Thursday, 29 December 2011

Crowdfunding The Occupied Times

As the global Occupy movement continues to grow, encouraging debate, calling for change, as well as angering the establishment, keeping track of relevant news and opinions has daunting. The Occupied Times, a free newspaper that publishes news and information regarding the movement, has taken up the mantle for Occupy London, with the first six issues proving to very popular. The paper is now turning to UK crowdfunding platform 0sponsume, to fund further issues whilst finding a way to make the publication more sustainable.

The Occupied Times, whilst not the official voice of the movement, does provide a platform for those within the movement to relay news and information, as well as offering entertaining and insightful views. The paper's mission is principally to provide individuals involved in the movement and passing members of the public with the latest updates as well as provoke debate over the issues spurring the movement. It was originally funded from donations made to the sustain the Occupy movement, with the first issue costing £200 to produce and subsequent five issues at £350 each. 

In order to become sustainable, the publication needs more funding which is proving to be a drain on the movement's limited purse. The goal is to raise £2,000 to fund a further four issues of the Occupied Times, and work to increase its size and distribution to 16 pages twice monthly. Any remaining funds will be donated to the Occupy movement. In return for supporting the project, investors will receive an assortment of rewards including thank yous & acknowledgements, copies of the paper, and an original copy of the historic first edition (currently on  display at the Museum of London). 

To date the project has secured over 70% of the target, with just over a week remaining. Whilst the project will accept donations from all over the world, it will only be able to post rewards to UK investors. The Occupy movement continues to grow becoming a thorn in the side of both financial giants and political leaders alike. With your help, the Occupied Times could play an integral role of maintain the flow of news and insights on the issues of the movement. To find pledge your support, and generally learn more about the the Occupied Times (even download a copy) visit the project's sponsume funding page.

Image Credit; The Occupied Times

Monday, 19 December 2011

UK Steampunk Movie Looks For Crowdfunding Support

The genre of steampunk science fiction has enjoyed a little resurgence this year with the 3D reboot of Alexander Dumas' Three Musketeers, and Martin Scorsese's latest feature Hugo, based on the book by Brian Selznick. A new independent film, Nova Initia looks set to help with the steampunk revival set within a dystopia world, whilst challenging the current stable of big budget Hollywood remakes and sequels. The makers of the film are looking to raise part of the budget through the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.

Nova Initia is set in a desolate world of crumbled cities and split factions trying to make sense of their scorched earth. Amidst the desolation, a young woman is on the run but she does not know why or nor have any clue as to her identity, carrying a satchel that cannot be lost nor fall into the hands of her pursuers. Cardiff writer/director Dale Jordan Johnson, along with producers James Morgan and Daniel Lyddon of the Welsh film production company Seraphim Pictures, hope to present steampunk to mainstream audiences with original stories, fresh characters and whole new worlds to explore. To help bring the world of steampunk to life, the services of The Little Steampunk Shop will be employed, developing props for the film, which will also feature as rewards for donations.

The project needs $10,000 to help cover location costs, insurance premiums, set design & construction as well as wardrobe and catering. In exchange for a monetary pledge, donors can expect various rewards including, acknowledgements & credits, various official merchandise, set visits and premier invitations, as well as DVD and BLU-RAY copies of the film. To date the project has only raised $835 through 11 backers with less than three weeks till the deadline. So if you want to support this steampunk adventure then visit the project's Kickstarter page.

Image Credit Used with kind permission of Seraphim Pictures Copyright 2011 
- All Rights Reserved.  

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Supporting a Crowdfunding Campaign, The Perfect Christmas Present?

Note from the Editor

The Christmas season is almost upon us and you can guarantee that there will be lots of last minute panicking, uncertainty as to the perfect gift, as well as frantic mad dashing to the high street. Shopping online is risky due to the closely looming last day post, and there is no guarantee that the shops will still have that perfect gift in stock. So why not take the money intended for present shopping and pledge it instead towards a crowdfunding project? 

At the beginning of September I was contacted by Sidney Sherman, a Hollywood film producer who enthusiastically informed me about a film project that needed funding. I posted the article all about the film Reboot, and it has enjoyed much success, exceeding its funding target. As I was reading all about the project, my schoolboy enthusiasm spilt out vocally and my partner sitting nearby was on the receiving end. As I was drafting the post, my partner was asking me all sorts of questions about the project and before I knew it she had pledged $100 to Reboot, declaring it an early Christmas present. I am a self confessed film buff and fan of all things science fiction, cyberpunk included. I also consider myself a champion of independent films so this was a perfect gift that ticked the boxes of all my passions.  So for Christmas I have a stake in an independent cyberpunk film as well my own high definition digital as well as a personalised DVD copies of the film, and CD of the film's soundtrack. 

Investments as a whole always carry an element of risk and for crowdfunding projects the principle risk is that they do not reach their funding targets. So instead of an investment in a project along with an assortment of gifts, there is the risk that for Christmas you have a failed project, no gifts and you're money back. However given the risk involved in purchases generally are no different especially those instances where goods are ordered, and deposits paid only for the company to close. 

