Collaberative outsourcing

January 22nd, 2009

Trawling the net for information on some of my ideas I stumbled across a Wikipedia entry about Scriblist.com

This was a collaborative writing project which ultimately created a book called ‘Five Green Bannanas‘. Unfortunately the website no longer exists but the book is still listed on Amazon and has 10 authors listed for the book.

The basic premise was a competition where authors would submit a chapter to a story. The various chapters would then be voted on with the best 5 been chosen to start five stories. Authors were then invited to write the next chapter for any of the stories and the voting process repeated itself until the five stories were completed. The process wasn’t completely democratic as a panel had the final say on what chapters would be chosen.

It’s not clear where the proceeds from the book went but one would assume that it either went to the authors or to support the project as, before the site disappeared, there was talk of producing book 2.

This project shows the ability to harness induviduals intrest and creativity to create a product with only a small amount of administrative effort. Competitions help get people more interested even without the prospect of a physical reward. The process could be extended to any type of book from comics to a photographic collection.

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More cheating with Amazons Mechanical Turk

January 21st, 2009

For those of you who read my previous post ‘The Dangers of Outsourcing’ a story has appeared about how Amazons Mechanical Turk (also known as mturk) been has used to spread false information accross the net.

This time the culprit is a twitter user who wants to win a Shorty Award for ‘The best producers of short socialmedia content in 2008′. Short in this case meaning 140 characters or less on the mircoblogging service Twitter. The person in question has been offering up to $0.48 per vote, each of which requires a unique Twitter account. The posting also said “DO NOT post publically that you are being paid for your work.” which obviously hasn’t worked.

This tactic managed to achieve first place in the polling for a short while until second placed Dan Zarrella recieved an anonymous tip off. After reporting this to the award orginisersĀ  some of the nominees votes were discounted in an effort to mitigate the cheating that has gone on.

With two people been caught out on mturk in as many days the best advice is if you thinking about posting false information Don’t do it. The second best is don’t advertised on a public service.

We’ll end on a lighter note – Dan is now in first place.

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The dangers of outsourcing

January 19th, 2009

An interesting story has been circulating in the past couple of days which highlights some of the potential pitfalls in badly considered outsourcing. It involves an employee atĀ  Belkin, a well known brand for home networking routers, and Amazons Mechanical Turk.

Amazons Mechanical Turk brands itself as Artificial Artificial Intelligence. The basic premise is that many tasks that you like would automate are too complex to program a computer to do but very simple for humans. Mechanical Turk aims to solve this by letting users post task for a fixed or piece rate. This market place is potentially a rapidally adapting a scaleable workforce for any business.

It turns out that one of Belkins employees, Michael Bayard, was offering 65 cents to write a good review on for their products on various websites. I’m not sure of the legality of such activity especially as the activity effectively occured worldwide but the damage to the brand could be serious. Various tech blogs quickly caught on to the story and pushed it world wide. Anybody who’s read it, myself included, will probably be wary of any good reviews written about these products and possibly about any of Belkins product range. How can we know what products this was limited to and if they were pesronally writting false reviews before using Mechanical Turk.

Belkin has naturally responded condeming the action taken by Mr Bayard and apologising to its customers. The full apology can be found here.

Update: as I suspected this probably isn’t the first time that Belkin undertook dubious practices to improve their brand online and it isn’t just limited to false reviews on blogs. As just posted on Gizmodo Belkin has apparently been writing false reviews on blogs, Amazon, Paying magazines for good reviews and a variety of other shady practices.

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An outsourced book!

January 10th, 2009

My brother is currently writing his 4th year dissertation for his industrial design course at Nortumberland Univeristy. Whilst researching he came across a writer who was writing a book about crowdsourcing and as part of the book decided to use the readers of his blog to proof read his first draft and provide suggestions.

All this got me thinking. How easily and cheap could commission a book on the web? Is there any was to reduce the cost by using free services or crowdsourcing? What kind of book best lends itself to this type of project?

From my time aimlessly surfing I remembered about an on demand book printer Blurb. There are many other services (some listed at the bottom of this post) offering similar things many with competitive prices which leaves the printing of the book taken care of.

Now for a slightly more difficult task – writing the book!

Other on demand book printing services:

Lulu, My Publisher, iUniverse, Picaboo, Booksurge, Qoop, Xlibris

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