Archives for the month of: August, 2010

Following on from my last post that looked into recent developments in crowdsourcing – here are some more reports and examples of crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourced Journalism – Imagining how the media will be reborn in 2022, trend watcher and futurist Ross Dawson has predicted that news investigation and reporting will be done by ‘hordes of amateurs overseen by professionals’.

Organising Aid Relief – Techcrunch have investigated case studies in crowdsourcing disaster relief. By ‘placing reporting power in the hands of people who might otherwise be victims’ technology is allowing armchair disaster relief experts to work with people on the ground to help build important communication channels.

In Haiti, mass collaboration enabled to provide a better map of the disaster zone than the US department of defense (and at a fraction of the cost). In any area where modern communication channels exist, there is the possibility for this form of organisation.

New Opensource Software – All Our Ideas is a new free platform that has been designed to harness the power of crowdsourcing. It cleverly combines a structured questionnaire with the added ability for a respondent to suggest new ideas. As crowdsourcing in the digital age is all about combining the benefits of quantitative research with the benefits of qualitative research, I reckon this software will be the first example of many new platforms to come.

Crowdsourcing the Truth – Truth Squad was an experiment that tested whether crowdsourcing can be used to fact-check claims made in the media and by politicians. After a discussion and voting by contributors to a website, the quote or claim in question is assessed by a panel of judges who then weigh up the evidence and make a verdict. Despite low publicity the experiment was a success and showed the crowds eagerness to put claims to the test. I expect (and hope) this to become a major new movement within crowdsourcing.

Collecting Sounds – Asking “What does Britain sound like?” the British Library is using crowdsourcing to collect and catalogue sound samples from around the country. Working with social sound recording service Audioboo, the library is asking people to record the sound of traffic, town centres or anything else around where they live. It is anticipated that over 10,000 samples will be created to generate a sound map of Britain. More details here.

Over halfway through a year which has seen the biggest rise in crowdsourcing solutions, it seems that the trend is set to continue. What seems to be the most important observation to make is the increasing use of methods to curate, filter or control the input from the crowd.


I really like the TellYouGov service which allows its members to express an opinion on anything they like, whenever they like.

I particularly like the way a member can use Twitter to express a sentiment – as long as it is formatted in a way that TellYouGov can understand (using #tellyougov).

However, what I think is its main limitation is that only YouGov members can express themselves through it.

It made me think that what is needed is a Twitter convention for expressing sentiment. Something like TellYouGov – but simpler and more open to everyone.

So – if I like Nike for whatever reason, I can tweet: “#op+ Nike – really comfy footwear”. In this “#op” stands for opinion and the “+” indicates positive sentiment and a “-” would indicate negative sentiment.

If it caught on then it would make Twitter analysis much more reliable than the current methods. Any thoughts…?

As if declining newspaper sales hadn’t made journalists fear for their jobs enough – along comes the robot reporter!

I’m not talking about C3PO with a notepad – but rather the ability computers have to analyse data and write reports automatically.

Narrative Science is a company that runs software which recieves date, analyses it and writes a piece of news copy – all without a human hand in sight.

So far the software has been used to successfully report on sports games which, due to financial constraints, couldn’t normally be reported on. But the possibilities of this new form of reporting are enormous.

This technology could potentially be applied to any piece of reporting that requires analysis of data. And with the amount of data around us piling up at a ridiculous rate, there is definitely a need for something to help make sense of it all.

Of course, I seriously doubt that a computer would be able to dig out the finer details that a trained reporting human eye would uncover. But equally as unlikely is the ability for humans to find details and patterns in data which a computer easily can.

The example given by one of the partners of Narrative Science is proof enough: “One machine-generated game story suggested that the pitcher’s excellent performance during that game indicated that he might be coming out of a slump.”

So – with governments around the world opening up their data, alongside a growing need to monitor the actions of bankers and a web that keeps the world constantly producing data, this new method of reporting could really catch on.

