows Mobile operating systems before the end of the second quarter.

Root Wireless already maps 15 U.S. metropolitan markets where consumers can compare wireless services in their neighborhoods and publishes that through a deal with CNET.

Bellevue, Wash.-based Root estimates that 50,000 crowd sourcers per carrier – well distributed geographically – will be required to map wireless network performance coast-to-coast.
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Bookmark and Share Crowdsources Website Reviews from Thousands of Experts, a crowdsourcing community for website reviews, is now home to over 5,000 web design and development professionals, marketers and entrepreneurs. Concept Feedback allows businesses and website owners to tap in to a diverse and knowledgeable audience to generate quick, actionable ideas and improve website results., a crowdsourcing community for website reviews, today announced that it now offers businesses access to the expertise of over 5,000 web design and development professionals, marketers and entrepreneurs. Anyone with a website can now solicit the opinion of thousands of web experts to help improve the online experience they provide their customers.

Once a website is posted on Concept Feedback, members are invited to provide reviews. On average, a concept receives 12 or more unique reviews, while some can generate as many as 100. Because of the nature of the community, feedback can cover a variety of topics, including design, usability, content and strategy. "Hosting an expert focus group with such a wide range of disciplines could take weeks and cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars" says Founder and CEO, Andrew Follett, "Concept Feedback provides the service instantly, for a fraction of the cost."

Each review posted is accompanied by a reputation score, which allows the customer to determine which feedback to value most. The reputation score is determined by the quality of advice the member has contributed in the past. Members who provide the most insightful reviews are rewarded with extra points, and in some cases, cash prizes.

According to Noel Tock, a web designer at, Concept Feedback is "an awesome tool, and it's helped a non-designer such as is a great way to receive constructive criticism and pre-check designs." Daniel Pataki of Webtastique had a similar experience, "On my first concept I received plenty of reviews, all of them helpful and honest, helping me make a better design." Concept Feedback has been named a "Top 10" website by HOW magazine and one of 10 "excellent feedback sources you should be using right now" by Inspired Mag.

In addition to receiving website feedback, contributing feedback can help improve technical and communication skills, as well as produce new contacts and clients. Timothy Ramler, a freelance designer and member of Concept Feedback said "I have received more immediate input from others during my short period of time with Concept Feedback than I have collectively as a freelance graphic designer. This has really pushed me to a new level."

Over the next several months, Concept Feedback is planning on releasing a number of new features and tools to help businesses create even better websites. "Gathering website feedback is essential to the development of highly performing websites" says Andrew Follett, "and we hope to make that process as fun and efficient as possible!"

For more information on the news that is the subject of this release, please contact Andrew Follett or visit to register for a free account.

About Concept Feedback:

Concept Feedback, LLC was founded by online marketing consultant Andrew Follett in partnership with Chicago-based web development company DevBridge, Inc.


Andrew Follett, President and CEO
Concept Feedback, LLC
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Amateur hour: Crowdsourcing the campaign

Rory Cellan-Jones | 12:25 UK time, Monday, 29 March 2010

Are the political parties now too impoverished - or just too bone idle - to do the basic work of research and campaigning by themselves? Or do they really believe in the wisdom of crowds? 
I ask because both Labour and the Conservatives appear to have caught the crowdsourcing bug.

Last week the Tories appealed to the internet for help in framing their response to the Budget, and now Labour wants web users to design its campaign posters. So how is that going?

Screengrab of Your Budget Response website"Going well", was the verdict of Conservative Party chairman Eric Pickles on its crowdsourcing effort - or at least that's what he was saying on Twitter just an hour or so after the Budget response site 
went live. I asked him how many responses had been received - and he replied:

"Hi Rory, I'm not in the office at the moment but the team tell me they're coming in thick and fast."

Now the Conservatives were always clear that this was not about creating yet another forum for debate about the Budget, but a way of unleashing a citizens' army of researchers who might spot the "devil in the detail" and hand over the ammunition to the hard-pressed Tory Treasury team.
 So, on Friday afternoon I inquired again of the Conservatives - what exactly had been delivered to George Osborne and his team that they had not spotted themselves?

A spokeswoman came back with a rather vague reply. Yes there
 had been "hundreds of really good comments", though they appeared to fall more into the category of opinion rather than fresh analysis. She could not give me any example of a detail spotted by the web crowd that had eluded the party's Treasury team, but promised that some of the comments would be published this week.

So it looks as though the "crowdsourcing" of online economic expertise has morphed into just another web forum.

And what of Labour's plan to save on its advertising budget by getting its supporters to design some posters? It's promising that next weekend digital poster boards in London and Manchester will carry a poster designed by one of its online supporters - "the first time a political party, certainly in the UK has done this."

Well I think the Liberal Democrats might contest that - they've had a campaign running for a while on their ACT social networking site, inviting activists to "design a poster promoting the core Lib Dem value of 'Fairness'". They already have a number of entries up on the site, and appear to be making their "crowdsourcing" more of a public affair than either the Conservatives or Labour.

Labour's press release about its poster competition quotes Robert Senior, the head of the party's own advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, as saying,"The world of one-way communications is a bygone era. We prefer to invite our audiences to participate in the ideas and play an active part in this election."

And by the way is it just a coincidence that this initiative was unveiled on the day that the Conservatives' ad agency, M&C Saatchi, launched their latest poster? Perhaps the advertising war between Labour and the Conservatives is also turning into a continuation of an ancient advertising industry feud.

But I wonder if Mr Senior is really convinced that online amateurs can do as good a job as his highly professional - and highly-paid - copywriters and artists?

Examples such as "mydavidcameron" have shown that the online community can be pretty inventive when it comes to disrupting the traditional campaign poster.

But we've yet to see the evidence that the amateurs can do as good a job as either professional political researchers or advertising executives. So expect plenty more "crowdsourcing" initiatives, but I think the parties will still be spending as much as they can afford on professional campaigning.
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The Guardian asks what role crowdsourcing will play in the future of journalism

Mercedes Bunz of The Guardian's Digital Media Blog recently asked whether it was time for journalists to fully embrace crowd-sourced journalism with an award. This hypothetical question was in fact just recently made a reality, when an anonymous group of Iranians received a George Polk Award in Journalism for their footage of a female protesters violent death. Despite the difficulties of determining who in the crowd should get the award, should it actually become its own award category, the blog post sheds light upon the important role the crowd now plays in journalism.
Social networking services consistently put average day citizens on the front lines of news as it is unfolding. Reporting on events like the plane that safely crash-landed on the Hudson River or the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake can only accurately be told with the help of crowd sourcing technology. Crowd sourcing websites like Ushahidi actually worked to save lives in the Haitian earthquake, pooling user contributions to create a crisis map of the most devastated areas.

The crowds ability to capture and publish what they see, hear, and feel as it happens ultimately creates a more accurate mosaic of an event felt from a variety of different perspectives.

Although crowd sourcing depends upon users essentially being in the wrong place at the right time, they ultimately contribute material that The Digital Media Blog described as "faster, more detailed and richer than the material provided by news agencies."

Crowd sourcing, in a less obvious application, can also be used for investigative reporting. One reporter followed the tip-offs posted by citizens only to uncover a sensational story regarding the police's involvement in a death.

Respected news outlets such as The Guardian and CNN have gone so far as to reach out to the crowd. The Guardian has an entire page devoted to uncovering MP's expenses, which employs the help of average reader in sifting through nearly 240,000 pages of expense documents. So far 26, 155 users have participated in the effort. Employing crowd sourcing in a similar fashion, The Huffington Post called upon readers to scourge the 1,400 page US Senate Stimulus Bill. The call was meet by 367 participants who willingly trudged through the bill in a search of any abnormalities that might exist.

