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Posts Tagged ‘crowd-sourcing’
‘You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!’ says famed entrepreneurial scoundrel Charlie Croker played by Michael Caine in the 1969 British gold-heist classic, The Italian Job.
The film and that infamous line – which still ranks among Britain’s most quoted – are where my thoughts turn when I think about media140’s two upcoming events at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy from April 21 to 25.
Our version may not involve gold bullion, mini-skirts or breaking into jail, but we may be just ostentatious enough to imagine it has the potential to match the movie for energy, thrills and creativity.
For those who have not had the pleasure of seeing The Italian Job, it opens with a Lamborghini winding through the alps – just as the Media140 team shall too be heading into the beautiful Italian countryside – albeit in a marginally less glamorous minivan.
Perhaps this point of difference is a good thing, as that Lamborghini meets a spectacularly explosive fate at the hands of the mafia scarce minutes into the film.
The IJF (as it is affectionately known by those wishing to save characters) brings together an eclectic throng of journalists from Europe, the Americas, Africa, the Middle East and Australia. This year’s keynote speaker is Al Gore – yes, the environmental activist who served as vice president of the United States under Bill Clinton from 1993 to 2001 and is oft credited with being instrumental in the rise of the Internet.
If Mr Gore is not enough reason to book your flight now, it is well worth a click-through to this list of literally dozens of international media executives, innovators and academics who will be sharing their ideas in Perugia – which is itself a vibrant hub of culture and progress.
In addition to presenting two days’ worth of speakers and panels at the IJF, Media140’s crew of specialised ‘backpacker reporters’ will cover the festival using only hand-held devices and online publishing tools. Flips, iPhones, Nokia N96s, audioBoo and Qik will be the kind of apparatus with which we break into the festival’s vault of brilliant ideas just like Croker and his crew – minus the criminality.
Lead editorially by the much more softly-spoken Claire Wardle, the Media140 team admittedly has little in common with Croker’s band of thieves apart from the unique and honed skills each one of them brings to the – err – job. Moreover, Croker had just one ‘computer specialist’ and Wardle will have a gaggle* of them.
media140 will not be blowing the doors off of anything, but we certainly plan to blow minds with a powerful fusion of social inquiry, journalism and technological exploration.
Tickets to the festival are – astonishingly – free. All you have to do is make your way to picturesque Umbria in late April, where spring will most probably just have sprung.
When Italians hope to meet again, they say ‘arrivederci’ – and that is what we bid you!
Ande Gregson – Founder, media140
*All suggestions for a collective noun for computer specialists are welcome in the comments section below …
images courtesy United Nations Development Programme
Who better than a social justice-oriented thinker with a passion for social media to introduce and explain Ushahidi – a crowd-sourced online disaster relief agency?
It is extraordinarily difficult to fathom quite what is going on in Haiti right now. No amount of graphic video and images could ever really get the horrific reality through our computer screens and into our consciousness.
With the possible exception of Rush Limbaugh – a US talk show host who cynically announced President Barack Obama would use the disaster to curry favour with ‘both dark and light-skinned Americans’ – the international community has shown great and genuine concern. Millions of dollars are pouring into Haiti while search and rescue teams sent from around the world clamber over the ruins of the island nation’s towns and villages, to provide assistance to as many survivors as possible.
But the real problem is how to effectively distribute help in devastation zones like Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. Competition between aid agencies and governments, combined with acute logistical problems can significantly delay the delivery of aid to the areas and the individuals most in need.
Tricky question in the pub quiz? Few of us these days would hesitate to trust Google to come up with the goods, Wikipedia ruses nonwithstanding.
Find a good pub, decent cup of coffee, cheap B&B near your next out-of-town meeting? Few of us would now hesitate to throw out a query to the Twitterverse. More often than not, a varied, and invariably helpful, response comes winging back within minutes.
But what about a dilemma rather more serious than “Thai takeaway tonight or the tapas bar?” Would you trust your followers to steer you in the right direction on a thornier ethical or health issue? Below, Henry Elliss, head of Social Media at Tamar.com, tells Media140 about his experience of trying to find out a bit more about the H1N1 vaccine via Twitter, and whether or not the response was sufficient to make him reconsider his views on giving the jab to his infant son.
Scroll down to read a companion piece by Media140’s creative correspondent, Stuart Witts, on whether or not there are some questions which are just too important to trust to your Twitter followers. Stuart’s piece is not a response to Henry’s experiences but both raise thought-provoking questions about using Twitter to help make difficult decisions in an increasingly complex world.
