22 posts categorized "Crowdsourcing"

WSJ Live Chat Today: What Will the JOBS Act Mean for US Startups?

Every law firm seems to be putting on a webinar about the recently passed JOBS Act.

But how many organizations are having live chat sessions where people can type in questions to be answered online in real time?

The Wall Street Journal is doing such a live chat. Today at 11 am Pacific, 2 pm Eastern. WSJ reporter Angus Loten will moderate, and I will be answering the questions. Please join in if you can!

President signs JOBS Act - cropped

Future programming note: Denise Howell, Joe Wallin, Doug Cornelius and I plan to have a Google+ hangout about the JOBS Act on April 25. Stay tuned for more details about that.

The OPEN Act and Crowdsourced Legislative Drafting

The OPEN Act has instant credibility simply from the fact that Senator Ron Wyden backs it. Wyden is credited for having been the lone Senator to block passage of PROTECT IP, a predecessor to the SOPA bill now being pushed by House members who have been paid by a variety of cable and media companies.

I went to read the OPEN Act this weekend and was pleasantly surprised to find it on a site from Representative Darell Issa, not a person I would normally associate with good and transparent government, that makes it very easy to comment on and even to mark up the proposed legislative language.

Screen shot 2012-01-08 at 2.55.01 PM

I know little about the workings of the International Trade Commission, which is the body that the OPEN Act designates for handling the rogue foreign websites that Hollywood purportedly is after (really, they want to shut down US businesses that they find competitive or disintermediating). But in reading the bill, I got the sense that it's supposed to make sure that US businesses accepting the jurisdiction of US courts should continue to enjoy the constitutitonal, statutory and other other protections afforded US companies by US law, and so I tried my hand at tightening up the provisions that would appropriately limit ITC jurisdiction.

There are good sites with great ambitions - opencongress.org comes to mind - to serve as places where people can review and comment on legislation. I like the software Issa is using - the site calls it "Madison," after the founding father - best, because it lets you get right into the legislation, mark it up, and see your changes in the overall context of the bill.

If "Madison" develops to generate reports and other views that will let legislators and citizens slice and dice and compare the versions of legislative language so crowdsourced, it could be a very powerful tool.


Keep an eye on the protests and events in the Wall Street area of New York City this morning.

Reports on a NYTimes blog and the CNN site get into the logistics on the streets of lower Manhattan - how the protestors are moving, where the police are anticipating them, what the interactions are like.

I learned about the plans for this . . . event, I guess I'll call it . . . from the Adbusters magazine. What I liked about it conceptually was that the demands for the protest, the very organizing rationale, were being crowdsourced.

And I liked that the problem of corporate speech was at or near the top of the voting.

Note the top tweet on the screenshot below, stating that the protest is leaderless.

The best way to follow what's happening, at least here at the start (the ambition of some is to camp in Wall Street indefinitely), may be to follow the hashtag #occupywallstreet on Twitter. But be careful: the stream includes indicia of paranoia, such as the claim that Twitter is censoring the hashtag or preventing it from being listed as trending.


Update 9:24am Pacific: here's a well shot and well edited video by Jaisal Noor, featuring organizers calling themselves members of the NYC General Assembly. There may not be the outrage or the numbers in the US to match what's happening in the Arab Spring, but, wow, I don't remember seeing videos with these production values being posted in real time from the Mideast.

Alternatives to Political Ads

It's not just negative 30-second TV ads that can be misleading, but apparently positive ones as well.

Here's a terrific piece of TV journalism from local Seattle reporter Robert Mak, critical of a claim by Senator Murray that she had saved a hospital from closing. The report fills in context that makes the Senator's "saving" of the hospital more nuanced, one involving tradeoffs that may not be that straightforward. (If you can't see the video, a transcript of the Robert Mak's piece is here.)


And you can bypass the TV ads altogether if you are so inclined. Here's a site that is crowdsourcing opinions on different ballot initiatives before Washington State voters.

Don't know how much trouble it may be for the sponsors of the ballot initiative information site to police what is posted, but I do like the "terms of service" they make you check agreement to, before letting you in:

The Participant Pledge

To foster an environment for relevant and civil political discussion, we ask everyone participating in the Living Voters Guide to take the following pledge.

  • I will not make personal attacks or use offensive language.
  • My opinions are my own; I am not speaking for a campaign, candidate, or party.
  • Though I may change my vote at any time, I will not create multiple accounts.

Unionizing the Crowdsourced

Over coffee last weekend, one of my oldest and best friends expressed optimism over reversing the sell-out of social networking being effected -- already effected -- by Twitter and Facebook.