For news agencies to monitor all of the incoming information from the masses would be an impossible task. News outlets and reports might be willing to devote their time to finding coverage of a specific event, but looking for story leads is impossible.

In order to save time while also capitalizing on the crowds desire to participate in the news, some outlets have created digital versions to accompany and perhaps replace the more traditional "tip" hotlines. Sites like the CNN iReport are notable for taking such an approach and receive nearly 10,000 monthly iReports. Although this represents a hefty amount of data to sift through, news outlets can use statistics to tag reoccurring leads that might result in a bigger story.

For reporters to benefit from crowd sourcing, The Digital Media Blog recommends that journalists cultivate a crowd following, stating " order to be able to ask for information using a blog or Twitter account, it is required that the journalist has built up a relationship within a community." In the competitive world of journalism, crowd sourcing can be used as a huge asset to reporters in gathering information. While issues of accuracy are ever present, Dan Gillmor, author of We the Media, believes the combined "mosaic [of images or information] will be true, even if a few pixels aren't."
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Bookmark and Share gets a seat at the table - Twitter Trends for Business

Twitter Trends for Business: 149 Smart, Interesting People to Follow Today
Whether or not you can make it to the #140conf in New York April 20-21 at the 92nd Street Y, the list of speakers represents a veritable Who’s Who of business-savvy Twitterers worth following.

The event could be the largest gathering of it’s kind as participants take a hard look at what organizers are calling “The State of NOW” and the effect of the real-time Internet on business.

Some of the 150 speakers at #140conf worth following are:

1. - AJ Leon ( – co-creator, #twitterkids
2. - Alexis Maybank ( – Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Gilt Groupe
3. - Alf LaMont (, The Comedy Store
4. - Alon Nir (
5. - Amanda Wernick ( – REALTOR Associate, Licensed: CA
6. - Amy Rosenbaum (
7. - AndreaSyrtash ( – Author of ‘He’s Just Not Your Type (And That’s a Good Thing)
8. - Andy Carvin ( – Senior strategist at NPR
9. - Andy Dixon ( – Singer, Songwriter, Author
10. - Angela Gruszka ( – Public Relations Director at ABC Carpet and Home
11. - Angela Shelton (
12. - Ann Curry ( – News Anchor on NBC’s Today Show
13. - Aparna Vashisht ( – Founder, Parentella
14. - Avner Ronen ( – CEO, co-founder, Boxee
15. - Bijan Sabet ( – Partner, Spark Capital
16. - Bill Hankes ( – VP, Corp Comm, RealNetwork
17. - Blair Kelley ( – Professor at North Carolina State University
18. - Bob Watson (
19. - Brad Hunstable ( – co-founder,
20. - Bronwyn Barnes ( – Associate Entertainment Editor for
21. - Bruce Upbin ( – Managing Editor at Forbes
22. - C.C. Chapman (
23. - Cathy Brooks (
24. - Chris Bartlett (
25. - Chris Lehmann ( – Principal of the Science Leadership Academy
26. - Chris Weingarten (, Music Critic
27. - Corvida Raven ( – Student
28. - Craig Engler ( – SVP, SYFY Digital
29. - Dan Harple ( – Executive Chairman, GyPSii
30. - Daren Forsyth ( – Founder,
31. - Dave Winer ( – Software developer, Entrepreneur, Writer and NYU Scholar
32. - David All ( – Health Care/Capitol Hill Tweets Founder
33. - David Carr ( – Writes Media Equation column, blogs Decoder & covers pop culture at NY Times
34. - David DeVore ( – Dad, David After Dentist
35. - David Faggard (, Capt, USAF Secretary of the Air Force, Office of Public Affairs
36. - Debra Bowen ( – Secretary of State, California
37. - Deirdre Sullivan ( – Principal / Social Media
38. - Dennis Crowley ( – co-founder, FourSquare
39. - Dennis Allen (
40. - Diane Guercio ( – REALTOR, Boston, MA
41. - Donny Deutsch ( – Television Host & Chairman, Deutsch Inc.
42. - Elon James White ( – Comedian and Social Critic
43. - Eric M. Singley ( – Product Manager, Yelp
44. - Eric Sheninger ( – Principal of New Milford HS (NJ)
45. - Eric Stegemann ( – Broker, Licensed: MO
46. - Fabien Cousteau (
47. - FakeJerry Paffendorf ( – Artist, futurist, entrepreneur
48. - Gary Vaynerchuk (, Wine guy, host of Wine Library TV
49. - Gavin Purcell ( – Producer, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
50. - George Haines ( – Technology Teacher
51. - Grace Bonney ( – Design Blogstress
52. - Hammer (, Music Artist
53. - Hank Wasiak ( – Author, TV Host, Ad Guy
54. - Imal Wagner ( – Moderator
55. - Ivanka Trump (
56. - Jacob Soboroff ( – Correspondent and Executive Director of
57. - Jay Rosen ( – Journalism professor, NYU
58. - Jeff Jarvis ( – blogger, author, professor
59. - Jeff Keni Pulver ( – Creator, #140conf
60. - Jeff Newelt ( – Editor, The Pekar Project; Comics Editor, HEEB, SMITH, & ROYAL FLUSH Mags
61. - Jeffrey Hayzlett ( – CMO, Kodak
62. - Jeffrey Merrihue ( – Chairman, MoFilm
63. - Jeffrey Sass ( – Vice President, Business Development, Myxer Inc.
64. - Jessica Gottlieb (
65. - Jim Jones ( – Music Artist
66. - Joan Walsh ( – Editor in Chief, Salon
67. - Joe Randazzo (
68. - Joe Trippi ( – advisory board member
69. - John Bell ( ) – Managing Director, Ogilvy’s 360 Digital Influence
70. - John Bernier ( ) – Social Media Manager at Best Buy.
71. - John Borthwick ( ) – CEO of betaworks
72. - John Kremer ( – Author
73. - John Magennis ( )
74. - John Strauss ( ) – Owner, John Strauss furniture design, ltd.
75. - Jonathan Maberry ( ) – Author, Marvel Comics Writer
76. - Jonathan Markwell ( )
77. - Jonathan Mildenhall ( – VP Global Advertising, Coca Cola
78. - Josh Williams ( ) – Founder, CEO, Gowalla
79. - Joshua Fouts ( ) – Cultural relations futurist
80. - Julie Spira ( ) – Author, dating coach
81. - Kathleen Hessert ( ) – President, Sports Media Challenge
82. - Kelly Sutton ( )
83. - Kevin Jarrett ( ) – K-4 Technology Teacher
84. - Kimberly Miller ( ) – VP of Consumer Marketing, People StyleWatch
85. - Kyle B. Pace ( ) – Teaching K-12 teachers about technology infusion
86. - Lacy Kemp ( )
87. - Lauren Litwinka ( )
88. - Leslie Hall ( ) – President, ICED Media
89. - Leslie Sanchez ( ) – Author and a former Bush presidential advisor
90. - Lisa Cohen ( )
91. - Lisa Nielsen ( – Educational Technologist – NYC Dept of Ed
92. - Liz Strauss ( – Founder of SOBCon, brand strategist
93. - Liza Sabater ( – Publisher of Culturekitchen & DailyGotham
94. - Luke Renner (
95. - Maegan Carberry (
96. - Marc Sirkin ( – Chief Community Officer, Autism Speaks
97. - Mary Beth Hertz ( – K-6 Computer Teacher and Technology Teacher Leader in Philadelphia
98. - Matt Pinfield ( – Morning show host on WRXP 101.9 FM in New York City
99. - Matthew Bishop ( – NY Bureau Chief, The Economist
100. - Maya Bisineer (
101. - Maya Paveza ( – Realtor, DE/PA
102. - Maz Nadjm ( – Social networking at Sky Television
103. - Melinda Emerson (
104. - Melissa Leon ( – Creator of #twitterkids
105. - Meredith Fisher ( – Editorial Brand Director, Diane von Furstenberg Studio
106. - Micah Baldwin ( – CEO and Chief Community Caretaker,
107. - Michael Ian Black (
108. - Michael Kupperman (
109. - Michael Tasner (
110. - Mo Krochmal ( – Professor, Hofstra Univesity
111. - Nancy Scola ( - associate editor at
112. - Natalie Gulbis ( - Pro Golfer
113. - Nate Erickson ( - Intern for Wyclef Jean and Haiti Volunteer
114. - Nathan Levinson ( - The Viper Room
115. - Nick Bilton ( - Lead Technology Writer, New York Times
116. - Noush Skaugen ( - Music Artist
117. - Oz Sultan ( - Remembrance in the Real-Time Web
118. - Pat Kiernan ( - News Anchor, NY1
119. - Paul Rieckhoff ( - Founder of Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)
120. - Peter Corbett ( - CEO of iStrategyLabs
121. - Peter Gregson ( - Cellist
122. - Rick Borutta ( - Producer, CBS Backstage LIVE
123. - Rita J. King ( - Innovator-in-Residence, IBM Analytics Virtual Center, #SmarterWork project.
124. - Ron Hogan ( - Author
125. - Ryan Leslie ( - Music Artist
126. - Ryan Osborn ( - Producer, NBC’s TODAY
127. - Ryan Penagos ( – Editor of Writer
128. - Sarah Cooley (
129. - Scot McKay ( – Dating Coach
130. - Sean Suchter ( - General Manager, Search Technology Center Silicon Valley, Microsoft
131. - Shelly Palmer ( - Host of MediaBytes with Shelly Palmer, president of the Emmy Awards
132. - Shira Abel (
133. - StaceyMonk ( – Founder of Epic Change & TweetsGiving
134. - Stefanie Michaels ( – Travel Expert
135. - Steve Garfield ( – Author, Get Seen: Online Video Secrets to Building Your Business
136. - Steve Greenberg, founder/CEO, S-Curve Records (
137. - Steve Grove ( – Head of News and Politics at YouTube
138. - Steven W. Anderson ( – Technology Educator, Blogger, Co-Creator of #edchat
139. - Stowe Boyd ( )
140. - Tal Givoly ( ) – Chief Scientist, Amdocs
141. - Ted Cohen, Managing Partner, TAG Stragegic ( )
142. - Thomas Miller ( ) – General Manager, Your Tango
143. - Tim Ferriss ( ) – Author
144. - Tish Shute ( ) – “enthusiast for our networked potential to make a better world”
145. - Tom Brevoort ( - Executive Editor/VP, Marvel Comics
146. - Tom Whitby ( - Professor of English in Secondary Education
147. - Whit Jones ( - Energy Action Coalition – Climate
148. - Xavier Jernigan ( ) - Senior Director, Digital Marketing, Universal Motown
149. - Yoni Bloch ( ) – Music Artist

