Personal Crowdsourcing

March 31, 2010

The Betavine Social Exchange project was launched over a year ago …see the project approval post from 28th March 2009.  The project has met with great enthusiasm when I have presented it in public and also when I speak to people face to face.  I have made a few good contacts via phone which then get followed up with face to face meetings.

The Social Exchange website was launched in October 2009 and saw a flurry of activity around the launch events.  I have also seen activity around follow on events and calls.  The online activity has mainly been stimulated by these face to face, personal relationships.

Is crowdsourcing personal?

I know there are many examples of online crowdsourcing sites that perhaps do not have off-line activities …but one thing that I have leant on Betavine is the need to create relationships.  We have run a number of off-line events e.g. Betavine Beers, Betavine parties and participated in lots of event e.g. Over the Air, WWW Annual Conference … developers days.   It is these off-line meetings that create the relationships that last and bring focus and dedication to the crowdsourcing cause.

The recent Cape Town Dev Day in March was a great success in terms of bringing focus on the Social Exchange challenges but now the task is to maintain that momentum.

Cape Town Dev Day - meeting developers

A combination of off-line activities coupled with an online presence seems to be the best approach.  The other key thing I learnt in Cape Town is the importance of linking up with community “leaders” on the ground – thanks to Marlon Parker and Rlabs for their support.


After a great effort by the Betavine Team we reached the launch of the Betavine Social Exchange at 19:44 (RSA time) on the 14th October 2009.  This was a soft launch a day before the formal launch in order to get some content uploaded.  Thanks to Marlon and Nicky for helping out.  It is a “beta” so we are expecting the odd bug to be reported … and quickly fixed.

The launch event was held at the end of day 1 of the Sangonet Annual Conference in Johannesburg.

Turbine Hall, Johannesburg - location of #Sango09

Turbine Hall, Johannesburg - location of #Sango09

The launch of BSX was supported by Vodacom and their VEMCI team.  I presented a few slides on VEMCI and a few on BSX and then showed the website live … which worked!  I got some very good questions .. one of which I could not answer: “if there are thousands of challenges on the site how do I keep mine in focus and ensure that it is not forgotten?”  Well, the team will have to work on that one.

Launch Presentation #sango09

Launch Presentation #sango09

More at day 2 of #sango09 tomorrow and then off to Cape Town to meet some more NGOs.

Please check out the new site and give us your feedback and suggestions.

OTA 09 and weekend working

September 29, 2009

OTA 09 at Imperial College on the weekend was fab!

Hundreds of mobile developers came together for tech sessions and an overnight hack in the “Great Hall”  at Imperial College, London.  There was even a “real” dalek to keep us in order …see   OTA 09 – Great Hall with Dalek .

I met some great people their and the Betavine Team worked the registration desk for the Friday and Saturday.

I was given a speaking slot at 9am on Saturday morning … not expecting a huge crowd but was pleasantly surprised to find some Betavine Social Exchange enthusiasts who had come especially for my talk!

A few snippets of my talk can be found on YouTube.

Following the talk I interview 3 very interesting people who clearly had a passion for bring technology to the developing world.

I was intrigued by Iris comments on “social entrepreneurs” …entrepreneurial in thinking whilst focussing on social problems.

Guillaume raised the issue of BSX challenges becoming “dead letters” i.e. getting lost and no-one working on the solutions.  We will work on features to help challenges to remain visible.

Joel thinks BSX could be a “great tool for connnecting people …”  – that is our aim and we will be seeking lots of feedback from our users to ensure we do this.

Please sign up for the pilot here:  BSX pilot.

What’s in a name?

June 9, 2009

The team are busy putting the concept of the Betavine Social Exchange (BSX) together … but we keep coming across the issue of naming.

We have now gone through the requirements, user journeys and wireframes … even got some copy guidelines and early use cases ready for implementation but we are still discussing names.

I may have mentioned kiva before,  well, they have a concept of a local partner – someone on the ground who is known and who can vouch for the person seeking a loan.  In the Betavine Social Exchange we call this a “local community partner” and we are going to start off by allowing anyone to sign up as a local community partner.  We believe that it will be the local community partner who will take the time to enter the problem description into the BSX and thereby kick off a community project.  However, to be as open as possible we will allow any user to enter a problem description.

