You’ll have a tough time finding my submission in Compostapalooza because it’s lost amongst 94 idea submissions. That’s right, you heard me right, 94. Lift the cap off the usual US$90 idea submission fee and there you have it – way too many ideas and far too much crowd-sourcing for anyone’s liking.

Here’s my beef with the entire issue, and to be honest, it is telling of society in general as well: Quirky is like ancient Greece for crowd-sourced innovations; for as long as we consider the merits and detriment of direct democracy vis à vis representative democracy, we shall always debate how “crowded” crowd-sourced innovations should be.

Exhibit A: Wikipedia

A while back, there was a huge furrow over the openness of Wikipedia. It seemed odd that the world’s most open (sourced) encyclopedia should debate internally about participation.

If you aren’t yet familiar with the crowd-sourcing movement, allow me to fill you in on a little history: For as long as crowd-sourcing has abounded, the issue of voting and participation has been debated – from forefathers of the social media movement like Digg and Technocrati to our beloved Wikipedia. You could say that certain events only exasperated the debate and brought issues to public attention.

A veteran Wikipedia contributor (heavily depended on for edits and reviews) was found to have faked some credentials, although I would not go so far as to claim this user was out for fraud. No doubt, that had established  a strong reputation over time, but the fact that such contributors were not qualified professionals in the first place had part of the Wikipedia nation up in arms.

That links us back to the problem of Quirky: There is a whole lot of unqualified people out there rating, voting, and making decisions. Once again, it is reminiscent of ancient Greece, where direct democracy was said to promote tyranny of the majority. Whether it is good or bad, I’ll leave that up to you to decide. My personal take? Quirky’s crowd-sourcing method has worked out considerably well with some notable products, but it could still be improved theoretically.

Exhibit B:

I hope most of you are familiar with Digg. It’s a popular link aggregation site that rates the entire Internet. Digg faced the exact same scenario Wikipedia has today (that’s not to say Digg has sorted it out). Criticisms range from users having too much say and control, to a certain niche and elite group of Diggers who control what is posted on the front pages. The strangest thing is that criticisms from both ends of the spectrum occur at largely the same time.

I will leave you readers with this article written a good 3 years back, but still encapsulates many of the problems Digg still faces. I’ll provide a deeper commentary on the issue, but for the purpose of CompostingInSingapore, this is probably about as deep as we need to go.

Truly the question remains: Is there a solution to all of this? Perhaps there is no pleasing everyone in crowd-sourced media.

Back to Quirky

The result of Compostapalooza is a food shredding machine. This has been very surprising for me. Somehow, Quirky has managed to select an idea that encapsulates our idea of a composting ecosystem. A food shredder is something that all composters can and should use. It only seems unrelated to a person who doesn’t compost. Anyone who does will appreciate that ground up food breaks down much faster and has less risk of smelling up.

The strange thing is: If you read the comments about the Compostapalooza winner, you’ll find many disgruntled people. Mark my word that those aren’t trolls either; they are real bona fide users who have genuine problems and complaints about the selection process. I can verify many of their concerns – for all my work and participation, I didn’t get a drop of influence nor did I ever see the food shredder entry either!

Yet for all the unhappiness, Quirky somehow got it right! Doesn’t that just blow your mind?


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