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Quora raises rumored $11M for elite Q&A site

Former Facebook execs and managers team up to get the rest of what's in your head & put it online

Q uestion and Answer sites are not new (think Yahoo Answers), but it’s as though Silicon Valley just rediscovered them. took off last November with the “citizen” version, ChaCha launched the celebrity-centric iteration, and now former Facebook employees have raised big money for the elite edition.

Quora, which currently operates in closed beta, just landed a first round of funding from Benchmark, and general partner Mall Cohler joined the company’s board. Cohler overlapped with Quora founders Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever at Facebook before all of them departed between May 2008 and January 2009. Cohler told us in an email that "I've known Adam and Charlie for many years and can attest to their extraordinary technical and product ability firsthand. It's hard to pinpoint exactly when I first learned about Quora, but it's certainly an idea I thought was fascinating from the beginning."

The terms of the funding weren’t disclosed, but a TechCrunch source says it was an $11 million round at an $86 million valuation, with possible additional investors joining the round. TC says Elevation Partners also bid aggressively.

The company launched to private beta testers on January 4, 2010, after a year and a half of stealth mode beginning in June 2008, when the startup was founded.

While the site’s functionality does not seem to be anything out of the ordinary, the users and the content are. The company has targeted the influencers in Silicon Valley, and to get in, you have to convince an existing user to cough up one of their ten invites. Elitism to be sure, but the company is focused on protecting the quality of the content. As it spreads to more users, the executives hope to keep the site's information highly relevant for users via personalization algorithms.

The company does not plan on opening suddenly to the public, but is allowing the invites method to help it grow gradually. Over time, it hopes to become something more like Wikipedia and less like Yahoo Answers—delivering the cream of the crowd-sourced crop, the best answers and most useful information for each user and not just an undifferentiated index of some useful, some dead-end answer pages.

Ultimately, the Quora team’s goal, like all good venture plays, is part science fiction: it wants to suck as much information currently hiding in people’s heads and put it into the machine. The cofounders told TC:

The way we think about this is there’s actually a lot of information that’s still in people’s heads that’s not on the internet. And when you think about it you would say that probably 90% of the information that people have is still in their heads, not on the internet. So we’re trying to get that information out of people’s heads, so it’s not on sources that are hard to access on the internet, and get it into a really useful format to make a valuable database.

The founders and funders of Quora have already helped put the world’s social graph online, despite broad uneasiness about privacy concerns. The team’s goal to digitize what each of us know is another slightly scary prospect—one that we will probably get used to, if they prove successful.

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The new king of Sydney radio … the rise of crowdsourcing

Ray Hadley the new king of Sydney radio. Did you fell the earth move in the past few hours, if you happen to live in Sydney? Alan Jones is no longer number one. It’s a major shift in Sydney radio ratings — not between stations, but inside 2GB, where relations between some of the on-air staff are often strained.

The man dubbed The Parott has been out-parroted by his clone, Ray Hadley, the morning host at 2GB, who is now number one in the Sydney market according to the second radio ratings survey out this morning. Jones lost a significant 2.8 points to fall to 17.2; Ray Hadley was down less, losing 1.0 to 18.5. That left him ahead of Jones, who had won the first survey with 20.0 to Hardley’s 19.5.

We don’t know about the actual number of listeners, those figures are out later, but the change is sure to raise speculation that Hadley is in line to succeed Jones at breakfast. Jones was off ill (again) for part of the survey (which finished on March 20) and only covered one round of the NRL.

2GB lost 1.1 to 15.5, but remains ahead of ABC 702 followed by 2DayFM. The ABC station moved past 2Day into second spot. The tension around 2GB will increase as a result. Fairfax’s 2UE also lost 1.1 points Monday to Friday, slipping behind MMM in the Sydney market and equal to Mix. They are not the same audience, but it’s a measure of the pressure the station now finds itself under.

In Melbourne, MMM lost share, as did Eddie McGuire and his breakfast team; Gold lost share as did Vega, sorry, Classic Rock. Magic and 3MP also lost listeners. Winners were SEN, 3AW, NOVA (the biggest overall gain in market for the survey) and ABC 774. Fox added 0.4 to 14.1 with Hamish and Andy solid on 21.7, up 0.7. In Brisbane, B105 topped the ratings with 13.5, up 0.1, with Nova second on 12.7, up 0.2. — Glenn Dyer

Here, boy! The Australian gives the Prime Minister more bark than ever before.