It might seem a ludicrous idea, however donating to a crowdfunding project can probably be the most thoughtful gift. You could choose to support a charitable project that you know a person is passionate about, invest in a film or other creative form, or even an entrepreneurial or technological project which suits that person's interest. It says much about how well you know that person, the level of affection held for them, and the little rewards that come with the support add a further level of excited anticipation. For tips on projects to support and platforms to visit, keep your eye here on the Gazette.

The future could see more people giving crowdfunding pledges as gifts which would see more projects get the funding they need. If this does become the norm then perhaps platforms such as Kickstarter and RocketHub might introduce gift vouchers purchased at any denomination. Recipients can then choose for themselves which project to support or even multiple projects. So if you are still searching for gift ideas why not try crowdfunding.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Crowdsourcing the Perfect Irish Burger

With the current economic crisis taking its toll the Republic of Ireland is turning to crowdsourcing to meet the challenges of a struggling market. The Irish Food Board, Bord Bia has launched a a scheme to encourage the Irish food and beverage to use collaborate with their customers on devising new products to be sold in a range of outlets. People from all over Ireland will be invited to collaborate in shaping the future of Irish beef products.

The first outlet, Big Al's Kitchen, forms part of Bord Bia's foresight4food programme aimed at supporting Irish food and drink brands to produce with innovative customer focus. The crowdsourcing platform to be used was developed by Giraffe The Agency, one Ireland's leading marketing agencies, working in partnership with Chaordix, one of the world's leading crowdsourcing providers.
This crowd engagement is one of the first of its kind in Ireland and follows a global trend of leading brands turning to crowdsourcing to encourage consumer collaboration in the development of insights and ideas. Bord Bia have spotted this trend and have been very quick to seek ways to drive innovation of Irish food and drink brands through crowdsourcing - Mark Skinner of Giraffe The Agency
Participants of Big Al's Kitchen register with the platform, and begin engaging and contributing ideas. Through this collaborative effort customers can create new products to be sold in the store. In return for their efforts, members of this creative culinary crowd will have an opportunity to win an assortment prizes including an iPad 2, digital camera, or even a portable DVD player. So register today and help Ireland create the ultimate beef dish.

Image Credits; Gabriel Amadeus

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

More Questions on Social Media and Employers

There is still some controversy and much uncertainty surrounding employers vetoing candidates based on their social networking profile. It is generally considered that a person's Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ account is off limits, and that no employer, potential or otherwise, has any right of access to what is considered a personal domain. Yet, from a lay person's point of view the law seems to be somewhat unclear on this issue, so let us consider it carefully.

As far as can be determined there is no law either prohibiting or allowing employers to access an employee's (or potential) social networking page. This means that an employer has a right to ask but is not necessarily entitled access to a person's social networking account. In the case of existing employees, with whom extensive interviews, references, and (for sensitive roles) background checks have led to their acceptance in the role, this would seem less of an issue. The real concern is when employers want to make a hiring decision based on the contents of a candidate's Facebook page or Twitter stream. It seems there is a genuine fear of potential employers learning about a candidate's partying habits, political affiliations, a few embarrassing photos, or possibly an admission to acts bordering on criminal or certainly anti-social that might influence their decision. So is there anything wrong with potential employers glancing at our social media accounts to get a more rounded picture of the person they are entrusting a job to? Well, yes and no.

Some roles do contractually place their employees under certain restricted behaviour, beyond the workplace, depending on the nature of the work involved. Any employer working in a profession/market dealing with sensitive matters such as law, finance or intelligence and defence departments of the government would need some reassurance that a potential employee can be trusted. If a candidate has a tendency to talk openly on the web in detail about their job thus revealing protected information, or whose behaviour compromises the sensitivity of the role they are entrusted, any employer would want to know. Surely employers should be allowed to view any information, not normally included on a CV or disclosed during interview, as a precaution to safeguard their interests in making sure they can hire the right person for the job.

There is an argument against employer access to social media accounts on the grounds of privacy principles. Yet many argue that social media is actually not protected by privacy laws.  Twitter hashtags, unsecured Facebook and Google + status streams are largely in public domain. In fact, in his article Should Social Media Determine Your Employment Status  Jeremy Simmons argues since the aim of social media is to convey personal information to an ever increasing circle of friends, family, and followers, it can hardly be considered private. He states; "It is not called 'private media' but 'social media', arguing that with some social media users whose circle of followers are equal to the population of a small village it is difficult to maintain any semblance of privacy. So it follows that when requested by an employer for access to their social media accounts, those who refused could be hard pressed to base it on privacy.

However, the privacy argument is far from defeated. It is true to an extent that a large social circle on Facebook, et al could negate the privacy factor however users have the option to determine with whom information is shared. Facebook allows users to choose which list to direct information to, Google+ has its circles, and Twitter gives users the option to protect tweets or use direct messaging. By only sharing information with select groups, privacy is maintained within that circle of trust. It is worth noting that employers cannot discriminate employees and recruits on the grounds of age, race, religion, nationality, handicap, or marital status. Much of this information should be provided although religion and race are not required disclosures, so an employer having access to information deemed confidential could leave themselves liable to legal action if it is successful shown that such undisclosed information, later uncovered, affected the decision of that candidate's employment. 

