Taxonomy, Technology and other Taxing Stuff

By far the most complex aspect of the site build is the technology that sits behind the matching process – in other words the technology that suggest suitable gurus or tasks to help on. The logic or intelligence that ensures the right people are matched will be supported by a taxonomy (or a classification and grouping of terms that relate to particular tasks). Although the behind-the-scenes technology may be very complex, a similarly challenging and important aspect is ensuring the user interface is clean and simple, and generally quick and easy to use. These are the two, somewhat daunting, tasks we are getting stuck into right now.

To help us create the taxonomy, we’re using the National Occupational Standards (NOS), published by Sector Skills Councils. The NOS’s describe key areas of common jobs, grouped into “suites” which represent a particular job role or occupation. These, we suspect, will correlate reasonably well with tasks people may need help with. The standards have been compiled by panels of experts, usually senior people within each industry, and so are a good starting point for us. The Third Sector Skills Council is particularly useful, for example, detailing 33 standards within the fundraising suite. We will be collaborating with them as we build the taxonomy in this area.

Of course, there is more to a suitable match than simply matching skills needed to skills offered, not least of which is mentor and mentee rapport. While we will strive to get the matching functionality as good as it can be, it will never eliminate the need for human intervention, and there will always be a need for the individuals concerned to follow-up and determine if indeed the proposed match is suitable.

However, on the technology side, there are some really cool things that can be done. For example, by harnessing the power of the semantic web or pulling in details from LinkedIn. We’re going to be exploring these areas with the Technology Team on November 24th in what will be our first face to face Technology Team workshop.
Bring it on!

The Power of the Crowd

The Power of the Crowd

The Power of the Crowd

Kathryn, Co-founder of CrowdGuru.org, tells us how she has been inspired by the power of crowds to solve large, complex problems.

I’ve been really inspired by the concept of crowdsourcing… So much so that we are now setting up Crowd Guru based on this model.

The first crowdsourcing site that really impressed me was Kiva (www.kiva.org). Kiva enables you to lend a small amount of money to someone in a less developed country who doesn’t have access to a bank, usually because they have no collateral and only want to borrow a small amount. As that person repays their loan, you can re-invest the cash in someone else. I think this is such an inspired model… the idea that a small amount of money can be used time & again to help many different people… that if enough people sign-up, the amounts make a real difference, and that individuals can do this where commercial organisations struggle to create a business model that works – it is so powerful!

Of course, there are many other examples… Wikipedia, (www.wikipedia.org) and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (www.mturk.com) being notable examples. Mechanical Turk gets users to perform micro-tasks and was used after Hurricane Katrina, to muster thousands of volunteers to consolidate 15,200 records about missing people. Most large companies are now using crowdsourcing in some capacity, whether to come up with new ideas, test out new designs, or perform tasks.

Over the last few years crowdfunding has become popular, especially for creative or community projects. The idea is that people can raise money for their project or business using the power of the crowd, sometimes in return for small gifts or equity stakes in the business. Check out www.kickstarter.com, www.indiegogo.com or www.peoplefund.it. I really like the way projects are advertised on these sites, and they provide plenty of inspiration for the CrowdGuru task design.

The CrowdGuru concept is based on the crowdsourcing model… sourcing expertise from Gurus in the crowd to help on a project. Not only that, but our whole approach is based on it too! We are using experts in various fields to design, build, and test the site, and we are also planning to run a crowdfunding campaign (more on this in due course).

If you want to know more about crowdsourcing, www.crowdsourcing.org is a great website for general industry news and reports.

Kathryn

Building the technology – using networks to develop CrowdGuru.org

Development in the Crowd

Development using the crowd.

We’re just starting out on the technical development, looking to create a well-designed site that does lots of clever stuff behind the scenes and yet is easy to use, and engaging. So, what better way to do this than practice what we preach and get a crowd of amazing gurus to help us do it!

Having worked as a project manager on website builds for many years, I know some very talented technologists – architects, developers, team leaders, designers. The great thing is that, once people hear about the Crowd Guru project, they are keen to get involved and volunteer their time and expertise. So, without too much arm twisting, I’ve been able to pull a technology leadership team together. This group will help manage the site creation, make key technical decisions, and play a significant role in the overall creation and success of the site. This is an innovative approach in many ways… there are no job roles or hierarchical structure, tasks are not assigned, they are self-selected (i.e. people choose to take on a task they would like to do), and all decisions are made in a collaborative and completely transparent way.

We are using some great free tools as well – it’s amazing the resources that are out there if you look. The ones we have opted for are Asana (www.asana.com) to collaborate on the CrowdGuru.org application design and a free trial of SmartSheets (www.smartsheets.com) to manage the project. Definitely worth a look if you are thinking of doing something like this.

And it doesn’t need to stop there. Once we have the team in place there is potential for us to use open-source software development techniques to develop the site and test it all thoroughly. But that’s for a later stage.

I’m quite excited about trialling the process, and pretty optimistic it will work. After all, I’m in the enviable position of being able to pick my own “dream team” – any project managers out there will be able to relate to that sentiment!  And a great team makes for a fun project. Watch this space to hear how it pans out…

Kathryn