Kevin Ruff

Wikileaks: enemy of the state

“In 2008, the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Center prepared a secret report — obtained and posted by WikiLeaks — devoted to this website and detailing, in a section entitled ‘Is it Free Speech or Illegal Speech?’, ways it would seek to destroy the organisation.” — Salon

Journalist of the year: you. Also Twitter. But mostly you

“In 2009, crowdsourced journalism came of age and broke through into the mainstream of journalism… More reporters have started to use a crowdsourced approach to gather information — ignoring the journalistic tradition that an investigation has to be shielded from their competitors.” — The Guardian

Forget the defamation case, just send a bill

“The New York Times just paid $114,000 and apologised to the Singaporean prime minister for possibly implying that he got his job because his dad had the same job. More startling is the news that the New York Times agreed not to imply that in exchange for some unspecified benefit — presumably access to the prime minister.” — Huffington Post

UK papers bait the subscription hook with apps

“Suddenly, everything is new again. Underlining uncertainty and lack of consensus regarding mobile-device monetisation strategy, two newspapers are trying ideas contrary to those for which they’re known…” — The Guardian

Go on, hit him with another 140 characters

“The Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget and Reuters finance blogger Felix Salmon are currently enmeshed in an epic Twitter fight about journalistic ethics.” —  Vanity Fair

The Beaver falls foul of the internet generation

“In recent times the magazine’s attempts to reach a new online audience kept falling foul of spam filters — particularly in schools — because beaver is also a slang term for female genitalia.” — BBC News

Your handy guide to how to be a journalist

“The core of the story is this: child climbs up tree, child climbs down tree, stranger walks up to child, school staff walk up to stranger, stranger walks off, police have a word with stranger… How do you report this? Easy: TEACHERS LEAVE BOY OF 5 STUCK UP A TREE” — Mark Pack
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Labour to "crowdsource" election poster

The Labour Party has said that it will "crowdsource" an election poster in a move that underlines the growing attempts by the main political parties to use social networking tactics to help win popularity in the run-up to the general election.

Labour has said it wants its supporters to submit ideas for its next poster based around "Labour's pledge to protect frontline services and David Cameron's lack of substance".

The winning posts would then be displayed on digital poster sites in Manchester and London over the Easter weekend.

Unsurprisingly though, the plans were criticised by an ex-member of the Tory party who writes under the alias Tory Outcast. The anonymous blogger accused Labour of failing to understand what the term crowdsourcing actually means.

"What Labour is doing is not crowdsourcing. They are encouraging individuals to submit posters and then one of them will be picked by a central agency. The only way this could be considered crowdsourcing is if they pick a design that several people have submitted and even then it is a weak example of it," the blogger said.

"The point of crowdsourcing is based on the wisdom of the crowds principle. A large group of people are encouraged to make suggestions, vote on them, alter them, continually update them until a final product is reached which is not recognisable as belonging to or being designed by any single person but by the crowd as a whole."

The spat underlines the importance both parties are placing on social networking innovations and discussions. Last week the Tory party attempted to crowdsource the public's response to the budget on the Your Budget Response 2010 web site.

Last week, new research by social media agency Yomego put the Tories ahead of Labour in terms of popularity online, with a score of 73.12. Labour was second with 63 while the Lib Dems came third with 62.
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CloudCrowd: Crowdsourcing 2.0

Crowdsourcing: "a neologistic compound of Crowd and Outsourcing for the act of taking tasks traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing them to a group of people or community, through an 'open call' to a large group of people (a crowd) asking for contributions." – Wikipedia

The concept of crowdsourcing has attracted a lot of press but over the last few months its visibility seems to have waned slightly. It looks like two factors involved. The first is there's not been much in the way of "hot" news about crowdsourcing while the second is that for all but simple problems most crowdsourcing attempts can be disappointing.

Crowdsourcing takes center stage at DEMOfall '09

While defining the work to be done has been a major issue with what I'll call crowdsourcing 1.0 the bigger problem has been over the quality of the results.

Consider Amazon's Mechanical Turk (MTurk). There are really only two controls that you have over quality. One of these is that you can require that workers have an "approval rate" equal or greater than some value (approval rate is the percentage or work units that have not been rejected). This is problematic because approval rate isn't necessarily accurate as those assigning the work may not bother to give feedback on problematic responses.

The other control is to have multiple workers assigned to the same work unit then have their results automatically cross-compared to detect conflicting answers. The problem here is that the comparison can only be done for relatively simple cases and many types of response aren't amenable to string or numeric value comparisons.

In what CloudCrowd describes as crowdsourcing 2.0, the company uses a crowd of vetted workers who are given a credibility rating not only on the basis of customer response to their output but also through assessment by CrowdCloud employees and peer review by other workers.

What CloudCrowd brings to the business is consultation to determine and define the problem to be solved and then management of the project execution. The big gain here is that the customer no longer has to wrestle with defining their own problem in terms of a system that essentially pre-packages solutions and consequently can achieve a faster turnaround time because experts implement and manage the workflow.

Think of this not as workload outsourcing but business process outsourcing. For example, a copy editing process with CloudCrowd can result in as much as a 90% reduction in turnaround time.

CloudCrowd charges a setup fee to establish the problem and define the solution and pricing is based on the required level of worker skill and scale of the problem.

CloudCrowd workers, who currently number over 20,000 worldwide and interface with the company via a Facebook application, are paid according to their specific skills and the difficulty of the problem thus identifying image porn might be priced at $0.02 per work unit, writing a short script to generate and advertising video might be worth $5. This equates to hourly rates from $3 or $4 per hour to start with up to $10 or more for more skilled workers.

CloudCrowd, founded last year, already claims to have executed over 500,000 tasks for a wide range of clients.

In the crowdsourcing 2.0 world there are only two significant players so far, CloudCrowd and CrowdFlower but it's pretty certain that more competitors will appear quickly. This is definitely a hot market.
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The Tory crowdsourcing budget spectacular. Found anything yet?

As Alistair Darling sat down, a Tory project to crowdsource the scrutinising of the budget's small print went up. You can see it for yourself at

There isn't a great deal to say yet. The design of the site reproduces each page of the budget with a box to the right that invites you to post your observations: "Did You find anything we should investigate further? Let us know below," it asks.

The format is similar to a cut-down version of our MPs' expenses crowdsourcing tool - the idea is the same (the ability to post comments on documents), though it lacks feedback mechanisms telling you, for example, how much of the budget has already been looked at.

Those submissions are not visible on the site (also true for the later versions of our MPs' expenses exercise). But if you have added one, seen anything or have views on the project, why not let us know below.
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Internet proving hard to control - the latest from political crowdsourcing

Do Labour and the Tories know what they are doing when they open their campaigns up to the public?

Is opening up your campaign to the internet a good idea? The Tory attempt to make #cashgordon one of the top trending hashtags on Twitter was probably more trouble than it was worth and – of course – Labour's PeoplePosters campaign to crowdsource an election poster has been taken up by people who don't like them that much either.
The excellent Beau Beau D'Or, who has been using Photoshop for satire since the last election, posted the following on his blog:

I can't think of much worse than the Conservatives getting into power. The mask will drop, pockets will be lined and despair will reign but just because I have a go at the Tories (frequently) does not make me a Labour voter [...]

PeoplePosters is a PR exercise for the faithful, maybe a PR campaign if Labour can get it into the MSM [mainstream media]. Ten digital posters over a few days is not an advertising campaign despite what the spin doctors and misguided/cynical tweeting MPs say. You are being treated like idiots.

Someone may well produce a great poster. Meanwhile Tories will be lapping up the mountains of bullshit (and producing their own) to discredit Labour, a potential own goal. They will also be given the opportunity for quick rebuttal having scanned all the entries.