And how will this effect journalism? I doubt it will lead to news companies sacking their staff and hiring companies like Narrative Science.

I don’t believe that automating news reporting will diminish the role of human reporters – rather it will help reporters get closer to the story hidden within  the data. And save a lot of time.

I always love it when I’m shown a new web tool – so I thought I’d share some of my discoveries of what the web can offer.

Of course – there are tonnes of free tools available. But this list is my own personal toolbox – so it is the stuff I consider to be the best out there.

This is a work in progress – so PLEASE comment and let me know any that you think should be added to the list!


Awesome Screenshot – Take a screenshot, then annote and edit it within the browser (Chrome Extension)

Error Level Analysis – Want to check if an image has been digitally edited – try this. – Insert a link and this site will summarise the content into a few words.

Free OCR – OCR (Optical Character Recognition) will convert any image into text. Upload a PDF and download a word file. Works with large documents.


QRNote – Put a note online and generate a QR code – great for promotion or play.

Website Stuff

Future Message – Send yourself an email, tweet or text any time in the future. Perfect for reminding yourself about important dates.

Backlink Watch – Generate a web page report of the backlinks to a URL

Change Detection – If you follow a page that does not have an RSS feed then this service will notify you whenever the site changes with new content. – Shorten a URL and then password protect it

Randomize List – Need to randomise a list? Whack it here.

Bulkr – Upload up to 200 photos to Flickr at the same time


All Our Ideas – Crowdsourcing solution for encouraging the voting, commenting and creation of new ideas.

Media Creation

One True Media – Mix your photo’s, video and music together using some cool themes.

Animoto – Create unique and professinal looking video clips using your own pictures, videos and sounds.


Sync.In – Realtime document conferencing. Collaborate without any sign in by sending a URL.

Google Shared Spaces – A variety of  applications that enables you to easily collaborate with others.

Screenr – Make a screencast by recording your desktop

Social Media

Booshaka – Find out what is trending on Facebook

SlideShare – Put your slides on the web – everyone loves a slideshow!

Audioboo – Upload and share sound files through a user profile – find regular uploaders to follow.

Delicious Social Bookmarking – The best way to bookmark pages with a single click (best used with a browser extension). – This bookmarking service allows you to search the websites you have saved – and it automatically saves every site you tweet or post on Facebook.

Dlvr.It – Synchronise your blog, website, news feed, delicious account with your Twitter, Facebook , LinkedIn account. Publish to everything with the click of a button.

Facebook Check – Put your Facebook ID or URL into this programme and it will tell you exactly what can be seen by others.

Yammer – Create a fully functional social network for your organisation.

Pearltrees – A great stylish and interactive way to present connections between media. Highly recommended!

FaceBook Wipe – Remove cluttering sidebars from FaceBook

Lanyrd – Never miss a conference with this site. Login with Twitter and it gives you a list of conferences your friends are attending – then you can add more.

Files and Storage

DocDroid – Upload, view and share any file format.

You Send It – Transfer files of up to 2 Gigabytes.

CloudSafe – Store personal details and access them on this secure website.

FileMinx – Convert image, sound, video and text files into whatever you need with this site.

Dropbox – Store, synchronise and share files online – a great collaboration tool and useful if you work from mulitple computers.

PDF Convertor – Create PDF’s easily.

CreatePDF – Create a PDF of a webpage

Time Saving Research Tools

Apture – Highlight text and open up a box with information from Wikipedia, YouTube and others.

Google & Android

Chrome to Phone – Send links, numbers or anything else from your browser to your Android mobile

GooReader – If you use Google Books regularly then this provides a nice bookshelf to view search results and an all round better reading experience

Google Map Storage – Download a Google map to your harddrive for offline access.

Data Tools

Text Mechanic – Paste text into a window and perform some text manipulation – lots of features including add a suffix/prefix to each line, search & remove and others.