Employers can get a fuller picture of a potential employee based on their social networking posts. However, aside from the fact that any such access would have to be approved, a user can always clean up their profile to make it more acceptable before giving access. That said, using social media to determine the suitability of a candidate based on their personal life is drifting dangerously close to invasion of privacy. Whether a person has ten friends & followers, or thousands, this does not constitute an implied surrender of the right to privacy. 

An employer has every right to concerned about a potential employee's outside activities affecting or compromising their business. However such suspicions cannot surely be accurately determined just because someone enjoys a heavy night drinking or might express frustrations in their current job, or even have less than savoury political views, has little bearing on their potential to be good workers. Employment should simply be based on qualifications, experience and references, and not personal activities that may or may not put a business into disrepute, since the process already settles this. The issue of employers demanding access to candidates' social media profiles remains a controversial one lacking some legal uncertainties and setting a concerning precedent over the fine line between the much coveted work/life balance.

Monday, 12 December 2011

UK Crowdfunding Workshop to be Held February 2012

There is no denying that crowdsourcing in general, in particular crowdfunding, is becoming widespread in the UK. At a time when, to quote Simply Red, money is too tight to mention, crowdfunding provides access to funding that might previously been sought from more wealthy investors. Yet for many there are still questions and uncertainties surround crowdfunding, question which will be addressed at an upcoming crowdfunding workshop.

The event "Crowdfunding for building community, raising finance or market testing ideas" has been organised by Anne Strachan to provide extensive insight and information about crowdfunding. Anne has over 20 years experience working in the third sector, as well as extensive knowledge and success as a fundraiser. Through her blog Crowdfund UK, Anne provides an easy to follow guide to finding the right crowdfunding platform and shares her thoughts on fundraising in the digital age. 

Whether you're interest is academic or you are looking to raise funds for commercial enterprise, charitable causes, or need money for education, Anne's crowdfunding workshop is definitely for you. The event will be held at Bridge 5 Mill in Manchester, on Thursday 2nd February 2012, and tickets are now available. Lunch will be provided and there will be opportunities for one to one support and networking. If you are interested in taking part then you can click here to book tickets as an early bird participant, brief details of the agenda, and directions to the venue. 

You can also follow Anne on Twitter @crowdfunduk

Image Credit; Kennisland

Friday, 9 December 2011

Crowdfunding the Latest Car Racer Game

Candella Software, one of the UK's leading developers and publishers of video games for multiple platforms, are looking for funds to develop their latest game. Cargasm HD will revisit the classic arcade car racing game format but will incorporate on line sharing and social networking for the modern day gamer. Candella Software have turned to crowdfunding with 8-bit Funding, a platform dedicated to supporting fund raising for new video games.

Based in Bedford, UK, the team of Candella Software are no strangers to successful game development.  Since it was founded in 1999, Candella Software has developed some of the industry's most successful games for PC, games consoles, and hand held devices such as Playstation, and Xbox. Some of Candella's popular titles include Juiced, Fast and the Furious; Tokyo Drift, and Pyroblazer

Cargasm HD blends classic racing with photorealisic graphics depicting real - world locations including San Francisco, London, Egypt, and even Yosemite National Park.  Players will be able to choose from an assortment of super cars and participate in numerous races. One of the most unusual features of the game is the Cargasm Harem. An assortment of women will cheer on the players encouraging them to race faster, and those that race the fastest can collect their female supporters for their own harem. Players can earn points along the way and depending on the number of points accrued, will even be awarded some interestingly named trophies. 

The concept of the game will also be designed to incorporate social networking. Players will be able to upload race statistics to sites like Facebook and Google +. They will also be able to provide and compare race achievements with their friends and even issue invites for multi-player sessions. This component will also enable the game to be played inside a browser.

Candella Software are aiming to raise $25,000 and have 55 days to reach their target. In return for funding, backers will receive an assortment of rewards including Executive Producer credits, exclusive game content, and input into development of the final product. For more information about the project and to make a pledge visit the game's funding page.

Image Credit; Candella All Rights Reserved

Social Media Not to Blame for UK Riots

The riots that erupted in various cities around the UK made newspaper headlines and top billing on the nations news channels. Whilst accusatory fingers were pointed at many aspects of society  for the escalation of the riots, whether it was single parents inability to control the children, or a backlash response to the government's public sector cuts, only one was afforded the lion's share of the blame; social media.In response to one or two arrests which revealed that Facebook and Twitter, as well as Blackberry were used to incite criminal acts, the government responded in true knee jerk fashion, called meetings with police and the intelligence community to discuss possibly shutting down access to social networking sites in the likelihood of any similar trouble erupting. Yet a study conducted by academics at the University of Manchester concluded that the role of social media during the riots was quite the opposite.

A multidisciplinary team made up of experts from universities around the country, led by Professor Robert Procter of the University of Manchester, undertook an extensive review of the use of social networking sites during the riots. Using an extensive JISC funded project known as the National e-Infrastructure for Social Simulation (NeISS), the team analysed over 2.4 million Twitter messages. They concluded that there was no evidence to support the call for a nationwide shut down of social media should riots every break out again. In fact the study has supported the notion that social networking was more valuable as a source of breaking information, some factual whilst others were rumours, that was shared across the country ahead of the mainstream media.