He links to Chicken Yoghurt, again, not a Tory blog, which has a page of posters comparing Brown's record to Cameron's lack of substance ie "[Brown] Helped kill 600,000 Iraqis. Could he [Cameron]?"

I can't help wondering if Labour's adoption of the user-generated poster, which came of age with, has fully acknowledged the sense of fun and mischief that anything like this really needs to get going. The page on the Labour party website inviting submissions features a head and shoulders shot of Philip Gould and a brief to "highlight Labour's pledge to protect frontline investment in key services". That reads more like a pitch to an ad agency than an attempt to speak the people who are most likely to take part.

On the other great political crowdsourcing exercise of the last week, the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones looks at how the Tory party's crowdsourced response to the budget fared.

A spokeswoman came back with a rather vague reply. Yes, there had been "hundreds of really good comments", though they appeared to fall more into the category of opinion rather than fresh analysis. She could not give me any example of a detail spotted by the web crowd that had eluded the party's Treasury team, but promised that some of the comments would be published this week.

So maybe this week we'll see.
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Scripped and Zhura Merge Together, a crowd source content development company and provider of a web-based screenwriting software, has announced they have merged with online performance writing provider and online community, So what does this mean? It’s a good day to be a writer…

Zhura was founded in 2007 with the goal of creating performance writing tools. They have an online community with collaboration and social networking features that help writers. Scripped was founded in 2008 with the goal of making it easier for writers to create screenplays. The company created the software, Scripped Writer, a free, web-based program for screenwriters. The software is similar to that of a word-processing software, but also automatically formats and catalogs the content to meet industry standards. The website hopes to create a community of writers and provide the necessary tools to give support to writers to successfully complete projects.

Scripped has also landed from new investment, by private angel investors, worth $250,000. With the new investment and merger, Scripped plans to move into a new location that is part of the technology incubator, I/O Ventures.

Scripped CEO, Sunil Rajaraman, stated…

“With this new investment and the merger of Zhura into the Scripped family, we believe Scripped is poised for explosive growth in 2010…At 60,000-strong, and growing adding a new screenwriter every 20 minutes, we are proving every single day that everyone has a screenplay. It is our top priority to give members of the community every opportunity to get their works produced.”

Board of Advisors member, Keith Richman, stated…

“The Scripped team has shown a lot of resiliency and resourcefulness over the past year. The moment a writer from Scripped gets one of their works produced and widely distributed, the company’s business model of crowdsourcing screenplays could become the norm.”

Finally some good news for all you scriptwriters out there!
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

When the going gets gnarly...cheat! Look to crowdsourcing

At the Open Source Business Conference last week, industry pundit Tim O'Reilly gave a very well received talk, the theme of which was the importance of data over algorithms and applications. "The open source community will have to become the open data community," O'Reilly suggested. That got me thinking and reading about crowdsourcing, and I am convinced it will become an important mechanism for your business to solve a certain class of problems.

If you are like me, you've heard the term tossed around for some time, but you may not realize the range of applications available today or ease of access provided by clearinghouse-like services. Companies looking to get better software cheaper through open source ought also to be figuring out how to use the power of crowds to semi-automate repetitive, pain-in-the-neck tasks.

The concept of crowdsourcing is simple. You break problems down into a quantity of simple pieces, hand them off to an array of individuals, and reassemble the results. (The clearinghouses I mention above, make it very easy to do that.) It remains the case that there are plenty of tasks, even simple ones, much better handled by humans than computers. Problems or projects that involve lots of those kinds of tasks lend themselves to crowdsourcing. Companies are applying this approach to areas ranging from QA to Marketing and Sales, and vendors are popping up with all kinds of different angles on this simple idea.

Mechanical Turk from Amazon is one of the first implementations to make an enormous pool of resources readily available to anyone. A couple of hours ago, there were 192,000 HITs (Human Intellegence Tasks) in the MT backlog. I just "Wow"ed out loud when I refreshed my brower a few seconds ago and found that had gone down to 177,000 That kind of backlog movement suggests a lot of activity!

If you want to get something done or earn some money on the side, access is as close as your Amazon account. The rates generally range between a penny and a dollar per HIT with the bulk being under a dime. I saw one task advertised as being high rate; it was estimated at 20 seconds and earned 12 cents. That works out to a theoretical maximum of $20/hr, but my guess is that it would be hard to earn even $10/hr. That's consistent with one of the dings I've heard on the whole crowdsourcing idea, that it exploits people for low wages. But I also understand that many people who perform this work do it for fun or live someplace where $10 is big bucks.

To give you a sense for the kinds of quickie jobs people perform for under a dime, here are some examples:

* Decide if two words are related to each other
* Categorize Web Sites(New URLs) (WARNING: This HIT may contain offensive content. Worker discretion is advised.)
* Verify that a manufacturer's web page on a retailer's site has all of the expected details and features.

The high end (today at least) is $5. Here are some >$1 tasks:

* Help us test the system recovery using CA ARCserve D2D software, on Windows XP operating system
* Submit UFO related stories to website
* iPhone software testing (must have an iPhone or iPod Touch running OS 3.1 and be in the USA)

There is an easy web UI for people seeking work and for those looking to have work performed. But, Amazon also provides an API so a program can actually call "wetware" workers like a subroutine. How could you use Mechanical Turk? I'll toss out an idea, please share others with comments below.

Like many, the Black Duck website is set up such that people fill out a form before downloading something such as a whitepaper. Every time that happens a lead goes into our CRM system and then out to our salespeople. Unfortunately, our flow of leads gets polluted with guys named "a;dfja pdslfja" whose phone numbers are 123456. You get the idea: Some people (I know you'd never do this) fill out our forms with junk. I'm thinking our IT guys could build a little routine that would divert each "lead" before injecting it into our system, and submit a HIT asking someone to vet it as real or junk. We could then separate the wheat from the chaff for probably two cents a lead, judging from similar tasks. Not bad. That seems a lot easier than trying to write an algorithm to figure it out; people know junk when they see it.

Mechanical Turk, and a few others are general purpose clearinghouses for generic tasks. But there are plenty of other angles on this market being pursued by an array of other companies. Don't worry, I'll fill you in them in one of my next few blogs. In the meantime, how about some might your company use Mechanical Turk?
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The Tory crowdsourcing budget spectacular. Found anything yet?

As Alistair Darling sat down, a Tory project to crowdsource the scrutinising of the budget's small print went up. You can see it for yourself at

There isn't a great deal to say yet. The design of the site reproduces each page of the budget with a box to the right that invites you to post your observations: "Did You find anything we should investigate further? Let us know below," it asks.

The format is similar to a cut-down version of our MPs' expenses crowdsourcing tool - the idea is the same (the ability to post comments on documents), though it lacks feedback mechanisms telling you, for example, how much of the budget has already been looked at.

Those submissions are not visible on the site (also true for the later versions of our MPs' expenses exercise). But if you have added one, seen anything or have views on the project, why not let us know below.

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Saatchi & Saatchi viral predicts death of traditional ad agency

LONDON - Saatchi & Saatchi Canada has created a viral that predicts the death of advertising agencies unless they embrace the power of digital creative.

The viral, entitled 'The Last Advertising Agency on Earth', is a dark and sombre film that compares the death of the advertising industry to the fall of the Roman Empire.

It accuses the industry of clinging to its old ways and methods, particular its reliance on TV advertising, "even when clients begged for new, non traditional ideas".

The protagonist adds: "So much was lost because of arrogance and irgnorance, and because they chose to ignore the changes going on around them."