Visualising Data

Simple Diagrams – Fun and easy way to create flow charts and mind maps.

Snappy Words the Visual Dictionary – Discover connections between words and concepts visually in a cool and sophisticated way.

Tagxedo – Design stylish word clouds. Like Wordle – but better. (Hint – when creating word clouds use Word to remove common words like ‘is’, ‘and’ etc).

Tagul – Another wordcloud generator with tonnes of features.

Tableau Public – A really powerful tool to create data visualisations that can easily be embedded into a website.

Show The World – Shows world information on an interactive map

Hohli – Use this site to make Venn diagrams.

Many Eyes – A powerful visualisation tool by IBM – features text analysing tools such as word tree, phrase net and tag cloud – loads of fun!

Guide to Visualization Methods – A periodic table of visualisation techniques.

How Big Really – Transpose things of scale onto a map to help comprehend size.

TimeToast – Easy to use time-line creator. You can embed this onto your blog by using VodPod and following the guide here.

Batch Geo – Map location data onto a Google Map – you can then put the map onto your blog.

Visual Thesaurus – An alternative visual way to seek out synonyms. – Create colourful and simple brainstorms and mindmaps and easily share them

Preceden -Timeline creator

Office Tools & Time Savers

WiseStamp – Design an email signature that can include your latest update on social networks.

Branded URL Shortener – A nice guide to acquiring your own branded shortened URL’s.

VoiceBase – Automatically transcribe spoken word to text.

Excel Help – Ask an expert your Excel problems and get an answer in about half an hour.

Google Doc’s – Google’s answer to Office keeps on getting better and better – and its great for sharing spreadsheets!

Notes For Later – Highlight text in your browser and then click on a button in your toolbar to send the highlighted text to your email. You can include a note, receive a time-stamp and open the text as a PDF.

StudioCloud – Free and award winning business management programme.

Happy CV– It’s always good to have an up to date CV – this makes it simple.

Resizer – If you need to upload images of a certain size – use this programme to do it quickly.

Jing -The quickest and easiest way to grab and share screen-shots.

Evernote – Capture every thought, link, image and anything else all in one place – then organise it and search your notes. Extremely useful and syns nicely with your phone.

Multiple URL Shortener – Furly lets you collect a group of links and turn them into one – useful for sending a collection of related links.

Art & Design

TypeTester – Test and compare fonts side by side.

3D Tin – Need to create a simple 3D image quickly? This will allow you to make a cube based image in no time. – The most powerful free image editing software.

Icon Editor – Does what it says on the tin. Design and edit your own icons for a personal feel.

Pixlr – A photoshop imitation that runs in your browser, has more features than Paint but not as user friendly.

Creately – Collaborate and generate beautiful diagrams using this product – it has loads of functions and a good interface.

Lucid Chart – Simple web based flowchart creator

Graphviz – Automate graphs

Search Tools

Searchopener – Run multiple searches at the same time.

Seek WP – Search Engine that will only find WordPress related pages.

Similar Site – Like a site? Enter it into this search and find similar sites (real useful for discovering new content).

MacroGlossa – Need to know what an image is? Upload a picture and MacroGlossa will find similar images to help you identify

BlogPulseIceRocket – Sophisticated and advanced blog search.

Board Reader – Great way to search forums.

Mimvi – A search engine for mobile phone app’s

Scribd – Explore millions of document, or upload your own.

Piq – Website that lets you design your own pixel based picture.

Touch Graph – Amazing tool that allows you to create a spiderweb of all the websites around a search term.

BlogPulseIceRocket – Sophisticated and advanced blog search.

Twitter Tools

If you’re not using Twitter yet – then start! Here are some of the tools I use:

Tweetdeck – The best way to organise your lists and keep up to date – a downloadable programme, and I challenge anyone to better it!

Backtweets – The best Twitter search engine that I can find.

Formulist – Easily organise people into lists.

