April 17, 2013

3 ways to tap into customized news & information

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The power of the crowd (Photo by laffy4k, Creative Commons)

With Sulia, Flipboard & Twitter, it’s never been easier to keep abreast of topics that matter to you

Guest post by Brian Blondy

brianblondyCrowdsourcing and aggregation are two key functions for the modern distribution of real-time content within the online news industry. If used properly, each is a powerful method for processing and delivering your interests in a clean and concise manner on information networks like Twitter, Flipboard and Sulia. To maximize the potential for how you follow the issues you enjoy hearing about, both must be embraced and utilized to supercharge your knowledge of online news.

You should know that visiting particular websites to keep up to speed about a specific topic is almost essentially a waste of time. Web surfing is inefficient, time consuming and runs the risk that you may not actually find what you were looking for. These days, one article or one opinion is not enough, especially when you’re making a concerted effort to find information on the topics you care about most. Instead, you need to tap into crowdsourcing to target your precise interests online. Continue reading

February 6, 2012

TaskRabbit: Crowdsourcing comes to your neighborhood

A mobile marketplace for getting stuff done from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

Start-up offers location-aware marketplace for getting stuff done

JD LasicaOne of my favorite new iPhone apps and online services is TaskRabbit, a platform that allows people to hire other people to complete tasks in their own towns or neighborhoods.

The concept is drop-dead simple but difficult to pull off. Founder Leah Busque says TaskRabbit lets folks “outsource small jobs and tasks to other people in their neighborhood” — say, if you need dry cleaning or groceries picked up, house cleaning or yard work done, Ikea furniture assembled or a wifi system set up in your home.

“We’ve seen some really funny ones,” Leah said, “like, ‘Help me write a love letter to my ex-girlfriend to help win her back.’ Or, ‘Help me prank my office mate by wrapping all of his desk items in cellophane.’”

Here’s my 8-minute interview with founder Leah Busque on Vimeo.

A simple way to connect customers with a local workforce

TaskRabbit works like this:

• Sign up on the site for free.

• Post a task — what do you need done and at what price? Use the app to voice-record a description and upload photos.

• The task goes out to participants (“TaskRabbits”) based on their location. They bid on your job, you confirm the best match, he or she goes to work, and TaskRabbit gets a small cut of the price.

Well over 2,000 people have signed up to perform tasks in Boston, the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, San Antonio and Austin, with Atlanta, Dallas and Houston on the way. The company’s vetting process includes online applications, video interviews and a background check, which greatly weeds out the flakes (my term, not hers). Trust, safety and security are at the heart of the marketplace, Leah says.

Unlike online services like Angie’s List, TaskRabbit is not marketing the services of licensed electricians, plumbers and carpenters but instead is targeting regular folks — individuals in a community who can offer their free time, special skills and services.

TaskRabbit has 35 full-time staffers at its San Francisco headquarters with “city managers” across the United States, and it has $24.7 million in financial backing, TechCrunch reports.

In a phrase, TaskRabbit is about service networking rather than social networking. Check ‘em out.

Related

Do you have a strategy for social bookmarking and crowdsourcing?

Book: ‘A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing’

June 15, 2011

8 books for your 2011 Summer Reading List

Google, Facebook, crowd-sourcing, nonprofits, piracy & more

JD LasicaRegular readers know that in between consulting projects at Socialmedia.biz and Socialbrite, I sneak in the occasional book review. My schedule has been more hectic than usual, but this is a good time to slip in some short writeups in advance of summer reading season.

Books still matter — whether in print or on an electronic reader. These are all worth a read. You have your own favorites? Please share in the comments below!

‘The Googlization of Everything’

googlizationAnd Why We Should Worry
By Siva Vaidhyanathan
Publisher: UC Press
$10.30 used to $21.98 new at Better World Books; $13.20 Nook

1What an interesting premise for a book!: the notion of Google writ large as a metaphor for how the public is being enticed into a new set of online realities and cultural norms that happen to dovetail perfectly with the search giant’s bottom line. Writes Siva (an old friend whom I’ve lost touch with): “Tracking Google was never my goal; instead, I seek to explain why and how Google tracks us.”

It’s a worthy effort, particularly in such public policy areas as Google Book Search, a byzantine legal case that is still winding its way through the courts. Vaidhyanathan, one of the giants of intellectual property law, makes a strong argument that we ought to be digitizing a universal library of knowledge, not a pay-as-you-go bookstore with Google as the gatekeeper — though he and others have never convincingly explained who exactly will pay for this effort and how it will be coordinated across the myriad myopic groves of academe. At a time when the House of Representatives wants to defund public broadcasting, it’s unfathomable that funding could be found for a Human Knowledge Project, as praiseworthy as the idea of a global public sphere remains.

Other arguments are less convincing, as when he characterizes Google’s pullout from China as “an empty and counterproductive gesture” (page 10), yet pages later argues that “Google has contributed to censorship in China” when it was operating there (page 74). And his suggestion that the Great Firewall of China does not exist (page 125) because many technically minded people can skirt it would strike many pro-democracy activists there as a startling claim. (This website, among countless others, is censored in China.) Siva, meet Rebecca MacKinnon.

“The Googlization of Everything’” is a welcome antidote to the spate of rah-rah cheerleading books about Google by authors who should know better. But a greater problem with this book’s premise is the significant shift in the technology landscape that has taken place over the past year. To my mind, here on the edges of Silicon Valley, a more needed tome today would be one focusing on Apple’s attempt to slip us a perfectly made mickey so that we prefer its walled garden of techno-fantastia over the open Web. This is how quickly things change in the Valley, where Apple is now the second most valuable company on the planet — and wants to exert much greater control over our lives.