The viral concludes that unless digital is embraced, the advertising industry will die. It is a promotional vehicle for the forthcoming global digital and technology event being held in Toronto from 25 April to 27 April.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mullen's CCO Promotes Crowdsourcing in AdWeek Opine

Edward Boches is Mullen's CCO, and lately he's been a vocal part of the "conversation". He wrote a few hundred words in about in AdWeek and you may be surprised at where the discussion turned.

During a gathering at SXSWi, a consortium of agency folk from 30 shops came together to discuss "how [they] might collaborate and innovate together in an effort to not only reinvent the future, but blow up the now."

This means: agencies are concerned that they can't solve their own problems (business related or otherwise) so they are naturally turning to one another for answers. But what happens when you put a bunch of ad people in a box? They claw at each other to get to the top. Or, as Boches put it: "The idea that if we give away some of our thinking it might help our reputation, establish our authority and, more importantly, introduce us to others who, by returning the favor, make us smarter and more effective." For an industry hell-bent on sharing only six-month old information, this is sorta revolutionary. It's also already been done, and it is called crowdsourcing.

That whole rat-clawing-over-rat meme has for a long time been a great way to describe agency life. But what Boches suggests is a kind of socialist environment where agencies share personnel and, in that way, clients — which sounds like opening Pandora's Box (if it hasn't already been cracked).

His most crowdsourcey comment came in a suggestion for how to make this togetherness thing work: "Fund an organization we called a cloud. One rough scenario: Instead of working for one digital agency, a person would work for the cloud. During their tenure individuals would take on assignments from different agencies, in the process capturing a collective intelligence about best practices from each of the shops and sharing that intelligence with the network."

A noble call. One group of agencies already doing this are Firstborn, Big Spaceship and Evolution Bureau — which have teamed up to complete some Skittles work. We hear they have more in the works, set to break later this week. So if one thing is true, it's that agencies can collaborate to get the job done. I suspect this works differently than the agency-vendor relationship and ends up being more siloed to prevent creatives from throwing their awards at one another. Nonetheless, those three shops are of roughly equal size and prominence — and more importantly they have figured out how to work as a cohesive unit.

John Winsor of Victors & Spoils agrees: "While the discussion was far reaching and only scratched the surface of what's possible, I was inspired by the fact that 20 thought leaders from every different part of the industry were in the room talking about how to collaborate. While this might not seem like a big move, in an industry that's known for being extremely competitive and ego driven, this was a huge first step. "
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Tapping the crowd for start-up funding

A start-up investment model developed by SA entrepreneur Eve Dmochowska (pictured) and her colleagues to solve key problems in SA start-up financing proved a big hit at the annual South by South West (SxSW) Interactive festival held in Austin, Texas earlier this week. Dan Oshinsky, a reporter for a local news station, described her as one of the best presenters he had seen at SxSW, alongside such luminaries as Clay Shirky and Marc Cuban.

The idea she presented, CrowdFunding, will obtain investment in R1 000 blocks from individuals, and raise R1m for its first fund. It is structured as a trust, which resolves a number of regulatory issues around investments and soliciting funds from the public.

The idea was launched almost by accident. When the news leaked out of a small preview circle, the pledges began streaming in, with 254 investors offering R842 000 in just the first two weeks. This was well ahead of her expectations, which was that R1m might take three or four months to raise.

Dmochowska’s panel was one of two talks involving South Africans on the packed SxSW programme, with panellists Heather Ford, who currently studies at Berkeley, Justin Spratt, the co-founder of start-up incubator ISLabs, Brett Haggard, technology journalist and podcaster, and Gareth Knight, an experienced start-up founder with business interests in SA and the UK.

The goal of CrowdFunding, Dmochowska explained, is to complete the cycle of online funding, which in the US begins with bootstrapping using an entrepreneur’s own money, and proceeds via angel funding or an incubator to the venture capital stage, after which the usual exit is either a sale to a bigger firm, or a stock market listing.

The early phases of this cycle are missing in SA, she says, which leaves venture capitalists with little to invest in.

Yet they need to hedge bets by picking 10 or 15 promising companies to fund, in the hope that two or three make it big and provide the ten-baggers or better that makes the fund profitable.

“SA has lots of clever people, with great coding skills, and good knowledge of how to take products global,” she says. “But because there is a lack of funding, many don’t even try.”

Unlike in other countries, the banking sector is so uncompetitive and risk-averse that there’s little chance of entrepreneurs being able to use loans or credit cards for bootstrapping. Government programmes, if they understand the technology and business model at all, take 12-18 months to reach the approval stage, by which time the world has moved on and the idea is usually stale. Bureaucracy and inexperience is not conducive to grabbing first-mover advantage.

“It’s more than just about the money, she said. “Investors will have the knowledge that they’re part of a network of people who want to help, and make up for lost time. Corporate South Africa is also very supportive, and is happy to provide work space, equipment, and other help. That shows we have a model that people really believe in, and understand. There’s also already a huge interest in second-round funding. A network of mentorship has been built too.”

Her audience was small — as is common with the many simultaneous panels on the programme — but very receptive of an idea that wasn’t about the presenters, but about the start-ups and entrepreneurs around them. Many offered congratulations and asked questions, hoping to learn from Dmochowska’s experience.

It prompted not only glowing local news coverage in the USA, but also interviews with international channels such as the BBC.

“The reason this will be successful,” Dmochowska says, “is that the money is almost incidental. Start-ups will be able to tap into our network, and be able to get to experts at only two or three degrees of separation, and get help, advice, or skills.”

The other reason is illustrated by Spratt, in the form of an example: “We have the Development Bank of Southern Africa, and the Industrial Development Corporation. But when Personera, an SA start-up founded by Sheraan Amod, presented them with a great idea on which it had to move quickly, the IDC took eight months to decide that it didn’t understand the business model.”

As it turned out, several angel-funding entrepreneurs from successful companies such as Yola and Clicks2Customers stepped up with risk capital to provide the funding that the official channels failed to provide. The company is already a great success, with a growing international market and rising public profile.”

The hope is that CrowdFunding can fund 10 or 15 such companies with the first fund, and produce the requisite two, three or more successes that go on to receive second-level or venture capital investment.

“We’re hoping CrowdFunding will succeed,” says Dmochowska, “and wake up the IDC.” – Ivo Vegter, TechCentral
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Kenya: Local Takes On Silicon Valley

Nairobi — I am a tree hugger at heart, is the response one gets on asking Ory Okolloh about's commercial prospects. She does see commercial potential for the new media sensation that has probably given her more coverage in the mainstream global media in recent months than the combined space given to President Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai, Safaricom boss Michael Joseph and Inter Milan footballer McDonald Mariga.
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Yet, if the global buzz Ushahidi is generating is any guide, we could be looking at a Kenyan Google, Microsoft or Facebook in terms of business potential. Ushahidi is a non-profit venture kept afloat by grants from various foundations, but Ms Okolloh is confident that in a few years, it will be able to sustain itself.

It was built without venture capital, and even the technology developed to run it was deliberately kept open source, ruling out patents and proprietorship. And though she does have two young mouths to feed, she is reluctant to even talk about the prospect of super profits.

Big business is starting to express interest in Ushahidi, but she remains cautious of commercial tie-ups that may cramp her style. That's the tree hugger in her. Her business card bears no title. It identifies her workplace as Ushahidi -- crowdsourcing and crisis information. Against her name is just an e-mail address.

Across the world, however, she is earning recognition as co-founder and principal force behind Ushahidi, an online blogger-generated mapping tool that came into its own with the Haiti and Chile earthquakes and US blizzards. "Africa's Gift to Silicon Valley: How to Track a Crisis" was the title of a major feature on Ms Okolloh and Ushahidi in a New York Times article published less than a week before the Pan African Media Conference opened in Nairobi. "Ushahidi technology saves lives in Haiti and Chile", trumpeted the Newsweek interactive site on March 3.