Where social networking played a vital role however was in the co-ordination of major clean up operations around the country. As the Prime Minister and security experts were condemning how social networking sites were being used to organise the riots, calls were put out on Twitter under the #riotcleanup hash tag for manpower and resources to help clear away the remnants of the destruction. This unifying aspect underscores the argument as to value of non interference in the daily functions of social media, and if the government still needs convincing then perhaps a reminder of the role Twitter played during the protests in Iran two years ago is in order. 

In my first editorial I challenged the mainstream media's perception of social media users, specifically an article in the Daily Mail that claimed to source scientific studies as to it's negative qualities. The almost witch hunt-esque pursuit by the UK government depicting social networking as the spark that lit the fire of the riots is an extension of those prejudices highlighted in my editorial. Thankfully however this scientific study by leading academics as to just how vital social networking site were for conveying information and helping communities in the aftermath, will hopefully lay much of those negative assumptions to rest. The results of the studied were printed in the Guardian newspaper as part of it's Reading the Riots blog.

Image Credits; Dirt Licker

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Crowdfunding Art Projects to Help Economically Disadvantaged Children

Children from low socio-economic backgrounds are the focus of two crowdfunding projects that aim to use vivid artwork and the theatre to engage and improve young lives. Aiding these projects is the UK based crowdfunding platform WeDidThis, dedicated to help in raising funds for art projects that benefit communities and social causes. 

Art For Hope
This project was devised by artists Anna Jouli and Olga Krasanova of TopStroke, with the use of art and colour as a source of healing. The TopStroke team are planning to visit the Cardiac Hospital for Children in he Ural region of Russia, which provides life saving and innovating surgery & treatment for babies from low income families.  With a strong belief in the healing powers of stimulating imagery and vivid colours, TopStroke plan to visit the hospital and brighten up its corridors and play rooms. 

The creative team will prepare murals and designs of imaginary creatures and scenery which they hope will encourage the fragile patients as they undergo the long and arduous recovery stages. TopStroke hope to have the work done in time for Christmas, which in Russia, is celebrated on 7th January. The company will not a charge a fee for this venture, seeing it more as a Christmas gift however they need £2,200 to cover travel expenses and to purchase materials. Visit the project's funding page by clicking here and pledge your support

Cloud Child

The use of vivid visual theatre as a way of engaging young minds is the basis of Dynamic New Animation (DNA) latest production, Cloud Child. In partnership with The Lowry arts and entertainment centre based in the city of Manchester, DNA is developing this stage production with a child centred approach designed to get children actively involved in the story. 

Cloud Child, the story of a lost cloud who makes a special friend, is designed to stimulate the child's sense of wonder and belief in something magical. This then activates their creative side helping to generate a positive self image and give children the confidence much needed in life. The proposal behind the production's goal is based on research which shows that early engagement with children's creativity has many benefits to their development. The project will look to benefit children from the less affluent areas of Salford and Greater Manchester and only needs a total of £410. So far nearly 30% has been raised and around two weeks remain till the deadline. Click here to visit the project's funding page if you want to make a donation.

Image Credits; Anna Jouli

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Crowdsourcing the Soundtrack For The Dark Knight Rises

The latest instalment of the Christopher Nolan Batman revamp, The Dark Knight Rises looks set to be the biggest and darkest of the trilogy. In an effort to bring a new sound to this much anticipated blockbuster, world renowned composer Hans Zimmer, has taken a bold step, crowdsourcing the voices of fans to make up the movie's soundtrack.

Hans Zimmer's career spans over three decades composing  musical scores for some of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters including, Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean (plus sequels), Sherlock Holmes and the soon to be released Sherlock Holmes; Game of Shadows. Over the decades he has become recognised as one of the industry's leading innovative composers winning him a legion of fans (including me - Ed). Zimmer's unique flair is put to the test with his latest aural experiment in which he is "shining the bat-signal up into the sky to call you all" and add your voice to The Dark Knight Rises soundtrack.

The idea behind this venture came to Zimmer whilst working on the up coming Sherlock Holmes movie. The principle behind this bold experiment is simple; fans of the franchise are invited to visit the Ujam powered platform. First visitors have to, most importantly, read the terms and conditions and then register. Once signed up, participants must then listen to the sample recording before finally making a recording of their own chant. Participants need not worry about  having the best voice or sounding a little croaky as it will all be taken care of post production. 
You always want to create a sound that nobody has ever heard, but I think, this time, we might be doing that. As a musician, I think about what environment things are recorded in. Now, you have hundreds of thousands of voices, all recorded in their own individual environment. - Hans Zimmer, via
With excitement already building up to the much anticipated release of what could mark the final of director Christopher Nolans' Batman trilogy, fans have a unique opportunity to help shape the film's score. So if you want to participate in Hans Zimmer's grand musical experiment then click here to visit the Ujam site and add your voice to the soundtrack of the Dark Knight legend. 

