Tuesday, June 23, 2009

UK's Guardian Newspaper Brings Crowdsourcing to the Forefront

My June 17 post was about the Knight Foundation grants to organizations trying to report news in different ways. The winner that caught my eye was DocumentCloud, a crowdsourcing effort to allow the media, watchdog groups and the public can find, share and analyze source documents.

Crowdsourcing asks the public to help with a task, and the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper has brought the effort to the forefront in journalism. How? The U.K. government is in the middle of a huge scandal where Members of Parliament were caught charging taxpayers for expenses that had nothing to do with their official duties.

Guardian asked readers to help them dig through 700,000 pages of MP expenses they think should be investigated. The mess has already forced six ministers in Prime Minister Gordon Brown's cabinet to resign, and with crowdsourcing, the story could go on for months.

The Nieman Journalism Lab blog has a post today on four lessons learned from the Guardian's crowdsourcing experiment. The newspaper has already had 20,000 readers sift through 170,000 pages of documents -- in the first 80 hours the request was made. The four takeaways from the post according to developer Simon Willison:

  • Your workers are unpaid, so make it fun.
  • Public attention is fickle, so launch immediately.
  • Speed is mandatory, so use a framework.
  • Participation will come in one big burst, so have servers ready.
Crowdsourcing is not going away anytime soon. The question is how journalists will use this as a tool moving forward.

No comments:

Post a Comment