Crowdsourcing and me

Jeff Howe, a contributing editor at Wired Magazine, is putting the finishing touches on his book Crowdsourcing. Since the book is about tapping into the resources of the public (i.e. you and me) he has essentially pre-published the book in blog form and asked for comments that might be included in the book.

This book is of more than passing interest to me for a few reasons. I find the subject matter very compelling, Howe is a good writer, and also I figure prominently in Chapter 6. Howe interviewed me regarding the collaborative MATLAB programming contest that we’ve been running for many years now. He was very generous to me regarding quotes and material associated with the contest. I also like the discussion of F.A. Hayek’s “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” The subsequent analysis reflects how I think of the contest: as a social game that draws out hard-to-reach local knowledge for the benefit of the group.

Here’s the text: Crowdsourcing: Chapter 6: The Most Universal Quality—Why Diversity Trumps Ability.

Me on a Jon Udell podcast

Tim O’Reilly likes to quote William Gibson when he describes his approach to predicting the future: “The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.” In other words, if you can just find the people (O’Reilly calls them alpha geeks) who are leading the way, you can serve yourself a tasty slice of future pie before the crowds show up. I completely agree with this philosophy. One of the things I love about the current blogging culture is that I can keep up with the latest thoughts of the people, the alpha geeks, that I think are on the leading edge.

When Tim O’Reilly talks about people who can see the future before it’s very evenly distributed, he’s talking about Jon Udell. I have been a fan of Udell’s writing since his days as a columnist at Infoworld. Now he works at Microsoft. The reason for his departure is also the reason his writing is so prescient: he holds fast to his own compass, and when that compass was at variance with Infoworld’s mission, he knew it was time to move on. Few people are doing more to distribute the future than Udell. He is intensely focused on bringing the fruits of social computing and information technology in general to the broadest possible audience, whether it’s through screencasting, easy-to-use scripting languages, or underused federal databases. I know when he’s excited about something, I should learn more about it as fast as possible.

So I was especially happy that I got a chance to meet him at a recent symposium on social computing at Microsoft. I was even happier to learn that he wanted to interview me for a podcast on the programming contest that I’ve been running at The MathWorks for the past several years.

Want to listen? Tune in here: A conversation with Ned Gulley about the MATLAB Programming Contest « Jon Udell.

And if you stumbled across this post and want to learn more about the contest, you might want to read a paper that I wrote about it: In Praise of Tweaking: A Wiki-like Programming Contest.