Image Credits; Brett Jordan

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Open Innovation Call Led by UK Research Body and Pharmaceutical Giant

AstraZeneca, an Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company has entered into partnership with the UK's Medical Research Council (MRC), and yesterday announced an initiative aimed at the development of better medicinal treatments to benefit patients. The initiative is an open innovation call to the UK's academic community to put forward research proposals which if accepted could be in receipt of a significant cash award to fund the proposals' extensive research and development.

As the world's population continues growing so to does the need for more effective medicinal treatments. Developing new medicines can be time consuming and expensive, costing around £630 million. The first step involves developing chemical compounds which are then trialled to determine the best ones that would be transformed into medicine. However for an assortment of reasons, mainly cost and lack of resources, these trials are put on hold, sometimes indefinitely. It has been argued that some of these compounds are vital for new medicines and so AstraZeneca plan to make 22 such compounds available as part of the challenge.

The MRC has stated that AstraZeneca will provide to all those who take up this challenge, access to the compounds. The participants then have to propose how these compounds can be used in new areas of medicine. The MRC will review and select the best proposals and award up £10 million to fund the research that will cover a broad range of diseases.
Innovative collaborations are playing a crucial role in finding ways to unlock the potential of new treatments. The UK has a strong heritage of research excellence in life sciences. - David Brennan, Chief Executive, AstraZeneca
The call for submissions is now open and a two stage selection process will be used to determine feasibility of the studies. Any studies that are deemed to duplicate existing work or overlap with any of AstraZeneca's active studies will be rejected. For more information about how to take part visit the MRC's funding opportunities page.

Image Credit; Tulane Public Relations

Monday, 5 December 2011

Crowdfunding British Horror Films

The UK has an outstanding reputation for creating some of the world's most renowned horror films. Whether it is the Hammer films of old (Dracula, Curse of Frankenstein) or even new (Let Me In, The Woman in Black) British Horror has been successfully frightening the life out of audiences in cinemas and in the comfort of their homes. Looking to keep alight the flame of British Horror are two independent projects featured on some of the UK's prominent crowdfunding platforms working to bring their scary movies to life.

The Missing

When a young girl escapes her abusive life in Manchester and heads for London searching for her long lost father, her nightmare life turns even more upside down. Our heroine finds herself broke and homeless caught in the desolate world of London's seedy underworld, rife with prostitution, drugs, and gang violence. When the young girl is saved from a horrific fate she is at first grateful but then her saviour is not all she seems.

This spooky tale with an urban setting is the brain child of writers Lee Asquith-Coe and Sinitta Monero. A quick glance at the trailer and the synopsis, it has all the hallmarks of classic horror but carries with it a social message about the forgotten and destitute. The production needs£5,000 to get the cameras rolling however time is against them with only 17 days left (at time of this post). Helping the writers secure that much needed cash is the Sheffield based crowdfunding platform Sponduly. In return for funding, investors awards include, acknowledgements & thanks yous, limited edition merchandise, copies of the film, and invitations to a special screening. So if you want to see this nightmare vision become celluloid reality then visit The Missing's funding page on Sponduly and pledge your support.

Bigger and Badder

The makers of this Gothic horror tale describe Bigger & Badder as "Brighton Rock" meets "The Howling". Pete is a package boy hired to run errands for his shady and particularly ruthless boss Trevor Deacon. When Pete's first delivery goes horrifically wrong he has to explain to his boss exactly what happened. Trouble is Pete's tale could prove hard to believe, and if he doesn't succeed in convincing his boss then Pete is about to find out just how big and bad Trevor can be. 

Bigger and Badder was written by Richard Wantuch, also the film's director. Werewolves and gangsters makes for an appetisingly grisly story that should appeal to fans of Gothic horror, in particular, anything to do with wolves. The team only need £500 to finish production, and have already secured 46% of funding. This leaves only £270 still remaining and less than 28 days to reach that all important target. The team are using Exeter based Crowdfunder (see Gazette Profile) , and are hoping to tempt you the investor with an assortment of rewards. A minimum donation of £10 will secure a digital copy of the film, a thank you in the credits plus invitation to the premier screening. Other rewards, which depend on the size of the pledge, include limited edition merchandise, associate producer credits and even an original cast of "Wilbur". So if you want to see just how bad Trevor really is then visit Bigger and Badder's Crowdfunder page and make that investment. 

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Not Sure About Crowdsourcing? Try Co-creation

It seems many businesses are still reluctant to take advantage of the benefits crowdsourcing has to offer whether the business is an SME or a leading international company. It is perhaps a daunting prospect to entrust a task to a limitless faceless crowd, even through a specialised platform. Maybe it is the thought of wading through large amounts of submissions to find the right one that causes one to groan with disdain. Crowdsourcing is not for everyone yet in this current economic climate it is important to stay one step ahead of the competition, especially if their competitive edge relies on crowdsourcing. Co-creation is an off-shoot of crowdsourcing that has grown exponentially within a relatively short time and could provide the alternative for the less adventurous with all the benefits. 

