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Tag Archives: Crowdsourcing

Wed, 7pm: Crowdsourcing Labor – Distributed Democracy or Centralized Sweatshop?

November 11, 2009; 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.
The Change You Want To See – 84 Havemeyer Street, Brooklyn

Stephanie Rothenberg & Jeff Crouse - Invisible Threads

Stephanie Rothenberg & Jeff Crouse - Invisible Threads

Upgrade! NY continues its series on open source as it relates to activism and creative practice.

Within activist and creative practice there is a range of models for mobilizing the labor and creativity of the crowd (aka “crowdsourcing”). Both practices experiment with a spectrum of autonomy and control within those models. From distributed design to distributed fundraising, MoveOn to Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourcer issues a call and creates structure for participation.

What role do individual motivations and collective goals play within these structures? What are the ethical, social and political implications of distributed labor?

Panelists include xtine, artist, educator and creator of the Mechanical Olympics; Jeff Crouse, Eyebeam senior fellow, artist, technologist and co-creator (with Stephanie Rothenberg) of the Invisible Threads virtual jeans factory; and Beka Economopoulos, online organizer, consultant and curator at The Change You Want To See Gallery.

This event will take place at The Change You Want to See, 84 Havemeyer Street, Brooklyn.

Upgrade! NY is co-produced by Eyebeam and Not An Alternative.

This is a prelude event to the conference, The Internet as Playground and Factory: a conference on digital labor at the Eugene Lang College, The New School, New York, NY, November 12-14.

REJECTED: My Experience with 3D Buildings and an Uncommunicative Google

In this post I am going to talk about my numerous problems with this software and how I attempted to talk to Google about them unsuccessfully. I will also draw general conclusions.

My Problems With SketchUp and Google Maps/ Earth:



The last of the six problems I had with this experience has been resolved: how to know whether or not my building was accepted. A curious flag appeared on my model’s page in warehouse today. Read More »

Crowdsourced radio or DJ clique?

My travelogue into the brave new world (?) of jelli.net:

Despite my background in content creation, I would class myself as a fairly late (and generally curmudgeonly) adopter of new media outlets.  I do not seek out the shiniest and newest; if my old standard works just fine, I am happy until clued in to something clearly better.  I actually want to be influenced.  I want the most-informed, most picky person I know to shortcut qualitative analytical processes for me, and just tell me “X is better than Y, you need to check it out.”

Remembering the way I took to sites like last.fm— instantly, and on the recommendation of music lover friends— colored the way I approached jelli.net.  Online radio fit into my life easefully, seemingly from one day to the next, a happy result of intuitive user interface plus real applicability to my everyday life.  So my question regarding jelli.net is rather simple:  can this site have a similar effect on both the influential classes, and the “ready to be influenced” – people like me.

I asked a totally unrepresentative, totally biased focus group— a handful of music geek friends, a few of whom are critics for New York-based publications — to use jelli.net, and let me know if they could envision crowdsourced internet-terrestrial radio in their lives.  Could they, for example, see bopping away to broadcast radio as they went about their day, laptops or iPhones primed to participate, nixing, requesting, or chatting about a song?

Below is some of feedback I received:

Community issues:

“Really like the concept of the shout-outs.  I can’t think of another online radio station/site that does that.”

“Actually using the chat option would really depend on the music, if the music made me burn to throw in my two cents.  If I wasn’t fired up about something, why would I chat about it?”

Reputational systems:

“I like that I can get ‘credit’ for picking something out and rocketing it up.”

Site design/technical issues:

“I think it should be ‘in-browser’ radio, as opposed to playing a stream through Windows Media Player. That’s definitely what I’m used to as a user and I think a lot of others are as well.”

“When they bring on the mobile apps I could see this being more relevant.  If I hated a song I could ‘bomb’ it from my phone.”

“Like the user interface – saw there was even a chat there.”

“There should be a lot more than three channels, because some songs will never be ‘rocketed’ otherwise (because they don’t fit one of those three general genres).”

Content choice:

“The tracks need to be a little more tailored to users’ tastes. Playing The Cars through Metric on one station is cool, but I don’t necessarily want to sit through Cake just because a user decided 1996 was cool. The station themes need to be a little more narrowed down, or I need the option to skip tracks I don’t like (not just give it a thumbs-down).”

“Musically, this is a little too unpredictable for me, as far as if you’re wanting to strike a mood/genre with what you’re listening to … If I want to stream loungey ‘60s stuff, for example, there’s really no way to do that on here. On Last.fm or Slacker (or even Pandora), you can do that.”

“I’m a bit hesitant to say I think it’s a revolutionary concept. I think last.fm (or even Slacker Radio, which I can play online as well as through my Blackberry) is more likely to be on at home because it’s extremely personalized and you know what you’re getting.”

“The way the music is selected is right now a little too broad for me personally. I’m not sure this is something I’d use on a day-to-day basis, especially with something like Spotify just coming out.”

Interestingly, regarding music choice I heard from two sides of the fence, from those who were afraid crowdsourced radio would denigrate rather quickly into infinitely recycled top-40 mush, as playlists were hijacked by a herd of over-involved teenagers ― and, conversely, from those who were afraid that a small crew of music geek media elite would wield disproportionate control of a station or show, perhaps leading to very esoteric and crowd-alienating selections.

