The Economist’s Project Red Stripe – What were they thinking?

I have been tracking The Economist‘s Crowdsourcing experiment Project Red Stripe with a keen eye since their first blog posting. I think the idea is interesting and promising until I was deeply disappointed and saddened from reading the March 14th posting “Ideas from the ether” by Stewart Robinson (here is the posting downloaded in PDF format).

Are there any good reasons to list and blog about the submitted off-track or insulting ideas that won’t get developed instead of showcasing some of those good ideas that may get developed? I believe if one focuses on the positive and good ideas, more good ideas may be submitted. In fact, the act of deliberately provoking the non-constructive crowds and featuring bad ideas may lead to more submission of insulting ideas. When the crowds can be lead soaring to new heights, why provoke them by daring them to race to the bottom?

Here are excerpts from the posting,

Solicit free business ideas from naive contributers to build a website that makes tons of cash. Offer them a token subscription if their idea “wins”.

That’s a great idea. Thanks. I’ll see if I can get The Economist Group to do that. Erm hang on…

The team’s absolute favourite: [K: Nice to see the team is focused in laughing at the ideas submitted.]

universal jeans identification system.
Favorite pair of jeans been through the wash too many times?
[...]

The solution: a universal jeans identification system. [...]

Good night – you’ve been beautiful.

OK, so Stewart and team may just be offended by some of these ideas or overloaded by the massive amount of junk. But does it warrant such an attack? Will attacking the crowds (in general) lead to anything positive in this Crowdsourcing project? I doubt it.

When I interviewed Bruce Livingstone and Patrick Lor for my co-authored business case on the Crowdsourcing pioneer iStockphoto.com, I never once detected from them any contempt for the crowds or members in the community even though some members might hold different opinions than theirs.

This Project Red Stripe post reminds me of a passage in Jane Austen’s Emma,

[...] she only demands from each of you either one thing very clever, be it prose or verse, original or repeated–or two things moderately cleveror three things very dull indeed, and she engages to laugh heartily at them all.”

“Oh! very well,” exclaimed Miss Bates, “then I need not be uneasy. `Three things very dull indeed.’ That will just do for me, you know. I shall be sure to say three dull things as soon as ever I open my mouth, shan’t I? (looking round with the most good-humoured dependence on every body’s assent)–Do not you all think I shall?”

[The Economist's Project Red Stripe team] Emma could not resist.

“Ah! ma’am, but there may be a difficulty. Pardon me–but you will be limited as to number–only three at once.”

Miss Bates, deceived by the mock ceremony of her manner, did not immediately catch her meaning; but, when it burst on her, it could not anger, though a slight blush shewed that it could pain her. [...]

[Text from Emma in Project Gutenberg, full text from this file.]

It pains me to see Project Red Stripe team enjoying themselves by mocking the crowd. Sure, I might get annoyed by the same insulting (or silly) suggestions. But why focus on the negatives? Why not focus on the good stuff and share them with the community to encourage better submissions and learn together?

Project Red Stripe team, here is my last bit of Jane Austen critique/”fun” for you:

“I cannot see you acting wrong, without a remonstrance. How could you be so unfeeling to Miss Bates the crowd? How could you be so insolent in your wit to a woman of her a crowd of their character, age, and situation?– Emma The Economist’s Project Red Stripe team, I had not thought it possible.”

By taking my time to write this lame post, I still have hope for the Project Red Stripe team that their mindset may be changed or things can and will be turned around. When I have given up, I will simply stop reading the project blog or commenting.

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One Response to The Economist’s Project Red Stripe – What were they thinking?

  1. [...] Kempton’s blog: The Economist’s Project Red Stripe – What were they thinking? “Are there any good reasons to list and blog about the submitted off-track or insulting ideas that won’t get developed instead of showcasing some of those good ideas that may get developed?” (tags: blog redstripe) [...]

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