Co-creation, like crowdsourcing, relies on collaboration for ideas and information from a crowd. The crucial difference however is in the size of the crowd. Instead of putting a call to an open forum or a specialised platform seeking the resources of many, the task/conundrum is placed before a smaller specialised crowd. You could call it a form of focused crowdsourcing in which the individuals of this "focus group" have skills and knowledge that are dependent on the needs of the client. For example, a car manufacturer looking for a new design of vehicle or update of an existing model, instead of using the crowd, would present the instructions to a specialised group of engineers, mechanics, and designers. The group works together and present a single idea to the client, rather than the client sifting through many ideas. 

So is there much of a difference between co-creation and crowdsourcing? In some ways there is very little difference as they both operate on the concept of consulting the wisdom of the crowd. The principle difference is that co-creation encourages more collaboration between the members of the specialised crowd. Co-creation also allows the crowd to think more outside the box thus fostering innovation. It is still as cost effective as crowdsourcing and in fact provides a level of accountability as well as focus. There are many service providers working with leading brand names including eYeka who has worked with Coca Cola and Unilever, and Infosys currently in partnership with Volkswagen and recently Nike.
This is probably the difference that crowdsourcing does not quite achieve, the ability to work with a specialised group, capture the ideas of the many and work with them through different steps to ultimately create a better experience for the consumer. Crowdsourcing focuses on quantity and results in incremental changes, co-creation focuses on quality and produces innovative solutions. - Scott Teng, Regional Collaborative Planner for eYeka
Such is the increasing popularity of this crowdsourcing spin off that there is even a Co-creation  Association. The association's goal is to promote the use of co-creation, and even recognises organisations that best incorporate it into their organisation with the annual Co-creation Awards.    So if you're not certain about crowdsourcing then maybe co-creation is the way forward, with a more focussed and innovative approach. 

Image Credits; WhyOhGee

Monday, 28 November 2011

Renowned Photojournalist Looks to Crowdfunding for Continued Investigations of Big Tobacco

If you are smoker have you ever considered the amount of work and resources involved in producing the humble cigarette? This was the question that Italian photojournalist Rocco Rorandelli asked himself prompting a long term investigation into the tobacco industry. To continue with the project, Rorandelli has turned away from traditional sources, and has embraced crowdfunding, via emphas.isa platform specifically geared to help with funding visual journalism initiatives.

After having lost his father to cancer which was brought on by smoking, Rorandelli (a smoker himself at the time) began to wonder just how much work went into producing cigarettes. In 2008, Rorandelli began his investigation and travelled to Asia where he learned that China and India are the biggest producers and consumers of tobacco. Rorandelli also visited Indonesia which has no restrictive regulations over tobacco advertising. Sporting and music events enjoy sponsorship by tobacco companies targeting young consumers.

Rorandelli's work has attracted international acclaim and featured on many notable publications such as Newsweek, L'Espresso, New York Times, and National Geographic magazine. He was also awarded a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism to document the use of child labour in tobacco production. 

In continuing his work, Rorandelli plans on travelling to various countries next year including the US. America's association with tobacco is particularly prevalent as it is linked culturally to the image of the Marlboro Man, and 2012 will mark 400 years since the first American tobacco plantation was established. Rorandelli needs $8,786 to fund his investigation including, manufacturing, sales & marketing, and consumption. Once complete, the findings will be compiled into a book, travelling exhibition, and even an ipad application.

So far $2,517 has been raised and in return for a donation, investors  will be granted an assortment of awards from personal thank you's to a personalised editions of the book, even inclusion of the company logo for large corporate donations. You can view the latest chapters on the project's Picturetank page, and if you believe this a project worthy of support then visit Rorandelli's funding page.

Image Credit; Dany13

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Businesses Need to Embrace The Power of Social Media and Crowdsourcing

More and more businesses are turning to social media to attract and engage customers around the world, as well as develop new ventures and products. Virtually every business has a Facebook page, Twitter account and more recently Google+ page in which directly engage potential customers/clients, to source feedback on an existing product or field ideas for new projects. Yet many businesses still shy away from social media, preferring to stick to more traditional marketing methods. 

So why are some businesses still reluctant to tap into the limitless potential that social networking has to offer? One possibility has to be, like crowdsourcing, they are simply unsure of how it all works. Many people find social networking akin to a different world with its own rules and language that they simply do not understand. Many assumptions are hurled around on comments pages of news sites and forums in which social networking is seen as either a glorified chat room or virtual playground for self obsessed individuals. This blinkered view tends to blind some businesses to the potential of social networking to engage with customers about their product and generate potential interest which in turn translates into income. 

Some reluctance is not just down to lack of knowledge or popularist assumptions. There are still many fears as to the security of accessing social network sites. The recent Facebook porn scandal has not allayed the fears of the less Web 2.0 savvy who use it as the perfect cautionary excuse to stay away from these sites. This is reflected in a survey carried out by consultancy and audit firm Protiviti in which they reported that 17% (around 1 in 6) of UK employees consider social networking sites to be a risk to corporate security. These fears can be calmed through proper guidelines as to use of these sites, and an effective security system.

