M E-L from Ishbadiddle offered this comment on a recent post:
“Install a good SETI system.” How about a SETI@Home system? Distributed coolhunting / trendspotting via the blogosphere?
I found this interesting for a couple of reasons.
First, it demonstrates that the readers of This Blog Sits At are more gifted than its writer.
Second, it nails one of the big “intellectual capital opportunities that the internet makes possible, but that we have yet to create. Call it SETI@home, with thanks to M E-L.
Two conditions are now in place for SETI@home.
First, that the participants are now qualified as observers. Trend spotting used to be the domain of gurus and other Mr. and Ms. smarty pants who fancied themselves as deep thinkers and far seers. Now many more people can contribute. (Henry Jenkins is our guide for what happened here.)
Second, the blogsphere makes us instantaneously accessible to one another so that observation and valued-adding intelligence can swarm in a “decision markets kind of way. (James Surowiecki!)
A third condition has not arrived: an incentive system. (No one is going to create value unless they have some way to harvest value.)
This could be a more or less conventional business model. We monetize the outcome (trend reports, trend conferences, etc.) and then pay the participants. The trouble with this model is that value of this kind is amorphous in several ways. “Value from is almost impossible to calculate. (We can let the market decide “value to.)
There is another system, something more reciprocal. Hargurchet Bhabra told me that physicists have created a kind of Ziggurat on line. Anyone can contribute and the lowest rung of the Ziggurat is open to all. But a hierarchy of access is eventually created. The idea here is that people end up with access to value extraction in proportion to their level of value creation.
I am not sure how this works in an emergent way. As Hargurchet told it, I think there were gatekeepers in place, and thats a little tedious. Maybe, its a voting system, and the more others like, read, comment on, build upon our stuff, the higher we can go on the Ziggurat.
So, let’s review. Everyone contributes to the lowest rung of SETI@home. This is on the order of “something I just noticed. This is the equivalent of the “pictures of space that SETI has us work on. Then everyone takes a small problem, often their own contribution, and thinks about them carefully and well. Then we need a line of editors who sort, bundle and promote various things. This creates a much smaller, but still quite large universe. So we need another set of editors working at this still higher level. I guess thats maybe how it would work. We get access to the next aggregated level of SETI@home if one of our contributions have “made the cut. (Presumably, we want to aggregate this too, so that we get to keep our access privileges even if our latest contribution has not make the latest cut.)
Our incentive here is that we get access to streams of intelligence and analysis. We give to take. But it would also be possible to give people in industry access to one of the levels through a subscription fee, and this could then be distributed to editors and participants. Or it might be used to fund an annual conference for the SETI@home players. This would be a fully participatory TED or POPTECH operation and it should probably be held in conjunction with same. (I prefer the latter and thats because Andrew Zolli is the man.)
I know someone is going to say that this entire affair is just too damn Canadian, thats it tries to organize what is ought to be and is in fact emergent. I beg to differ (though of course the criticism of Canada is precisely right). As it stands, we are reading one another and citing one another. But I dont hear anyone sitting down, taking the feeds from x blogs and given them a systematic, clarifying, aggregating treatment which in turn becomes a feed to some still larger act of aggregation and analysis.
As a last note: for the list people we would want to contribute, may I suggest John Maeda, Allen Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, MIT Media Laboratory, author of “Design by Numbers, “Meada@media, andCreative code and Scott Fedje, Director, Image Design at Cole Haan. I heard them both talk at the FUSE conference and they were sensationally good. Fedje did some great stuff on remarkable developments taking place in Japanese retail design, including a store the internal space of which changes shape constantly.
Okay, here’s mine…
the URL is chittahchattah.blogspot.com/2004/07/my-cool-hunting-moment.html
Photo of kids in SF wearing cereal boxes as backpacks, from last summer…
PSFK is doing some interesting things in this area right now. They have folks posting pictures to flickr with a PSFK tag:
You’ll also want to look at the very interesting:
Faith Popcorn recently commented that sites like PSFK were ruining the trendspotting business! Damn, disintermediated again!
This is completely off topic, but based on your posts on the topic, I thought you might enjoy it…
“Microsoft’s army of lawyers was no match for a kid from Kent State.” Funny story, and lets us know where MS is actually investing profit, and it doesn’t look like research.
Well, as for your comment that this “demonstrates that the readers of This Blog Sits At are more gifted than its writer,” that’s just not true. It demonstrates that collectively, your readership is of a different order of intelligence than any one writer, something I’ve explored for a while in my work on improvisation. But I digress.
You make an interesting point about the incentive system. But I ask: what’s the incentive system to participate in SETI? The infintesimal chance that it’s your machine that finds an alien CQ? Or just the knowledge that you’re advancing science with very little cost to you? I submit that your Globally Distributed Cool Hunting / Trend Spotting system might be able to run on egoboos alone.
Also, tag aggregators are an excellent way to collect the eyes of your Argus. Technorati is good but not great for this, as it won’t archive past posts.
Oh, and thanks for the shout-out! (By the way, you have an extra “br” tag after my URL, so it doesn’t resolve correctly.)