Impaled"At some point people will say enough is enough and demand to be compensated for the use of their information," he said.

His words rang like permission to be optimistic.

It's not in the nature of a corporate business to take on responsibility for social change. To the extent that happens, it's unintended in the specific case, and a byproduct of the nature of capitalism and the freedom that results from the larger arc of economic liberty.

No, I don't expect Twitter would hang on forever to an open-ended, altruistic mission statement (convenient cover when not yet certain of a business model). It would inevitably need to find a business rationale because it is a corporate person.

My disappoint is that the Twitter board gave up on finding a 21st Century business model, one that would finally slay rather than give new life to advertising, a business practice that was efficient and useful in the era of mass and broadcast media but isn't at all designed for the full throttle potential of social media.

Presumably the Twitter directors know their shareholders don't have the patience to build a business that could be truly important, powerful and lasting. If my friend's optimism is foresightful, then someone else will find, invent, or stumble across a way to monetize social media that will send the money the right direction, to the crowdsourced, and eclipse what in the 21st Century can only be called the cynicism of direct marketing to consumers.

What if Jaron Lanier is right and the lords of the cloud prefer people in the subservient position of being disempowered by their own content, nay, disconnected from their own agency and alienated from their own creativity?

If Twitter and Facebook are already "locked in" to a business model predicated on the outdated assumption of inefficiency in access to pertinent information, then users, already captured, might eventually have to "unionize," might have to collectively bargain for their rights as the labor, currently unpaid, on which the lords of the cloud exact tribute.

The going wage might take the form of residuals on the manner in which one's personal information is manipulated and sold. Right now the masses are passive. But if the collective imagination lights up with the thought that a network's users should get a cut of the ad revenue, or better yet, be paid to permit sponsored information to be served to them, there could be a will to strike. Social media users might say, hell no, we're not working for you without pay just so you can organize us into behaving like more obedient consumers.

The path of exploitation we are on could be a short one.

Bartering with Web Service Providers

Eric Goldman's principled rant against Scribd is making me reflect about my own relative passivity regarding Disqus dropping "reactions" to my posts.

Eric has announced that he will no longer post documents to Scribd because, having linked to them from his blog on the assumption that his readers would be able to access the docs for free, Scribd has now unilaterally decided to put the documents in back of a paywall.

I've had some back and forth with the folks at Disqus and they are always responsive when I ping them, but the problem with "reactions" doesn't really get fixed.

So rather than keep bugging them, I have simply turned "reactions" off. I'd rather subject myself to the inconvenience of going to my Disqus dashboard and turning reactions back "on" every couple of weeks, to test whether a fix has taken or not, than to harp out of all proportion to what I am paying Disqus. Which is $0.00.

Except that Goldman's post, and an excellent responsive post by Mike Masnick, and the good comment streams to both posts, make the case that I (and all others using the service for "free") am in fact paying something of value to Disqus.

Responding to comments "suggesting that if you're not paying, you're not a customer and, thus, have no right to complain," Masnick's post counters:

"This is silly -- and wrong. It's where the often artificial distinction between 'customer' and 'user' and 'product' gets blurry and, at times, questionable, especially in the realm of 'user-generated' content. There are more ways to 'pay' than with money. In Goldman's case, he's actually been 'paying' Scribd by providing it with valuable, sought-after content that he uploads. Scribd is 'paying' Goldman with free hosting, bandwidth and services. Advertisers are 'paying' Scribd with money. Users are 'paying' Scribd with their attention. All are 'customers' in some sense, while also being users and, potentially, 'the product,' as well. Focusing only on the relationships where actual cash exchanges hands misses the point (greatly)."

Point well made and duly received, but I'm still not getting my back up. In my case, Disqus is not (now) doing anything as crass a running ads. And the fact of the matter is, I can't imagine getting along without their platform for comments. I know I may have to find another solution for reactions, and am fine with that.

I hope I can pay cash for it!

Crowdsourcing Facebook Check-In Venues

An observation about the new Facebook places feature, by way of follow-up to Saturday's post, and in particular the point that Foursquare seems to be acknowledging some responsibility to police listings of homes and residences as check-in venues:


Here's a screen I've gotten a couple times when adding a venue not included among Facebook's pre-populated check-in options.

The first sentence is declarative. The second is in the imperative case, but it's qualified, and somehow affects the tone of a public service announcement. You aren't confronted with the word "permission," nor are you making any rep or warranty by clicking the "Add" button.

Places has let me add venues and has instantly populated its list with my additions. So it would appear to represent an honor system.

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