So, I'm heading up the nonfiction aspect of this and I know today is the deadline but we're not gonna make the deadline. I've had a handful of people promise to tackle various subprojects in this field, but have yet to hear back from anyone. I know at least one is on vacation through this weekend so I should get that by next week. I've been doing my own research and coming up with thoughts and questions including an interview for the Gamer Theory guy but I haven't sent it to him yet - mostly because this week classes started and work has been unusually busy (I work for ohio state).
My immediate reaction to all of this:
- Newsviners, myself included, are not used to working on deadlines. Particularly with this nonfiction section - it's not easy to get through a whole book, come up with research, do an interview etc all in about a week. I think most viners are hobbyists and I think that perhaps the most critical difference between professional and amateur is the presence of deadlines. I don't think anyone really appreciated the idea of pacing etc - it's partly my fault, since I'm supposed to be heading up this section but I don't really know how to get people to work on a deadline. Perhaps some more micromanagement is needed.
- I still think that the project is too abstract. I'm asking people to look over a book, get a sense for how it's put together, figure out who contributes, and how and why, possibly do an interview, etc - and then maybe some small part of their effort will make it into my profile, of which a small part might make it into the final draft. That's not really a compelling argument - there's no motivation for them to get really into it on the offchance that some modified sentence fragment of theirs will make it through the distillation process into some sort of final draft. Well, maybe they don't have to go to all that trouble - maybe they should just write a little bit? But how much? And how rigorously should they research it? And what are other people working on lateral projects doing? More? Less? The absence of a model here is troubling. I know that the whole point here is that you want the users to come up with their own model - but I really do think that that's asking a lot from most people.
- I know you've heard this before, but I think a lot of people find the subject matter boring. I mean, the project is exciting, right. I say, who wants to help? Everyone says, "I do, what can I do?" I say, "Take a look at wikinomics, figure out how it's put together and why people contribute towards it." They say "....oh. I think I, uh, left the oven on...I'll...be right back..." A crowdsourcing project on crowdsourcing is cool, ok, I get why you're doing it. But here's my suggestion: you guys and your closest friends do a small-scale project on crowdsourcing. Get 20 people together, do the interviews and the profiles etc and then refine it all the way through a final draft. Document the whole process. Sell that article to Wired as a proof of concept on a small scale, and then announce something a bit more exciting for your huge debut.
- Here's something I learned from looking at Gamer Theory: My suspicion is that crowdsourcing works because it discovers niche interests and provides a forum for isolated niche members to collaborate on something they find interesting. It's not the process itself that excites and motivates people - it's the content. Everyone is an expert in something, and crowdsourcing allows us to exert our authority in our field of expertise. If you want to do a crowdsourced article about crowdsourcing, you have to pitch it to people who are passionate about crowdsourcing as a subject, not as a process. A few of us at newsvine fit that criteria, but most of us don't. We're passionate about politics and sex and literature and technology and alcohol, ya know?
- So here's a thought: Do a crowdsourced article about the '08 election, get Wired's name behind it so we have some street cred and sit down with us to figure out what kind of assignments make sense and I think you'd have yourselves a deal. Nobody wants to interview MacKenzie Wark - we want to and we are qualified to interview local campaign organizers, research campaign finance disputes, go undercover at the polling station to watch the machines, etc. Newsvine is a global community but in the end we're all local - if you really want to harness us, play to that strength. Give me something I can do in columbus that nobody else can do. We can give you a reporter on the ground in every major city - what we can't necessarily do is promise to deliver dry book reports that may or may not be used on books we may or may not be interested within a week. Ya know what I mean?
Anyway, I hope that doesn't come across as unhelpful or stubborn. I've put a lot of thought into this and it just doesn't feel right the way it's going now. Please let me know what you think. I'm not giving up hope on this project, but I think if we don't learn from it as we go along then we're just sort of condemning ourselves to a slow stubborn failure. Also, please note that I'm really only addressing the newsvine portion of this project as I've seen it - I don't know how it's going elsewhere. Are you getting good participation? What do your contributors have in common? Are people meeting deadlines? Have people up with a system, so they know what they're doing for profiles and interviews and etc?
Thanks for reading all that.