Peerindex – Powerful tool for assessing social capital – gives tweeps lots of rankings and tells you the subjects they tweet about it.

Proxlet – This app for Google Chrome lets you filter your Twitter timeline to filter out automated messages or other things – pretty useful.

Timoim – DM people a link to open up a chat box. Can be public or private.

SiftLink – Create an RSS feed of links posted by your Twitter users – meaning you never miss a link. – Bookmark tweets on delicious

Remember The Milk – Use Twitter to send yourself reminders through this excellent task manager.

Tweepi – A way to follow large numbers of people quickly, get rid of people that don’t follow you back and reciprocate a follow (important hint – use the shift button to select everyone in a list at once).

Twuffer – Schedule a list of tweets and set a time for their delivery – great if you want to maintain a constant Twitter presence.

GroupTweet – Send a group direct message to every person in the group easily.

Guide to Auto-message – This guide shows you how to send an automatic message to anyone that tweets anything you specify.

TweetBeep – Receive email updates whenever a word or username is mentioned – you’ll never miss a tweet again!

Mr Tweet – Helps you find and engage with people in a network.

Listomatic – Best way to manage your Twitter lists that I can find.

Twitter Grader – Want to check how well you are doing with your Twitter presence? Get graded!

Tweet Stats – Graphs that tell you how often you tweet, what time and day you tweet the most often and more.

Row Feeder – Search for a keyword and track it in real time through Twitter using a Google doc’s spreadsheet. (Limited free usage)

Paper.Li – Organise links shared on Twitter into a newspaper style format – the most commonly tweeted links around a topic are highlighted.

News Sites And Aggregators

Yahoo Pipes – A tool with a ridiculous amount of possibilities – hack RSS feeds together, filter them and manipulate them. Takes a little while to learn but worth it.

Google Reader – Follow your favourite websites and group them into categories – the best RSS reader (in my opinion anyway).

Google New – Well presented widgets giving the latest news about Google products

Prldr – An RSS reader that displays the webpage in the right hand of the screen and the feed in the left – pretty useful.


TED – The number one source for inspirational talks from the worlds best thinkers

Talk Miner – Search this website to easily find lectures

MyYouTube – This Adobe product lets you store and organise YouTube videos. Create playlists and search through your collection

YouTube Proxy – Access Youtube and other sites when using a restricted computer

YouTube Social – Watch a video at the same time as other people.

YouTube Leanback – Use this to sit back and watch a stream of high def full screen videos.

Google Beat – Watch a video from Google showing what the latest most popular search terms and trends are.

TubeMote – Use your smart phone as a YouTube remote control

Turntubelist – Create YouTube music playlists, cross fade them and explore other mixes.

Oli Conner

This year has seen crowdsourcing rapidly evolve. The advent of the Web 2.0 (or the social web) has made the possibility of mass collaboration easier than ever before.

The web is populated by people that will willing give their time and expertise to any idea that can motivate and inspire them. The wisdom of the crowd has never been more easily harnessed, and this year has already seen some exciting and inventive crowdsourcing methods.

Of course, crowdsourcing has been around for a while. It is engrained in the way the internet has develop – Wikipedia is created and edited by members of the public, software develops through the collaboration of programmers in an open source environment, and businesses have been using the internet to headhunt the right people for the job since the start.

But now, as the social web spreads across all areas of life, we are seeing an explosion in crowdsourcing experimentation. This is a lowdown of some of this years notable examples and recent developments.

Crowdsourced Government

The most popular recent example is the new UK coalition governments initiative to give the people a voice. Your Freedom and Spending Challenge are both websites designed to allow people to  shape government policy by both suggesting ideas and rating others. Whether it is finding areas to cut spending, or asking people what silly laws they would like repealed – the government seem to be going with the flow and using the web to communicate with the people.

However, these exercises seem to be more of a gimmick then a serious attempt to give the crowd a role in government. These sites don’t appear to have had any effect yet – and The Guardian has reported that none of the government departments involved in the project are willing to amend any of their policies – despite over 9500 responses.