The real problem however seems to be a lack of vision. Monitoring customer feedback on Facebook for example, can be seen as not wholly representative of other customers leaving analysts unsure of how to interpret the feedback. Could this however be down to incorrect implementation? If you bombard followers with generic sales messages on a mass scale then feedback is likely to be vague. However if businesses can better understand the interactive component of social networking then they can start to build a relationship with potential customers, feeding them sales messages and information more relevant to them. Vodka giants Smirnoff used social networking and crowdsourcing to engage customers with their highly successful Nightlife Exchange campaign

It is also interesting to note how the reluctance to use social media has blinded some businesses to the potential cost savings. Ten years ago focus groups were used by businesses to determine customer reactions to their brands and were very costly to organise. Depending on size of venue and location the cost could range from £500 to £1500. Organisers would have to arrange venues, find the right groups, and determine reward incentives. Registering with any social networking site is free and you can start asking questions straight away, thus saving on costs. Whereas focus groups have limited number of participants social networking offers the potential to tap the insights of a limitless number of consumers thus ensuring high quality results. 

An understanding of crowdsourcing as a source of ideas and innovation through social networking could not only enhance a company's brand but even help develop new brands and ventures. By embracing social networking and Web 2.0 principles businesses can take advantage of a limitless customer base and develop an advantage in a rapidly competitive business world.

Image Credits; Social Grow

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

How Microvolunteering Offers Everyone a Chance to Change the World

The concept of volunteering to help individuals, communities, and organisations has always been one of committing many hours of spare time which in an era when life becomes ever more rapid and busy, seems impossible. However the advent of the digital world has given birth to microvolunteering in which people can donate as little or as much time as they want from any location be it from home or on the go, and Help From Home offers the armchair volunteer plenty of opportunities to do so.

Launched in December 2008, Cardiff based Help From Home is the brainchild of Mike Bright who as a microvolunteer himself identified the absence of a cohesive volunteer database that featured bite-sized volunteer listings. After much research, lessons in basic web design, and with help from a team of technically able volunteers, Help From Home was born. It is essentially a grassroots initiative providing a free community service aimed at promoting and encouraging involvement in microvolunteering. Getting involved is easy and requiring no commitment other than to spare anything from ten seconds to thirty minutes of your time to help out worthy causes, from home, or on the go. 

The organisation mainly promotes home based microvolunteering, an opportunity to "change the world in just your pyjamas". Whether it's signing petitions, making a sick child smile, completing a survey, or helping to cure diseases, there are over 800 active opportunities on the Help From Home database. It is considered to be the largest directory of microvolunteering opportunities, and many of them regularly feature on the crowdsourcing news site and discussion forum The Daily Crowdsource 

Since becoming a leading resource of home based microvolunteering Help from Home has evolved into a leading on-demand database for various other active projects. These include initiatives to encourage microvolunteering from the classroom (Help From School), during a work lunch break (Help From Work), or even on holiday (Help From Holiday). There is even a project to encourage senior citizens to volunteer with Help From Seniors, and Do Good Cards to help spread viral acts of kindness around the globe.

Help from Home's core goal of encouraging people to volunteer has the support of the UK government as part of their Big Society drive. It has also garnered support from some of the main volunteering bodies of England and Wales, and over 50 UK high street volunteer centres. So if you want to help a worthy cause from your armchair sat in front of the TV or the warmth of your bed in your pyjamas why not visit Help From Home website on your laptop, tablet or smartphone and help make a difference. 

Image Credit; Planet a

Monday, 21 November 2011

CrowdControl Transforms Crowdsourced Sentiment Analysis with Latest A.I. Solutions

One of the leading providers of human sentiment analysis, CrowdControl has launched a new application providing businesses with crowdsourcing solutions designed to better manage vast chunks of data at a fraction of the cost. The new platform provides high quality results by combining human sentiment analysis with the latest artificial intelligence (A.I) technology to better help companies keep in a constantly changing market. 

Based in Seattle, CrowdControl was founded by Max Yankelevich who also helped establish the leading platform for cloud service management, Freedom OSS. Yankelevich, along with startup expert and co-founder Andrew Volkov, looked to address the shortfalls of manual and automatic crowdsourced data management and authentication processes. At a time when (potential) customers are making their views known on social networking sites every second, manual crowdsourcing solutions, even with an online of community of thousands of members, have difficulty processing vast amounts of information. Automated solutions cannot recognise and process data sentiment such as sarcastic tweets. 

The unique formula of CrowdControl blends state of the art high end A.I. technology with the power of human judgement, and makes conventional crowdsourcing platforms available to all. This combination makes it possible for systems to cope with large incoming data chunks, process them at speed and provide superior quality results, which is also cost effective.
Gone are the days of Wild West crowdsourcing. We're introducing manageability to the equation - and this ability to control large data sets will power businesses that aren't yet imagined. Companies build their businesses around pennies and we can give them that precision in high-quality data sets, cheaper and quicker than alternatives on the market today. - Max Yankelevich, co-founder CEO CrowdControl

CrowdControl's innovative solution gives businesses a significant competitive advantage over others by providing manageable quality data, which can be used to enhance and expand their operations. This type of next generation marketing for a rapidly increasing digital age provides the sort of data that can help businesses to better under how bonds between humans and brands are formed. 
Image Credits; Brew Books

Monday, 14 November 2011

Evolution of Crowdsourcing

Gazette Contributor Manik Kinra shares his thoughts on the rise of crowdsourcing and what the future holds for the industry.

