Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What happened to crowdsourcing? Assignment Zero and beyond

In all probabilities, lack of editorial support led to the supposed failure of Assignment Zero, the hyped crowdsourcing experiment undertaken by Wired Magazine and New Assignment.net.

The target was 80+ original feature stories. The output: 7 original essays and 80 Q & As.

Jay Rosen, who started the project, reckons that Assignment Zero could achieve only 28% of its target.

However, critics of crowdsourcing, including die hard old media mothballs, need not celebrate. Wired Magazine reports that the quality was at par with the output of profession al reporters.

If only they had put in more editors to support, counsel, edit and channelize the output of enthusiastic citizen reporters, you bet Assignment Zero might easily have come up with 100 original feature stories in the given time.

At one time Assignment Zero was supported by one editor only.
Goes without saying that to make a good idea work, you need more than hype and widespread press coverage. You need commitment.

IMHO, what Assignment Zero needed was the type of the editors that work at top end news sites and blogs, who understand online news publishing software (Assignment Zero used Drupal) and are comfortable with the workflow.

The reporters behind the project should have known better: mere words are worth nothing.

The quality of Assignment Zero articles show that Citizen Journalism may not necessarily be ‘not professional enough’.

Crowdsourcing and Citizen Journalism can work together.
As they say, ‘all you need are many good online editors’.

These are still the early days of Citizen Journalism 2.0

Related Reading:
Interview Directory at Assignment Zero

Tish Grier, who is Dep. Director of Participation for Assignment Zero, has written a good account of Assignment Zero on her blog.

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At 9:15 AM , Blogger Tish Grier said...

Hi Pramit...

As Dep. Director of Participation for Assignment Zero, I can tell you that it was *not* lack of editorial support. If you would take the time to look at the complete AZ project (http://zero.newassignment.net) you will see that there was much quality editorial support.

Some of the troubles with AZ happened in part due to a lack of understanding (on the part of many journalists) of the importance of community building. I've addressed this on my blog:


Crowdsourcing isn't, first and formost, about doing journalism. It's about organizing a group, building a community, and then motivating them to do journalism. This is not something one can lean in journalism school.

At 1:42 PM , Blogger Pramit Singh said...

Dear Tish, I am sorry if I meant 'lack of editorial' support.

All i wanted to convey that Assignment Zero, a great idea, might have been more productive if there were more trained/experienced online editors assigned for the citizen volunteers.

I agree with you when you say that Crowd Sourcing cannot be taught in Journalism, just as sucessful business startup can't be taught in Business Schools.

I look forward to newer initiatives . All the best.

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