A study by the Harvard Business School published in april 2012 via it’s online portal HBS Working Knowledge, confirms that “Expert ratings are correlated with Amazon ratings, suggesting that experts and consumers tend to agree in aggregate about the quality of a book. However, there are systematic differences between these sets of reviews.” In layman terms that just means that expert ratings are just as good as the average joe commenting on Amazon. It’s something I’ve suspected all along, that crowdsourced reviews from Amazon, tripadvisor, goodreads and IMDB is just as good as the ‘professional’ reviewer you see in magazines and paid adverts.
The study, which can be downloaded in it’s entirety here, is a really great read, that’s not too technical, but it’s not overly simplistic either so be prepared with some of your high school statistics for this one.
One of the stark differences between Malaysia and Singapore (besides the remarkably better food in Malaysia) are the Taxi Drivers. I used to frequently go to Singapore for business trips and for just about everywhere I went, I chose the taxi, either a friend would help book a comfort cab via their iPhone app, or I’d just call the hotline to book one. I’ve never once been turned down by a Taxi Driver, and I’ve never once had a driver negotiate the price with me. There it was all meters, it was all on the up and up.
In Malaysia however, the situation couldn’t be anymore different, and so its good to see someone (other than the government or Taxi company) trying to help solve the problem by using a smartphone application to crowdsource taxi reviews. On the face of it, the idea is brilliant, have people write reviews of taxis and then collate that data online. It makes it so that ‘bad’ taxi drivers get penalized and ‘good’ taxi drivers are rewarded.
One thing is true of all governments, the most reliable records are Tax records. That is one of the coolest quotes from a very cool movie (which is saying a lot). In V for Vendetta, the heroes try to piece together a puzzle by visiting the tax records to locate some missing information, in real-life we’re also faced with the same problem. No matter how corrupt or bureaucratic you think the government is, there will always be a paper-trail for money and sooner or later someone will find it. The solution for a crony-heavy government was simple, load the system with bureaucracy so no one will find out. The problem was while no ‘one’ may have found out, a group of inspired citizens armed with nothing more than a proper system can troll down all the bureaucratic walls you can build.
A couple of years ago, the Guardian newspaper set out to go through all the tax and expense claims of every single member of parliament. While the fallout from the reports were clear, less publicity was given to the actual method that the newspaper used. People naturally assumed that when the news read “Guardian reports MP claims….” , that a regular journalist working for the paper trolled through some documentation and arrived at the results. Usually the assumption includes a snarly eyed journalist with big black thick-framed glasses, gulping down gallons of coffee while his tie came loose, just an assumption of course.
Now some say he lives in Amsterdam and lives only on cheese,that may be fiction but damnit this guy is the best guitarist I’ve seen. Check out Igor’s rendition of Canon from the youtube embed above and you’ll know what I’m talking about, or just head on over to youtube and check out the countless songs he’s played on youtube including sweet child of mine or someone like you. It’s absolutely amazing guitar playing, and it’s all posted on youtube by Igor himself, for you to enjoy…for Free!!
I just finished Crowdsourcing by Jeff Howe, the definitive book on crowdsourcing, and although it was written nearly 4 years ago, I was really bowled over by key insights throughout the book. Crowdsourcing is more than just the design work or iStockphoto, there’s also an offshoot into the world of Crowd-predicting. Utilizing the wisdom of the crowds to predict anything from sports results, Hollywood sales or even Presidential elections, and it appears these prediction markets actually do a pretty good job of predicting the correct outcome. They’re not right 100% of the time (then again neither are the experts), but overall the Crowds can –and do–predict with great accuracy.
The premise of crowd-predicting is simple. Get a whole bunch of people together and then ask them to predict the outcome of a particular event, once each individual prediction comes through you then aggregate that information to get the final result. Proponents of crowd-predicting say this result often beats the ‘experts’, and they have some data to back it up.
Social media and sites like twitter have done fantastically well to enable to arab uprising or finding bone marrow donors. However, a group of people decided to use social media to answer some fundamentally important question , or rather just one very important question…who missed call me?
The web site (very aptly named) whocallsme.com allows user to post up missed calls from numbers they don’t recognize and people with similar calls usually try to respond. The response rate is pretty good although it mostly focuses on calls from credit agencies (quite obvious once you think about it)
The recent events in the UK while tragic have unveiled some new uses for crowdsourcing. Some time ago people used Google Wave (now called Apache Wave) to help find a criminal murder suspect, which was amazing news if you ask me, but it still didn’t save Google Wave. Now however, the guys over at a website called Zavilia had a brilliant idea of using crowdsourcing to solve the London rioting problem, the premise was simple, users would upload photos of the looters and rioters and those photos would then be posted online. Each rioter would be labled with an alphabet, and finally other users could check out the pictures and begin identifying anyone they knew…brilliant solution. Personally, I can’t imagine solving this problem without crowdsourcing, and it just goes to show that in the future we will solve problems together via collaboration on a massive scale rather than a few geniuses leading the way.
The guys over at zavilia have shutdown their website claiming:
The development of Zavilia: Identify UK Rioters has been temporarily paused due to a decrease in traffic and in user interactions. However, we fully intend to continue development at some point in the near future.