My general sense is that it will indeed be the music fiends who are drawn to something like this — providing shows/stations are micro-targeted.  The community discussion aspect of this may have the most resonance with music die-hards, as they meet up online with others with similarly defined tastes – providing of course, and this is a large caveat, that the size of the listening community stays manageable enough for meaningful communication. Regardless, to succeed jelli will need a committed user base, whether it is in the tens or the tens of thousands.

That said, it is just really hard to envision this actually working by the thousands of users.  It’s easier for me to imagine 50 or even 500 fans having a meaningful Altcountrypunkpolka Evening, where everyone could have a voice, where 20 “bomb” votes could yank a bad polka off the air – but could 5,000?  Would the logistical challenges of 5,000 committed and active users, all weighing in enthusiastically with their music choices, actually lead to a very incoherent listening experience?  As jelli is very new, and its user base growing (and presumably far off its target numbers), it is just too soon to track how increases in users will affect the listening experience.

On the flip side, I could see great numbers of people trusting and enjoying the musical choices of a small team of tastemakers— just as if the trusted DJ of yesterday has been supplanted by a small, buzzing hive of committed and knowledgeable listeners.  Still, this would not be genuinely harnessing a crowd’s collective music wisdom, but a crowd ceding its agency to a few select representatives.

Google: Maps, Earth, and SketchUp 7

Below I detail the problems within making structures in Googles 3D Building Maker, the software and their relationships, and a quick Google Trike Update.


The Building Maker Interface

The Building Maker Interface

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Crowdsourced Fact Checking: What Can the Bobst Digitization Project Tell Us about Digital Journalism?

Last week Washington Square News reporter Jane C. Timm wrote that Bobst Library’s entire collection would be digitized. Not only that, but the project was on the government of Abu Dhabi’s dime. She said the digital archive was being created specifically for use by NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus, but would be made available in some context for use by NYU’s global campuses.

Not so!

According to a comment left on “The Ticker,” a blog maintained by The Chronicle of Higher Education, specific works will be digitized as determined by the academic needs of NYUAD over time.

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Who is the crowd building these cities, Google?

I am helping Google “Make the world 3D.” But after designing just one building,  I had to download at least two different plug ins as well as Google SketchUP, Style Builder, and Google Earth… And look, a fun, new browser was mysteriously installed for me during this process!

Look what appeared on my desktop!
Look what appeared on my desktop!

This along with the rest of my experience building my first model, makes me wonder why Google is crowd sourcing this project. And who do they think the participants will be?  After looking at my desktop, I am tempted to say that Google is  just trying to introduce several pieces of their software to a new consumer.

While I cannot know (at least from what I can ascertain thus far) exactly who is building models for Google, I truly wonder who they are attempting to tempt into crowd sourcing this chore onto because of the lack of emotional attachment in the project and the amazing skill level you need to complete it.

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Trafficking in the Zeitgeist: kaChing, and the crowdsourcing of market research

Although I worked in the financial services for almost 3 years, the ways of the markets have always been a mystery to me. (For the record, I worked in the “Back Office” as a programmer/developer of inter-office admin communication. Although some of my closest friends during that period were traders, I never got any good tips from them!) For my next travelogue, I’m going to do something outside-the-normal for me: I’m going to become an investor (albeit a virtual one) using kaChing, the hottest web service that allows users to participate in what could be called the fantasy football of investing.


kaChing was started in 2008 by Dan Caroll and is financially backed by angel money from various Sillicon Valley hard-hitters, including the co-founder of Netscape. What’s so interesting about kaChing is its approach to the roll of the masses in investing: it hinges on the idea that the “wisdom of crowds,” coupled with the direction of “genius” investors, can lead us to better predict how the markets will behave. Also, kaChing exemplifies open-source computing in its technological make-up: in addition to the crowdsourcing of investment research, kaChing has partnered up with Xignite (a cloud-service startup that serves on-demand market and financial data), and has released an API to allow any interested party to mash-up data from other sources. (I am totally an interested party, you guys…)

In this travelogue, I will attempt to 1) understand how kaChing’s open-source structure crafts the user’s experience and makes the service better as a whole, 2) discover how we as users are not only reacting to the market, but shaping it or influencing it, 3) explore kaChing’s API and how its data can be used in congress with other websites concerned with “trafficking in the zeitgeist,” and 4) become a frickin’ virtual millionaire! Too bad the cash is not really real :(

Let me know what you think!

We Built this city on Google

For my next travelogue I would like to foray into the big wide world of Google Earth. The company has introduced two newer innovations that draw on crowdsourcing:

3D Building Maker:

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Help Google make their street view 3D here by using virtual blocks to build cities. After downloading a plug in, users choose a city and begin to build structures including adding textures. Once you submit your building, Google reviews it, and if your building passes the muster, it is put into their system.

And Google Street View Trike:

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Google asks American users to suggest places for the trike to go next be it trails or college campuses where cars cannot go and therefore GoogleMaps hasn’t captured before. They did this in the UK and recieved over 35,000 votes. You can go here to make a suggestion until October 28th. Then they will review the submissions and let users make their final votes.

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