Archive for the ‘Collaboration’ Category

Can we open source Project Redstripe?

December 12, 2006

The Economist generates passion.

The Economist has hugely intelligent, capable readers.

The Economist is IMHO a force for good in the world.

Hold on, doesn’t that mean that, like GNU Linux and Wikipedia, we could ask our readers not only what they wanted The Economist to be, but also ask them to help us do it.

It is clear that the six man Project Redstripe team will not have a fraction of the know how, or collective intelligence of The Economist hive mind. How great would it be to throw open the doors of development to every Economist reader?

We could ask them what we should do. What’s more, we could ask them to help us make it happen. Now, I’m sure there are those that think “Oh, he’s trying to develop stuff on the cheap”. And I could see the hypothetical point. To have hundreds of developers doing stuff for free is every flinty hearted businessman’s dream, however, I’m coming at this from the hippy end of the spectrum.

I believe that people will contribute to a project that they care about. Therefore, we have to create something our readers believe in, then let them get on with it. That would be a beautiful thing.

Or am I just being no good, peace loving, patchouli wielding, lentil shoe wearing, hippy scum? I don’t think so.

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“The war’s over Lebowski. The bums lost” vs the business of giving

Community, that’s the thing

October 10, 2006

Yesterday I linked to the wiki that I created for my charity rally. I was slightly bold in saying that it was the best wiki in the world. Wikipedia might argue with that, but it is undeniable is that no wiki in the world that means more to me.

Whilst preparing the rally, I would leave it for some time and completely forget about it. Then suddenly look, and see that something unbelievable had happened. The key was that the ralliers that got involved with the wiki were most excited about the rally.

They had shared stories, jokes and photos about it.

Experiences like this show how powerful communities can be, so I really identified with what Emily Bell said in her Guardian podcast :

“In the next two to three to four years, community goes from the edges to the core. Otherwise, you’re not going to have a business.” (picked up by Jeff Jarvis)

This brings us to a question that must lie close to the heart of Project Redstripe – how do we empower our audience?

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In other news, Project Redstripe has been picked up on PaidContent.org. Apparently it is a “rather intriguing new digital incubation unit“. I also noticed they are having a PaidContent drinks party, which I’ve asked for some invites for.

Would anyone like to join me?

Killing Cancer Has Never Been So Much Fun

October 9, 2006

After a few opinion posts I thought I’d write about another project I’ve pushed through. I can just imagine how entertaining it must be to read me spouting off about all manner of things but you might prefer to see things I’ve done.

And as I’m fresh out of ado, here’s The Kill Cancer Death Rally (if you mind swearing then please don’t read this site). It was a rally for Cancer Research UK where every car got sponsored before driving down to Barcelona.

It has pretty much the toughest name of any charity event in the world.

Kill Cancer because that’s what we were trying to do. Death Rally because it sounds rock’n’roll. So on Thursday 28th November I set out from work with a general’s outfit in my bag, to a car in the City, that had been redecorated by D*Face, an amazing London grafitti artist.

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 You’re right. That car is covered in 100s of plastic animals

From there we drove onto the Eurotunnel to Le Touquet then to Tours, then to Toulouse until we arrived in Barcelona on Sunday afternoon. 18 people came on the rally and we were all raising money for Cancer Research UK.

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And that is a Crazy Golf on the car 

The good thing was we all had an amazing time. The really great thing is we’re going to raise about £10 000 for cancer.

As is my wont, I made a blog for the cruise. It’s a pretty spiffy site, I think. There’s a fair bit YouTubing on it, some use of Flickr and even the world’s best wiki (have a read and you’ll find out why).

I can’t tell you how proud I was that this went from idea to reality. It made that enormous step out of the realm of pub chat. Then, suddenly, I found myself driving into Barcelona, not quite believing it was happening after four of the most fun days of my life.

I put an enormous amount of work into this. Working through weekends for it, and most nights of the week. This level of energy and dedication will be something I can bring to Project Redstripe.

If I’m passionate about something I’ll push it to the limit. As I think that working Project Redstripe would be the best job in the world, you’ll probably have to prise me out of the office with a crowbar.

 

Things which take time Pt. 1 : angle-grinding turrets into cars

Digg this

October 5, 2006

This blog aims to show why I’m suited to Project Redstripe in several ways. Because of the projects I’ve initiated, my startup, go-get attitude and a true love of the fast changing www. It will also show ways in which, I think, The Economist can take advantage of these changes.

This time I look at what we might learn from Digg.