It has always been possible to ask the population what they want (and how much they want it) through established research companies. These websites, although exciting,  seem to be nothing more than a PR exercise by a governement wanting to project an image that they are digitally savvy and care about the peoples opinion.

Although, some of the suggestions do make for interesting reading…

TellYouGov – Real Time Reaction

Online polling company YouGov have introduced a new service that allows members to express opinion and comment on any topic that they want.

TellYouGov is simple to use – you enter either  a brand, name, concept etc into one box, choose whether you feel positively or negatively about it and then leave a comment. This real-time public sentiment allows people to express their views on anything, and makes people feel heard and valued.

The results are recorded and YouGov have a search bar that allows you to find a brand/celebrity and track their popularity (or lack of) over time. They provide a simple volume/score graph  and a long list of all the comments users have left.

It is even utilising Twitter – a member can post “Avatar + amazing special effects #tellyougov” to indicate a positive sentiment about the film.

This service has massive potential if it grows. It already has quite a few users all regularly registering their sentiment – and YouGov also offer a regular prize for members to keep the service buliding momentum.

Crowdsolving – NetFlix and the Oil Spill

Of course, the crowd won’t always have something interesting to say. When DVD rental website NetFlix wanted to improve its film recomendation service they needed a unique programmer.

But instead of hiring an expensive agency, NetFlix chose to run an incentivised competition with an award of $1,000,000 to the best solution. It worked – by using the crowd as a communication mechanism they had solved their problem.

Crowdsolving is also being used to combat the environmental damage caused by the oil leak. As BP struggled to contain the leak, websites began appearing that allowed experts, and non experts, to post suggestions to cap the leak. More recently the Schmidt Family Foundation has announced a competition with a prize of $1.4 million to anyone that can develop a way to help clear up the spill.

This competetion is also keeping people aware of the long term damage the leak will cause – rather than allowing the story to fizzle away from the media. Both examples show how using the crowd to communicate a message can be extremely effective – either to get the message heard or keep it alive.

Foldit – Gaming and Crowdsourcing

One problem that any potential crowdsourcing project faces is the question of how to get people to take part. A financial incentive is not always the most effective way to increase participation, especially if the funding is limited and the task is massive!

The solution is to look at what encourages humans to take part – gaming. One recent crodsourcing success has been the combination of online multiplayer competition with scientific research – Foldit.

As anyone that has been hooked to Tetris will know – simple games can be furiously addictive. Foldit transforms the boring and long task of understanding proteins into a game where you are scored on how well you put a protein structure together. This is a task that a computer doesn’t perform very effectively and can only be effectively done by human input.

This is just one of many recent examples of gaming being applied to help solve problems in the real world. Jane McGonigal is a passionate believer in the power of games to aid progress. She recently delivered an excellent speech at TED that is well worth a watch!

Her most recent work is the game Evoke which has recruited a team of players to tackle the world’s most pressing problems. Focusing on a problem a week – it intends to teach people through simulated environments. The game has recieved funding from the world Bank Institute and looks set to make a large splash when it picks up momentum.


HelpMeInvestigate is a collaborative investigative reporting website that encourages people to get involved with  investigations that capture their interest. It looks like it will become particularly effective when a large amount of regional reporting is needed  – such as checking local MP’s election campaign expenses.

I have blogged about this website before. In my opinion it is truly leading the way in next generation investigation methods. It is using all aspects of social media to powerfully communicate with members and is allowing people to feel part of something big!

And one not so useful example

HeinzRocket is an agency that provides advertising solutions to companies by using a crowd of over 1000 artists. Their most recent endeavour has been to crowdsource a new name for crowdsourcing by offering a £1000 prize. With stupid examples ranging from “Grapes of Wrathing” to ‘Massideation” – this perhaps shows how crowdsourcing can go a bit too far.