There’s a new series on CBS this year that I’ve been watching called “Wisdom of the Crowd,” which I’ve found to be very fascinating and relevant to some of the work I’ve been doing with The Shepherd Journal. The show is about a social media mogul who gives up the company that he founded–which, I guess, is a little like Facebook or Reddit–to launch a new service/website which uses crowdsourcing to solve crimes. His main goal is to solve the murder of his daughter, but in subsequent episodes his team is able to use tips from users and algorithms to solve other crimes for the police.
While the show is fiction, it is based on a lot of concepts and ideas that we’ve seen put into practice on different social media platforms, such as Reddit or Snopes. There are also mystery solving clubs where amateur detectives use social media to solve cold cases. The core idea of many of these communities–as well as the plot of “Wisdom of the Crowd”–is that there are a lot of problems that we can solve if we collaborate together.
I am especially fascinated by “Wisdom of the Crowd” because for a long time I’ve been searching for a way to incorporate crowdsourcing into The ShepherdI Journal, the online news site I’ve been building up. Newspapers have often relied on eyewitness reports, news tips, and opinions from their community, so it seems logical that the next step would be to further open up the news gathering process to readers. This isn’t a new idea. CNN has long had a way for viewers to submit news reports and video clips, and there are a lot of other examples of projects which have made use of citizen journalists.
One thing that I hope that a crowd sourced news site might inspire in its participants is curiosity. Facebook is a great way to catch up on the news or updates from friends, but only if we remain curious enough to dig beneath the surface of a headline or quick news bite. This is something we all need to practice, or there needs to be someone who is willing to summarize and verify the news that’s found on the social network.
If I had to sum all of this up in the style of a prime time television show, I would call it “Curiosity of the Crowd.” My website would collect news tips and questions from its users, and a small group of fact checkers, editors, and writers would finesse the information into content on the website. I wouldn’t be the first to do this, but perhaps the first to do it inside the community of Shepherd.
Most of the framework is in place. There is a Facebook page, Twitter feed, and a website for The Shepherd Journal. I am associating the SJ Facebook page with groups where community members can discuss different topics. Within the site, there is a page where visitors can submit news stories of their own, a feedback form for questions and an email address email@example.com where I can be contacted.
The only remaining question, then, is what are you curious about? Because there is a community news site now that will help you to find the answers. Or, what is it that you know? Because there are people who could use your help.