Everyone loves Digg.com. Jeff Jarvis, founder of Entertainment Weekly and net-journo-guru, calls it the future of media. CEO Kevin Rose is the geek hero of the post-gatekeeper internet news scene.

The site works by aggregating interesting stories on the web. If other users like them others can digg/vote for them. The theory being that a popularity contest means the best ones make it to the top.

Without it I wouldn’t see 8 years of photos in one video, how to make an amazing fancy dress outfit or how to shoot yourself in the foot in any programming language.

As you can see from the last post, it is very geek driven. However, there are others moving in to this space. Netscape have just launched their politics aggregator calling the users that vote, anchors (rumours that it’s rhyming slang for Jason Calacanis are grossly exaggerated).

A question we can ask ourselves is : what is The Economist reader’s web? If The Economist Feed Reader (TM) had a button to bookmark favourite posts and pages, we could find out.

We could see which readers liked which stories from across the web and from within The Economist. Instead of being a destination in itself we would become a way of exploring the rest of the internet.

Use the hive mind of our readers and we can create an Economist web.

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Even tiny minds can produce startling things

Content is the new lunch

October 4, 2006

Why is content the new lunch? Because content, to paraphrase Gordon Gecko from the 1980s slick hairfest Wall Street, is for wimps. All that is inspirational, sexy and exciting on the web comes not from a team of writers but from audiences that contribute.

Wikipedia, Digg, Flickr, Reddit, MySpace and Facebook, to name a few, all get their value from their users.

Passionate souls that create are driving the new web.

Luckily for The Economist Group, we have some of the most interesting readers on the planet.

Our amazing content has got us where we are today. Our amazing audience will power our web.

Despise him for his morals, love him for his tie clip 

The wonders of wikis

October 3, 2006

One of the problems of trying to get my blog project off the ground is that I have spoken to a lot of people about it. This has given the false impression that I’m only obsessed by blogs, when I’m obsessed by new media as a whole. This blog should show that I’m a rounded digital player with an understanding of many developments on the web.

I would like to take the opportunity to showcase/showoff my Group Sales wiki (for what it’s worth). This was something that I started, believing it would enable a greater level of conversation amongst parts of the group that are separated by borders and wonky timezones.

Firstly, what is a wiki? This is answered very well in an article by John Edwards of CFO :

“Wiki,” the Hawaiian word for “quick,” is also the name for collaborative Web sites that let users add and edit content quickly and easily.

The best-known of these collaborative sites is Wikipedia, a multilingual Web-based encyclopedia. Unlike conventional online reference works, which are updated on regular schedules by professional writers and editors, Wikipedia is written entirely by volunteers and allows most articles to be changed, edited, or updated by any user at any time. This continual, “community oriented” publishing approach has enabled it to become the world’s most largest and most current encyclopedia — though hardly the most accurate, say detractors.

As Wikipedia’s popularity has soared, businesses have begun to investigate its underlying technology as a way to share business and financial knowledge among employees, suppliers, and customers. Why use highly structured content management software, they reason, when a wiki’s collaborative process can get the job done faster and easier?”

The software has already been adopted by many organisations (there is even, I believe, an Economist editorial Social Text wiki). A good example of such just such a company is Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein. There is a great case study on the implementation and this is part of the conclusion :

“At DrKW, wiki users have seen demonstrable value. Their meetings run more smoothly and are more productive; unnecessary barriers between teams are being broken down; the quality of product specifications and documentation is improving; presentations are being written faster and more effectively; and the risks posed by staff leaving is reduced.

But more than that, the wiki is helping people form business relationships with people that they would otherwise never have met. It’s strengthening existing relationships, and providing a forum for high quality conversation and exchange of ideas.”

Having drunk from the wiki Kool Aid I thought I’d see if I could get some of these benefits by setting up a wiki on StikiPad. The chief aim of this was to put up information that I had on the Postgraduate Courses section that I was working on (see Economist’s of 30th September and October 7th).

This would be a way of putting information up there which could then be shared without sending a barrage of group emails around the salespeople and reps. I have the privilege of working on courses full time and I’d love it if others could benefit from my work. What would be even better would be if I could benefit from their’s.

Eventually I put up here not just Postgraduate section material, but also dotcom options and sales emails for the various surveys.

Now, I’m not going to say it was a success. Whilst some folk have accepted authorship of the wiki, it has just one user. The total failure of the project aside, I hope you can see that I try to come up with innovative, practical solutions using web apps.

If you would like to have a look around this ghost wiki please email me and I’ll send you an invitation.

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The benefits of collaboration