Moby Dick Project/Future of Media/Rapid Brainstorming

Last Friday I was flown out by the Knight Foundation (big thanks) to the Moby Dick Project at Stanford, a working session about future of media organized by Ben Huh.  Ben basically got a bunch of people in the room and told us something along the lines of “Brainstorm on problems with news consumption and come up with solutions”.  All this happened in about a total of 4 hours of work.  Some things that I’ve learned:

Brainstorming process – this was probably the most fascinating takeaway.  It is possible to put a bunch of people together in a group and guide a brainstorm.  This is what the process looked like:

  1. Everybody writes down ideas on post-it notes
  2. Notes are placed on a white-board and clustered by similarity
  3. There is a brief discussion to ensure that everyone is on the same page
  4. Group votes on clusters picking top to move forward with
  5. Decide on next goal and repeat with step 1

Rules for brainstorm: no confrontations or shooting down of ideas.  Once ideas are on the whiteboard, a lot becomes more clear with respect to topology and, while everyone is perpetually slightly misunderstood, the end result is actually quite impressive.

The first interesting thing, off the bat, was that our top 3 idea clusters were almost identical to the ones of the group next to us.  The following are my interpretations of what they are (slight difference from what they were actually):

  • Following a story – X happened.  Let me know when X+1 happens
  • Context – given a story, how do we give it context?  How do we give numbers context?
  • Uuuh…  my memory is shot.  Someone help?

My group ended up starting out with the questions “How to allow people to participate in news generation in a credible way?” and ended with pitching that a new flow should be introduced into print articles that would allow:

  • people quoted should be able to confirm that their quote was not taken out of context
  • reader commenting on arbitrary segments in an article
  • reader voting on comments
  • use of stock-like visualizations to display credibility of information

The implication is that the following problems could be fixed:

  • Specialist user is unable to contribute to an article.
  • Quotes are taken out of context

The presentation made at the end can be found here.

Overall, I’d say this was pretty awesome.  Oh, and I met Mike Davidson, the founder of Newsvine.  Apparently, I had the honor of being his least favorite user a while back when I was defending one of the members being booted on account of what I saw to be unjust.  For those who don’t know, Newsvine is a really interesting company – they started a while back attracting a wide range of talent by saying, to writers/participants  “We will pay you 90% of all profits from advertising on your articles.”  This was the first time in my life when I effectively was consumed by a site – I wrote, debated, then wrote some more.  And, I actually made about $88.83 to date (my most lucrative month was December of 2007 at $16.03).  This might not seem like much, but it is quite quite impressive for me.  After the initial excitement, however, there was a bit of an exodus by some users (of which I was one) as the site exhibited a strong bias and had your regular problem of temporal dependency.  Since then they were acquired by MSNBC, grew from 1 million users to 5 million, and now Mike says they have some interesting things on the way.  For all my complaints, I think it’s a fascinating company and Mike, in a way, is a bit of a personal hero for getting something like this off the ground.

1 Comment

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One response to “Moby Dick Project/Future of Media/Rapid Brainstorming

  1. Pingback: Realization: Why people always argue… | Nikita's Blog

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