Still, one doesn’t pick up a book like “The Googlization of Everything” expecting to agree with everything in it. Rather, the value comes in having a big thinker poke at our lazy assumptions with elegance and intellectual heft, challenging our “blind faith and worship” of all things Google.

‘Facebook Me!’

facebook-meA Guide to Socializing, Sharing, and Promoting on Facebook
By Dave Awl
Publisher: Peachpit Press
$18, soft cover (second edition) at Better World Books; $9.99 Nook

2I briefly collaborated with the author a few months back on a four-part series I wrote here on how to take charge of Facebook’s news feed. Dave seemed to be one of the few experts out there with a handle on Facebook’s enigmatic, fast-changing EdgeRank algorithm as well as other tricks that come in handy for the 600 million of us who spend way too much time on the world’s top social network.

“Facebook Me!” manages to stay fresh and current, even as Mark Zuckerberg keeps changing things up every couple of months. It’s a fast, breezy, fun read, as Awl takes us through the basics (skip this part if you’re not a newbie), discusses privacy and security (including phishing, Trojans and “clickjacking“), how to grow your audience as a brand and how to engage your friends as an individual, how to manage the multitude of add-ons at your fingertips, how to advertise on Facebook and much more.

If you’ve been wanting to learn more about the ins and outs of Facebook, start with “Facebook Me!”

‘A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing’

A Guide to Open InnovationAdvice From Leading Experts
Edited by Paul Sloane
Publisher: Kogan Page
$17.48 at Better World Books

3Crowdsourcing, for those not in the know, refers to harnessing the skills and enthusiasm of those outside an organization who are prepared to volunteer their time contributing content or skills and solving problems. And we have only dimly begun to discern the outlines of this revolution in the making.

In this anthology solicited from leading thinkers chiefly in the U.S. and Europe, the book explores how to use the power of people outside of your own business or organization to inject innovative new ideas and approaches. The trick, of course, is finding the right group of people, and the right set of circumstances, so that the contributions amount to more signal than noise. The chapters here are a bit uneven, with some occasionally straying into dense academic fog, but that’s more than made up for by solid case studies, as with the chapter on Threadless, a T-shirt design shop that represents a new breed of company whose success hinges on the wisdom of its community.

Buy “Open Innovation” and understand the upheaval heading our way. Continue reading

December 10, 2009

Do you have a strategy for social bookmarking and crowdsourcing?

Excerpt from Survival Guide Chapter 7: Sharing, not self-promotion, should be top of mind

survival-guide-toDeltina HayHere is part 7 of the series I will post over the next few months based on chapters from my new book, A Survival Guide to Social Media and Web 2.0 Optimization.

The book is meant to be a guide to building an optimized foundation in social Web for beginners and advanced users alike.

Chapter 7 of the book is about social bookmarking and crowdsourcing using news aggregators, enabling users to save and share their favorite Websites and determine the popularity of a news story, blog entry, or Website through various voting and rating systems.

The following excerpts are from A Survival Guide to Social Media and Web 2.0 Optimization: Strategies, Tactics, and Tools for Succeeding in the Social Web by Deltina Hay

Copyright 2009 by Deltina Hay. All rights reserved.

A Social Bookmarking Strategy

The first thing to do is get a good feel for a number of social bookmarking sites. (In the print edition, there are some popular sites listed at the end of this chapter and on the resource CD.) Choose a couple that represent your interests. If you don’t feel inclined to do the research, I recommend starting with Delicious.com, Technorati, and StumbleUpon. Using these three sites should give you a broad reach into the world of social bookmarking. Before you begin using a bookmarking site, it’s important to become familiar with the guidelines. Some sites are much more stringent than others about bookmarking your own sites, or representing a business of any sort. It is best to go forward informed rather than risk getting a reputation for ignoring the rules, or worse, getting banned from a site. Continue reading

April 11, 2009

NPR’s experiments with social media


NPR’s experiments with social media from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaAndy Carvin, social media strategist for NPR.org, has spent the past several years experimenting with innovative approaches to the news. As the head of National Public Radio’s social media desk, he’s been given a sandbox to foster high-quality journalism using social tools in an age when the public demands engagement and participation — and when many other traditional news organizations have been slow to adopt social media.

gustav08oncubaFor example, as Hurricane Gustav churned through the Caribbean last August, eventually causing $8.5 million in damage in the South, Andy (@acarvin on Twitter) formed a Ning group — Gustav Information Center — and got scores of volunteers to participate in sharing information during the course of a single weekend, largely through the power of Twitter and Facebook.

Continue reading

March 27, 2009

Unigo: Student-powered college advice

JD LasicaAt South By Southwest Interactive in Austin Texas, two weeks ago — inside the bloggers lounge — I ran into Julia Kaganskiy, the social media and community manager for Unigo.com.

If you haven’t heard of Unigo, you will. It’s a crowdsourced college guide that offers honest appraisals of life at hundreds of U.S. colleges, including the ability to find out what it’s like to major in a particular subject on a college campus.

Crowdsourcing doesn’t always work, but when users know their subject — and college students know their campuses — it can produce a more useful, authentic and accurate picture than that produced by traditional information sources. Julia says putting an editorial filter on crowdsourced content “sets it apart” and increases the signal level, and I think a lot of sites are finding the same thing.

Continue reading