Since the "formal" advent of the term crowdsourcing, the model has come a long way. The industry has also come a long way with companies in design, testing, ideation, innovation etc. Not only have many startups have grown thanks to the crowdsourcing model but last few years have seen these startups spread wings across the globe from developed economies like US, UK, Europe, Australia to growth economies like Middle East, India etc. 

On the way there have been companies and individuals who have written off crowdsourcing for various reasons while others have tried and benefited from the model. The last two years has also seen the industry becoming more mature with analysts like Crowdsourcing.Org, The Daily Crowdsource coming in and conferences like CrowdConference taking place, all to take this to the next league. However, like any model or industry, crowdsourcing has a long way to go. There are still challenges and issues, and there are still geographies who haven't even heard the term.

As the model evolves, many early movers will have to step into shoes of industry veterans, researchers, analysts etc to help the model mature. Compare crowdsourcing to outsourcing and we need to have people who can understand how to manage the crowd force, how to increase their efficiencies, how to keep them motivated from provider perspective. From a customers perspective more effort needs to go into helping understand how the model can benefit them, how to build required documents, how to drive the disconnected environment, and still achieve the results.

The coming years surely are going to be extremely exciting for crowdsourcing and a lot will be seen happening within the industry.

Image Credit; Juhan Sonin

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Crowdfunding Success for the People's Bank

A recently established financial services platform, civilisedmoney UK limited will soon be able to to offer an alternative form of banking thanks to what must be a record breaking crowdfunding success story. Over 120 people have contributed funds totalling £100,000 in just nine days enabling civilisedmoney to finally launch the platform in which it will provide people to people financial services, a sort of bank of the people for the people. 

Making civilisedmoney a reality, after four years in development has been due to the efforts of its founders Jason Scott and Neil Crofts, both of whom have extensive knowledge and experience in the financial and banking markets. Jason Scott's desire to change the current financial system was spurred on by his experience during the recession of the 90's working with Black Horse Agencies. During this time Jason represented mortgage lenders overseeing an average of two to three repossessions per day. Over the last four years Jason has researched banking and money markets to better understand events that have led to the current financial crisis and their effects worldwide. 

Neil Crofts brings extensive knowledge of Internet banking to the fold from his days as Head of Strategy at Internet consultancy Razorfish. Neil has worked with big name financial services clients such as NatWest, Banca Mediolanum and Egg.  Since then he has established his own consultancy business dedicated to authenticity in business and has even written three books on the subject. Together Jason and Neil hope to create a new, fairer banking system.
We are delighted - 121 people contributing £100,000 to become co-owners of civilisedmoney UK in just 9 days clearly demonstrates that we’re ready for a major change in finance. The time is right for civilisedmoney - Neil Crofts, co-founder civilisedmoney UK
The alternative proposed by civilisedmoney lies in the use of people-to-people technology
and networks. The current platform provides primarily investment and funding services, through two of its solutions; crowdfund & Get funded, and invest & Get investment both aimed to help fund projects as well as empower business startups and expansions. The promise by civilisedmoney is to challenge the practices of conventional banking by doing away with fractional lending along with unethical investments or engaging in the gambling of customers' money. Since the issue of bank bonuses is still a sensitive subject civilisedmoney also pledge to not make any excessive bonus payments.

People's confidence in the banking and finance industry has been shaken following the credit crunch leading to the current economic turmoil. With civilisedmoney there is a promise of a much fairer, ethical and transparent banking system. It currently offers crowdfunding and investment financial solutions but is working towards providing consumer lending and borrowing service. Combined together with a range of new products civilisedmoney UK looks set to become to a ‘one stop shop’ for people-to-people financial services. 

Image Credit; Ewan M

The Great Filoxenia Barbecue - A Unique Greek Dining Experience

During our stay at the Filoxenia hotel in Rhodes, we enjoyed many sumptuous meals at the restaurant and bar on site. The food was of a high standard and very reasonable in terms of price, especially compared to other eateries at the heart of the island's tourist traps such as the centre of old Rhodes town. However the highlight of our dining experience was the famous Filoxenia barbecue, which for the local villages of Paradisi and Theologos is considered quite an event. For holiday makers whose period of stay includes the weekend it is an entertaining and sumptuous dining event.

Filoxenia Hotel - Paradisi (Tholos), Rhodes

The  Filoxenia Hotel is a family run resort conveniently located on the main coastal highway of Rhodes, and right in the middle of the famous Valley of  Butterflies.  It consists of apartments catering for a variety of travellers and tourists, with single  and double bed apartments. Should you wish to visit the island with kids and kin in tow, Filoxenia has special family rooms available.  It is only a couple of miles away from Rhodes Airport and six or seven miles from Rhodes town which easy to get to by bus or taxi.

It was difficult to get a proper first impression of the room as we had arrived at 11.30 at night, tired from the flight and very cranky. Although it very much challenged our notions of what we normally expect from hotel accommodation, we noticed immediately it was clean and the bed was comfortable. With refreshed eyes and clearer heads we were able to render a much fairer judgement of the room.