The publicity Ushahidi has generated has also served to put Kenya on the global digital map. And, ironically, if the site is Kenya's gift to Silicon Valley and the world, it is also a gift from Kenya's murderous round of post-election violence. Ms Okolloh, who is based in South Africa, had come home to vote and report on the polls when the violence broke out.

Desperate for information and seeking ways to help, she sent out a plaintive cry on her blog: "Any techies out there willing to do a mash up of where the violence and destruction is using Google Maps?" The response was instantaneous. Within days, volunteer programmers had written a software code that allowed anyone to send in information via SMS, blog posts, video, phone calls and photographs.

The information and its exact source was uploaded onto a map, providing a picture of serious hotspots based on the density of data coming from each location. The Kenyan poll violence was a test-run, and come the Haiti quake, Ushahidi became a global sensation. It was the first time such simple technology had been used on this scale and Ushahidi became the default data base for the Red Cross, US army and international relief effort.

Then came Chile, the blizzards that paralysed much of the US, violence in Palestine and India, trouble in Afghanistan ... the list keeps growing. "Think about that", asked The New York Times on the blizzards. "The capital of the sole superpower is deluged with snow, and to whom does its local newspaper turn to help dig it out? Kenya."

When I first met Ms Okolloh at the annual Highway Africa conference in South Africa a few years ago, she was part of the crowd of young bloggers with a social conscience trying to get a foot in the door. How does it feel now that she sits at the high table? "It feels good," she says with a laugh, "It's been a long journey."

The lesson she learned is that if you stick around long enough and never tire, people will start to pay attention. Ushahidi's success is great vindication of her faith that technology would explode in Africa as, in the early days, many sneered at bloggers who imagined creating something worthwhile and sustainable.

Internet penetration in Africa was nothing to write home about. Now, thanks partly to the mobile phone revolution, old wisdom has been turned upside down. Market researchers are noting the demographic shift, and it is obvious that anyone wanting to reach the under-25s, half the population, must look to new media.

Moderating a roundtable discussion on new media at the Pan African Media Conference, Ms Okolloh wondered why talk of the concept in Africa too often focuses on the social and economic benefits -- paying bills or sending money through M-Pesa; farmers accessing information on weather and fertilisers through SMS.

She thinks the so-called "development" benefit of new media is a by-product; the primary function being fun and ease of communication. But hasn't Ushahidi itself been a major catalyst for good? Yes, she concurs, but that was dependant on the "fun" technology being available in the first place.

She points to the mobile phone revolution on the continent. If mobile phones were sold as "development" rather than affordable and convenient means of communication, she ventures, they might not have taken off so fast. She also refers to the push towards digital villages in Africa.

Quite often, policy makers and implementers report failure because the customers they expected -- farmers seeking information on credit or farm inputs or mothers seeking help for a sick child -- were not forthcoming. Instead users might be youth "wasting time" on Facebook or downloading music. That, to her should be the measure of success. A nice and simple lesson, that, for Information and Communications Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo.

Ms Ory Okolloh graduated from Harvard Law School in 2005 and is now a co-founder and executive director of Her self-penned online profile in Global Voices describes a social activist blogger, aka Kenyan Pundit, with a wide range of interests.
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

I'm so confused Is USA Real Estate About to Boom or Crash even further?

OK, time for a bit of crowdsourcing on a familiar subject. According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the bottom is at hand in the property market:

"Housing Real-Estate Recovery Signaled as Fed Unwinds"

The U.S. housing market is poised to withstand the removal of government and Federal Reserve stimulus programs and rebound later in the year, contributing to annual economic growth for the first time since 2006.

Increases in jobs, credit and affordable homes will help offset the end of the Fed’s purchases of mortgage-backed securities this month and the expiration of a federal homebuyer tax credit in April. Sales will rise about 6 percent this year, and housing will account for 0.25 percentage point of the 3.6 percent growth, according to forecasts by Dean Maki, chief U.S. economist for Barclays Capital in New York.

“I would bet even odds that we’re at a bottom and that we’re going to see improvement in the coming months,” said Karl Case, co-creator of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index and a professor of economics at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Sounds good, right? So, does that mean I should ignore the following:

"Strategic Default: In Come the Waves Again" (Credit Writedowns)

There is a growing divide between delinquencies and foreclosures, which suggests that foreclosure data understate the mortgage distress and delinquencies now building in the U.S. residential housing market.

When Option-ARM and Alt-A interest rates re-set higher, payments will increase dramatically for many borrowers who are hopelessly underwater on their mortgages. This will be a significant driver of defaults in 2010 and 2011.

Moreover, a recent article in the New York Times demonstrates that borrowers with high FICO scores are still at risk of default, opting to pay credit cards off instead of mortgages.

This is all pointing to a coming wave of strategic defaults. Borrowers whose homes are significantly underwater could be looking at losses at sale for up to 6 years. Therefore, many are opting to default strategically. When a borrower defaults and walks away, the loss becomes unrecoverable and the value of the asset must be written down. So while holding MBS paper to maturity has cushioned banks to date, a large wave of strategic defaults would pressure lenders who are under-provisioning for future losses.

Expect this to play out over 2010 and 2011.

"Housing Recovery is Spelled R-E-O" (HousingWire)

Using [Lender Processing Service] data, for all loans more than 90 days in arrears, the average days delinquent is now at 272 days—up from 204 days in early 2008. For loans in foreclosure, the aging numbers are even more staggering: loans in this bucket average 410 days delinquent, up from 260 days delinquent in early 2008.

Ponder those numbers for just a second. On average, severely delinquent borrowers have gone more than 9 months without making a mortgage payment—and yet foreclosure has not yet started for them. For those borrowers who are in the foreclosure process, it’s been an average of 13.6 months—more than one full year—since they last made any payment on their mortgage.

So, can short sales ride in to save the day for these 7.4m troubled borrowers? What about for the many millions more who are current on their loans, but are underwater on property value and unable to sell? For some, short sales will be an important solution—but don’t kid yourself: the hype currently surrounding short sales and the HAFA program will prove to be short-lived, and REO expertise will be prove to be the key to recovery, as it has been in prior cycles.

"Housing Market Sure to Double-Dip: Whitney" (

The US housing market will face another retreat while mortgage-backed securities and Treasurys are likely to go through a "material" correction, Meredith Whitney, CEO of Meredith Whitney Advisory Group, told CNBC Tuesday.

"The housing market surely will double dip," Whitney told "Worldwide Exchange."

Government programs to support housing have been "murky" and when the modifications caused by them come to an end, a lot of supply may come to the market and that's when the real-estate market is likely to go down, she explained.

Hopes that an improvement in liquidity and continuing investment from China in US assets will prop up mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and Treasurys are exaggerated, Whitney also said.

"The asset classes of MBS and Treasurys are priced for a material correction in my opinion," she said. "The only buyers of agency MBS are the Fed and banks so you see how precarious that market is."

"If the Fed pulls back, that's a really big deal... because there's no substitute buyer."

Banks Model Is Broken

The Federal Reserve can't make banks start lending again because the business model financial institutions used before the crisis is broken, Whitney also said.

"I don't think there's much the Fed can do to get banks to start lending again. That's a structural problem, the model is broken," Whitney told "Worldwide Exchange."

