To stop my mind from wandering where it will go


In wondering whether the web will create ecosystems to support small businesses I revisited GoodStorm, an e-commerce startup that I blogged about last year in another forum. One easy-to-understand thing GoodStorm does is make t-shirts to order. Of course there’s more to their story; they have this “doing capitalism rightshtick.

When I wrote about them a year ago what struck me was that they were thinking about making many little trickles of money. That jibed with my own “nation of small shopkeepers” fantasy of how the Web should evolve.


While poking around GoodStorm I peeked at a blog entry by CEO Yobie Benjamin. It was about crowdsourced journalism. I wasn’t sure what that meant, nor how it related to my ecosystem daydreams but I learned that hundreds of people are working on it. As Yobie explained:


“Until the rise of Web 2.0, journalism was a tightly restricted medieval craft guild that monopolized the practice of newsgathering and reporting. Its motto: ‘And that’s the way it is,’ always delivered in the weighty baritone of TV anchor certainty . . . Assignment Zero, a collaboration between Wired magazine and a New York University journalism professor, Jay Rosen, . . . is an experiment in journalism . . . (an) online newsroom where citizen-journalists . . . can get oriented, hear a pep-talk from the editor, and choose an assignment from among the many sub-stories that, put together, make up the whole story. Professional editors will monitor the reporting, then wrap the best material into one large, coherent report . . . the first crowdsourced story Assignment Zero is tackling is . . . crowdsourcing . . .Wired will then run a feature article on the Assignment Zero experiment, using material crowdsourced by the amateur experimenters themselves.”

I read a bit about Assignment Zero, scanned its membership list and was wowed by the range and breadth of its 900 or so participants. I spotted two folks (Tish Grier and Anna Haynes) I know from the Net. I didn’t see many technical folks nor much business ferment. But it was a quick visit and I will to return to learn more about this experiment in open source publishing.


I also came away awed by the genius and chutzpah of Wired which, having coined the term crowdsourcing, is now using Assignment Zero to refine the meme. Though I whined yesterday that the web can be an echo chamber it is always pleasant to hear one’s own yell bounce back.