I suspect my dear wife would laugh if she knew I had asked a question about the Swine Flu jab on Twitter. She sees it very much as a personal decision between the two of us. But I felt that I just didn’t know enough about the jab, and, since I was the one pushing the “let’s give it to him” (our 17 month-old son, Robert) I thought that I would need some back-up if I wanted to continue to push the debate. When I asked the question on Twitter, I simply had no idea what kind of response I would get. Given the amount of tweets I do, I think I assumed it would just get ignored – I didn’t realise there was such strength-of-feeling out there on the jab!
As I am someone who knows Search extremely well, I would usually stick that sort of thing in to Google. To be honest, I’d probably trust Google on a pub quiz question (not that I’d ever cheat, I hasten to add!) rather more than I would my Twitter followers. This was different though, since I was looking for opinion, rather than for facts.
I was pro the jab, Mrs E. was anti; she felt that it had not been tested enough yet, and just wasn’t convinced of the need for it. I may be more naively trusting: I just saw that it was being “recommended” and so assumed that we should get it done.
To be honest, the Twitter responses I got didn’t really help me make up my mind either way, since there was a marked contrast in people’s answers. I got some horror stories from people who said we should, then I got some very wary warnings from people who said we shouldn’t, so I wasn’t really any the wiser.
I was hoping the tweet might get spotted by a few medical experts, but I guess my tweets must be unappealing to the medically trained, since none came! In the event, my opinion was eventually swayed by a person IRL, a colleague of mine. Whilst she did see the tweet on Twitter, she came over in the office and explained her stance to me in person, so I’m not sure whether it counts as a win for Twitter or not!
I don’t think we will be giving Robert the jab for the moment – the opinion of the few medically knowledgeable people from whom I got advice IRL was that the 1,000 test-bed which they have used for the jab is too small and had been too rushed, to know for sure whether there were any serious side effects.
Are there some questions to which the appropriate response is so important or life-changing, that crowd-sourcing for opinion on Twitter is simply unacceptable? Most of us have done it at one time or another. Pizza or Curry tonight? Smart or Casual? Does my bum look big in this?
But is there a time when asking your followers for their opinion becomes one tweet too far? For #IMHO140, Stuart Witts muses on the value of the real-time response.
During a recent train journey, I was scrolling through my stream when I came across a tweet asking for views on whether or not an individual’s child should be getting the Tami Flu jab. Now I certainly don’t see this particular question as controversial, I’m sure anyone who was undecided about this particular issue would be asking the advice of all of their friends (both real and virtual). But it did get me thinking about how far this type of crowdsourcing could go.
Could there be a time when a fellow Twitterer asks a question of us with such far-reaching impact on their lives, that in the split-second of our ‘real-time’ response, we don’t fully consider our thoughts and suddenly someone’s life has been forever changed?
Twitter’s biggest strength, ‘real-time’, inevitably leads to us tweeting at any juncture of our day. We may be feeling happy, after meeting a friend for coffee, or annoyed at having missed yet another train due to over-crowding? But it is exactly at these times that we may be called upon to give our opinion and, again because of Twitter’s ‘real-time’ nature, we feel compelled to answer immediately, before the moment has passed and the conversation has moved on to another topic.
I may be overemphasising the importance of the responses we give; after all, we are supposed to be free-thinking individuals, fully capable of making our own decisions. But we all know that’s hogwash and if that were really true there would be no marketers, ad-men or thought leaders.
Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) spoke of his influence, and his ability to bring down websites, at the recent 140conference in London and luckily he’s a nice guy. But what if, as Andrew Keen (@ajkeen) said, those who have the most influence are not nice? What if they have their own agenda, and the answers they give only serve to further it?
It’s not all bad though. Where else could you canvas the opinion of such a varied audience? Forums are great, but due to their specialised nature are likely to be filled with individuals of a similar mindset and with all of the specific baggage that comes with any particular subset. On Twitter, your followers can be anyone or indeed anything.
There are also times when the ‘real-time’ reaction can be a much truer one than the carefully considered response.
In the end though, I want to believe that the people I talk to are genuine and that I myself, am strong enough, amongst the barrage of subtle persuasions, to make my own decisions and, in the immortal words of Monty Python’s Brian: “You’ve got it all wrong! You don’t NEED to follow @ME, You don’t NEED to follow @ANYBODY! You’ve got to think for yourselves! You are ALL individuals!”
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