"Home Builder Confidence Falls. Foul Weather and Distressed Sales Cited as Reason" (Mortgage News Daily)

[National Association of Home Builders] Chairman Bob Jones says:

“Unusually poor weather conditions certainly had a negative effect on builders’ business in February.....At the same time, the continual flow of distressed properties priced below the cost of production is having an adverse effect on new-home appraisals and also making it tough for builders’ customers to sell their existing homes.”

NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe says:

“The lack of available credit for new projects, the large number of distressed properties for sale and the continuing hesitancy of potential buyers due to the weak job market are definitely weighing on builder confidence at this time....

"Buyer Traffic Forecasting Decline" (Paper Economy)

Comparing today’s new residential construction data to the recently released NAHB housing market indicators appears to suggest that we may soon see a notable declines to housing starts and permits.

The “buyer traffic” index has been declining steadily since September 2009 indicating that home builders are seeing declining foot traffic with an overall level only slightly higher buyer activity than seen in the panic stricken days of late 2008.

This is a notable finding as in recent years the “buyer traffic” series has indicated the trend generally well in advance of the housing starts and permits data.

Further, as Bob Toll has noted many times in the past, the start of the year is typically the strongest period for the new home market so given the latest trends it appears that new housing is off to a particularly weak start.

"Lending Changes Hit Struggling Condo Market" (Daily Journal of Commerce)

Unit No. 100, a completely suitable space at the Trillium Hollow condominiums in Northwest Portland, is up for grabs. Unfortunately, it seems to be completely unsellable, according to Stacy Cooper, principal broker with Portland Condos.

“I have had five buyers interested in writing on this property, and have run the loan package through 10 lenders. Only one is willing to loan, and they will require 40 percent down,” she said. “This was not the case three years ago when my sellers bought the property. It has appraised above the list price, but even fire-sale pricing won’t get this property sold.”

Cooper’s experience is shared by many Portland condo brokers in the wake of the Federal Housing Administration’s new lending requirements for such properties. The new guidelines are dealing a stiff blow to a sector that already is struggling because of the housing market collapse.

As of Oct. 1, 2009, condo developments must meet a stringent new set of guidelines in order to obtain financing through the FHA. The new approval process, part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, is intended to better insure mortgages and slow the rate of defaults.

Well? Then You decide...
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Wiki-Solutions to Deliver Chaordix(TM) Crowdsourcing to UK

UK leader in collaborative idea generation selects Chaordix to provide open innovation services to its clients across a wide range of business and not-for-profit sectors

CALGARY, Alberta, March 18 /PRNewswire/ -- With global demand for crowdsourcing in different geographical markets increasing, Chaordix has formed a new partnership with Wiki-Solutions Ltd, a British company that helps organizations gain competitive advantage through collaborative innovation and idea generation.

Chaordix helps organizations apply crowdsourcing for purposes including generating ideas for new products or services, predicting market reaction, enhancing brand relevance, performing tasks, fundraising and engaging a crowd to develop research, technology, policy and product solutions. The Chaordix crowdsourcing platform equips organizations to harness crowds including the broad public, employees, consumers and other stakeholders. Participants submit, collaboratively refine and rank contributions that organizations can then apply to perform better.

"There is a strong and growing interest throughout the UK in using crowdsourcing and online collaboration to boost innovation," said John Williams, Founding Director of Wiki-Solutions. "With Chaordix's proven large crowd and enterprise-strength crowdsourcing solutions, we believe we will be bringing a new level of open innovation capabilities to organizations in the private, public and voluntary sectors."

"We're pleased to be working with Wiki-Solutions to bring enterprise-class crowdsourcing technology and services to the UK market," said Shelley Kuipers, Chaordix President & CEO. "The expertise that Wiki-Solutions brings, in combination with our experience in running crowdsourcing programs, will result in fostering greater and greater participation in open innovation among telecoms, non-profit and governments throughout the UK."

About Wiki-Solutions

Wiki-Solutions helps organizations harness the power of collaboration to originate ideas and solutions through a unique set of online tools which enable the solution of major problems or the development of new opportunities in workshops unlimited by time or place. Wiki-Solutions was founded by a group of leading marketing entrepreneurs to enable innovation in leading professional services firms, non-profit organizations and market leaders in the packaged goods, retail, information and communication sectors. Find out more at

About Chaordix

Chaordix makes it simple to seek and interpret input from the broad public, customers, employees and other partners. Delivered in a software-as-a-service model, the Chaordix crowdsourcing platform taps crowds for the business intelligence to innovate, improve operations, and reduce the risks of competing in the marketplace. The name reflects the fusion of chaos and order inherent in distilling wisdom from a multitude of voices. Find out more about us at Chaordix is a proud venture of The Cambrian House, Inc.
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How to Make Crowdsourcing Sustainable and Productive

In just four years, crowdsourcing has moved from a newly-coined term to an increasingly common practice. Now some Web heavyweights, from to Wikipedia, approach a variety of tasks by enlisting the wisdom -- and work -- of the crowd.

Scott Belsky, founder of a creative services company called Behance, and Jeffrey Kalmikoff, director of design and user experience for, believe it's time to outline some principles and dispel some misconceptions for the crowdsourcing era. At South by Southwest Interactive they outlined what can make a crowdsourced project work and what can make it fall apart.

Their panel was one of several panels that considered the implications of crowdsourcing for everything from online media to Netflix to programming.

Belsky and Kalmikoff don't work in news, but their advice is relevant for an online news operation considering this approach.

The wisdom of the crowd, Belsky and Kalmikoff noted, is often code for "free labor." How often have organizations turned to crowdsourcing simply because they didn't have the resources to do something themselves?

Instead, a successful crowdsourced project must foster a strong sense of community. A business, Belsky and Kalmikoff noted, doesn't have a community; it is part of one. Wikipedia,, Fark -- they all are communities of people built around a common purpose, doing more together than they could do alone.

Consider how sustainable your crowd is. The nature of crowdsourced initiatives, Belsky said, is that they usually look more like sprints than marathons.

So if people must participate in order to be part of your crowd, they'll probably burn out -- and so will your project or site. Instead, people should be able to identify with your crowd even if they don't participate all the time.

In other words, make sure there's a role for the lurkers.

Don't create a system or ask people to do something that will cause misgivings later. "No business should want their users to have this recollection of 'It seemed like a good idea at the time,' " Belsky said. (They called this the 'discount sushi' dilemma.)

Your system, whatever it is, must be structured so that it encourages collaboration. Kalmikoff contrasted two settings, a locker room and a strip club, to describe an environment that encourages collaboration.

In a locker room before a game, the teammates encourage each other, knowing that each one's success depends on the others. The dancers at a strip club, on the other hand, don't have that shared goal. In fact, their environment is set up to encourage competition instead.

Make sure you have a mechanism to discourage careless engagement. In your effort to encourage participation, you must also offer incentives to hold back. You don't want people flooding the system with poorly considered ideas and work.

"If what you're doing in no way harms or benefits your reputation, that is an overall risk for crowds in general, and sustainability in general," Kalmikoff said.

Don't waste people's brainpower. This seems self-evident, but Belsky and Kalmikoff said often people exert a lot of energy contributing to projects that never go anywhere. People are always weighing the value of their time against the potential reward of working with the crowd; if they don't see any result, they won't contribute.

They suggested three questions to consider before launching a crowdsourced project:

Can it foster community? Projects foster community if there's an incentive for conversation and learning, if there's incentive to engage beyond a specific transaction, and if there's a culture of collaboration.

Does it tap into the collective wisdom? A crowdsourced project should gather opinions, facts or insights that, taken together, are greater than the sum of their parts.

Does it nurture participants? Projects that nurture participants do these things:

* Benefit people's reputation (either within or outside the project)
* Build relationships
* Don't waste resources or time
* Make the terms of participation clear
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