Once a solution has been found or developed we want to encourage local entrepreneurs to pick up the solution, that already has a customer, and deploy it – usually on a commercial basis.  The people who offer support for this e.g. funding or equipment we call “support partners”.  Does this work?

We are planning a round of user testing but it is proving difficult to get time with local NGOs.

One of the drivers behind the Betavine Social Exchange is to encourage the mobile ecosystem in emerging markets – help local entrepreneurs to think about the mobile space and its opportunities.  This is a very challenging target and will need a number of key enablers in place i.e. understanding the utility of mobile, understanding the technical issues and knowledge of the business models available.

In creating the Betavine Social Exchange website we are currently thinking about 3 key groups of stakeholders or “audiences” – owners, contributors and activators.


This is the group that “own” the problem or challenge that could be addressed by a mobile solution.   The problem owners can come from many difference and diverse organisations e.g. NGOs, government departments, universities.  The problem owners are those organisations and individuals who understand the situations on the ground and are able to describe it clearly to others.

The engagement of the problem owners with the Betavine Social Exchange is key to its success.  The Betavine Social Exchange will seek to make it very easy to describe a problem in a way that is accessible to the problem owner but also helpful to the contributors and activators.


This group are the mobile developers or other mobile enthusiasts who have the knowledge or interest in “contributing” towards mobile solutions for the defined problems.   Contributions can be helpful pointers, software (open source code), time to lead a co-creation project online, user interface designs or business advice.

Contributions can come from anyone in the world … the global mobile development community or mobile enthusiasts.  The beneficiaries are the local entrepreneurs who are able to deploy a mobile solution that meets a pre-defined and real problem.


This group is made up of the local businesses or entrepreneurs in the emerging markets that are willing to step forward and “activate” a mobile solution in the local market.  One key advantage for the activators is that the customer, the problem owner, has already been indentified and a mobile solution is available to review.

Local activators can pre-register their interest and engage with the co-creation phase of the project.

Funding for local entrepreneurs can come from many different sources but one possibility is to use kiva.


I have been aware of kiva for a while but it was not until recently that I actually registered and lent some money to a fishmonger in Ghana.  The whole concept behind Kiva is awesome!  I love it.  The website is very simple to use and the process is clearly explained in every step.  I am not surprised that it has been such a great success.  It does the job it set out to do very well.

I am taking note of its success and hoping to learn a lot from it.  I am sure there should be a clear link from the Betavine Social Exchange to Kiva … not sure exactly how this will work but I am going to eplore the possibilities.

Crowdsourced Thinking

March 23, 2009

Blogging is a form of crowdsourced thinking.  Posts set out ideas, views and opinions for others to read and comment on.  These comments can lead to the further development of ideas or dismiss misunderstandings or take the blogger off on a completely new direction.

Is this not crowdsourced thinking?  Crowdsourcing is a new term and helps when explaining observed behaviour on the web but is it a new concept?

In the past people may not have had access to countless unknown blog readers but could spout forth in front of a small group of friends in the pub on any topic and likely get a good few comments back.  You may not consider this activity as crowdsourced thinking but what is the difference?

As social interaction moves online we are seeing many traditional activities take on new forms, blogging being one of them.  I often hear people saying that the youth of today are not anti-social as some suspect but they are merely social online in a way that their parents do not understand.  Instead of going down the local park and hanging out with their mates from the same area they are going online and hanging out with the mates from school or from other schools or other town or countries.

What was the offline equivalent to blogging?  Publishing or expressing my opinion to a group of people (may only be a few) and hoping for some comments and feedback – well that could have been considered a conversation?  But the guys down the pub do not work in my industry and do not understand what I am talking about!  So the conversation has to take place at work or at the local club where specialism can be indulged.  However, it is very convenient to be able to locate an almost infinate variety of specialism from the comfort of my home PC. 

Now we are talking about the long tail of interests that can be found on the web.  More about that another time.

Blogging allows specialist conversations to take place with a potential audience of millions but with a likely audience of a few other specialists.  With the aid of a web search engine a small “crowd” of specialist can find a blog and comment on it in a meaningful way … crowdsourced thinking.