So the deadline for my project is nearing. Do you suddenly start cleaning your room when the pressure is increasing? Well I have that sometimes, now my room is still a mess, but I have that urgency to write a review on Cambrian House. Probably the best thing to do, is to get it out of my system, so here it goes:
What is Cambrian House?
Cambrian House is launching there site today. The quickest way to learn about their concept is by letting them explain it. Quick version; the crowd chooses what to build and build it as a crowd. The product can be anything that can made online.
There is a leaderboard where the ideas are ranked. This is based on a IdeaWarz, where two ideas battle against each other.
Update: They just added new features today, so perhaps my whole piece will be obsolete within one day . I’ll have to check out these features later.
The problem is that the leaderboard is not doing such a good job of picking out the best ideas at the moment.
Why is this a problem?
Besides the problem that the whole concept of Cambrian House is based on filtering concept using the wisdom of crowds, a far-from-perfect leaderboard is bad for the motivation of the troops that send in the new ideas. Why would they contribute to a site that will not recognise (their) great ideas.
What is causing this problem?
The reason the leaderboard is not (yet) working as it should is because people who are voting are mostly also the people who are sending in the ideas. They have a conflict of interest, they obviously want to promote their own ideas.
So what’s the real problem?
The real problem is not the conflict of interest and the gaming that comes with it. It is tempting to tweak the rules of the game (make voting down possible, let people be accountable by voting with your name and not anoymously), but the more fundamental problem lies in the first part of my short analysis; the people who are voting are mostly also the people who are sending in the ideas.
Cambrian House is based on crowds and it needs to become bigger to function well. If the crowd is big enough the gaming of the system will become negligible. Maybe they get some good publicity as they launch the site (out of beta), and I hope they do, but that doesn’t solve the main problem. It is a problem of motivation; why would I vote on an idea?
Where is the value?
People who use Digg or Reddit can vote on news items and that works really well. The reason people go to these pages is not because they want to vote, but because they want to get news. This brings the traffic. A small percentage of these users feel like it’s only fair to credit the source and vote the story up.
The site as to have value for people who are not contributing. Even better would be if the sites gives the users extra value if they contribute to the site. This article explains why people tag, it’s because they gain value for themselves.
For my project I too have the potential problem of gaming and critical mass. The advantage I have is that the contributions are valuable by themselves. This combined with the existing social links and interest people have in charities brings a reason for people to visit the site.
Social is good
Cambrian House also have some social aspects they are developing step by step (agile). Also, they are stimulating people to spread their ideas on their blogs (btw, check my ideas). I think this contributes to the social cohesion of the users, the accountability and it will draw in some new visitors. But that might not be enough.
Direction of a solution
To fix the system they need to find a way to either make the voting more interesting (valuable to the visitors), or they have to find a way to add value to the ideas people are sending in.
My tip would be; focus not on bad guys but on the value you can bring for the good guys. I’m sure they’ll fix the problems. They seem to have a creative and flexible team that is up to the job.
Back to work
Great, now that’s out of my system, it’s back to work for me!