Author Archives: John Basile

IdeaScale Case Study: OneBusAway mobile app feedback widget

OneBusAway is an open-source project started by students at the University of Washington. Using publicly available information from a number of transit agencies in the Seattle area, OneBusAway provides easy access to real-time arrival information for buses. How does it work? The commuter can either use a website, call a phone number, txt message, or download an iPhone or Android app to their smart phone. IdeaScale is happy to see OneBusAway using our mobile feedback widget which is allowing OneBusAway (and a lot of other great apps) the ability to collect feedback right within their app. We had a short conversation with Brian Ferris of OneBusAway to ask him about his experience using the IdeaScale widget for mobile feedback.

IS: What’s your goal including the IdeaScale widget in your mobile app?

OBA: There are a ton of new features we could add to OneBusAway, but we have limited developer resources (aka even I have to sleep sometimes). IdeaScale is useful to us to get feedback on what new features users want and which features are most important. While the IdeaScale feedback link we’ve added to the main website has been great at generating feedback, a large portion of our user-base primarily interacts with OneBusAway using the iPhone and other mobile apps. The IdeaScale iPhone widget will help us receive feedback from them as well.

IS: What’s the best feedback or bug report you’ve received?

OBA: Our current #1 feature request is trip planning, which is not surprising to me. What was surprising to me was that for a while, stop approach notifications was the #1 feature request (it’s currently #2). While this is definitely a cool feature that we’ve talked about before, I would not have predicted that the community would want it so badly. It’s lead us to re-prioritize our efforts to get to that new feature sooner rather than later.

Also, I wouldn’t have predicted that there would be so much demand for a WP7 client, especially since you can’t even buy these phones yet. The guys over in Redmond must be voting a lot : )

IS: How quickly do you typically implement a suggestion or fix a bug?

OBA: For critical bugs, I try to fix it in less than a week. New features can take a bit longer. It’s really a question of how much I can get away with before my advisors at UW start complaining that I should be working on finishing my dissertation and not writing so much code.

New IdeaScale Feature: the Leaderboard

A couple weeks back, the CrowdStation blog told you that IdeaScale has been focusing on bringing user reputation to the next level with a new system of badges. As more and more badges become available, our developers and design team continue to earn points towards their own merit badges. Things are looking good thereI In the meantime, we’re rolling out something else we’re exciting to tell you about: our new leaderboard feature.

Like our upcoming badges, the leaderboard is another component of the User Reputation suite. The leaderboard shows off the top contributors of the community by displaying their point rank, where point rank is determined by how points are assigned in the account settings. For instance, an admin might assign 10 points to each new idea posted and 3 points for voting on ideas.

More info:

IdeaScale Case Study PDF: OpenMaps iPhone Application

OpenMaps is a feature, rich, fast, and accessible mobile application that displays and edits open map data of, the free editable map of the whole world. In early 2010, OpenMaps introduced the Ideascale iPhone feedback widget as part of the OpenMaps iPhone application in order to track bugs and feedback from within the application itself.

“We collected feedback via email, Twitter and GetSatisfaction too, and still do. The IdeaScale iPhone widget was simply supposed to be an experiment. It turned out to be a hit as we received much more user feedback than before. It seems people really like giving feedback right from within the application.”

What inside
Learn how OpenMaps collects feedback right within the iPhone app:

  • Collects hundreds of suggestions for future versions
  • Created and implemented 13 new features based on direct user feedback
  • Rapid response to each bug while communicating with users
  • Tracked what features and suggestions were most popular
  • Established the Ideascale widget as one of OpenMaps’ premier offerings

More Info:

Durex turns to crowdsourcing

Condom companies around the world have been asking themselves the following question since the advent of television advertising: How can we harness all the brilliant ideas of guys hanging out in bars who have “the best idea for a condom commercial?” Durex, working with its incumbent ad agency McCann Erickson, was the first to realize that the answer was, of course, a crowdsourcing contest on the brand’s website. Offering cash prizes and the placement of the winning ad on MTV, Durex is accepting video uploads until November 30th. At the website, participants “will have the opportunity to rate and comment on the entries”.

Having a closer look at the fine print regarding the company’s panel of judges, the terms read that “the panel is not obliged to choose the entry with the highest public rating”. Hmmm… does that defeat the purpose of a crowdsourced contest or does it make sense? Not the world’s most provocative question, but if you have an answer, leave it in comments. And have a safe weekend.

Collaborative Democracy: Beth Noveck on Reengineering Civic Life

The following are remixed highlights of Beth Noveck’s talk “Transparent Government” that she gave as part of the Long Now Foundation‘s Seminars about Long-Term Thinking.  As with Noveck’s original talk, these highlights, as remixed by Hassan Masum, are made available under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa 2.5 license and originally appeared on the award-winning WorldChanging blog on August 10th.

We have been concentrating decision-making power in the hands of too few people – whether legislatures, or cabinet officials, or bureaucrats and agencies like the patent office. We construct our institutional practices around the notion that this is the best way that we have to make decisions. Even though we do not have a system of monarchy or aristocracy, we still believe in the notion of political expertise, and the notion that we have to rest power at the center.

What exacerbates this problem is that we are making long-term decisions that affect the fate of our planet. The fate of our economy, and of major systems of health care and education and environment, are being decided by people who are in short-term political positions. We have a disconnect between the long-term effect of what we do, and short-term electoral cycles. Continue reading

Reconsidering disposable social media

A few years back, when I had a fun idea or a piece of media to share, I would post it to my personal blog. Nowadays, like so many other halfassed bloggers, this type of thing gets relegated to 140 characters or is posted to facebook as an update. I’m grateful that my readers and I have years of content accessible in the archives, but am remorseful about the amount of content that hasn’t been posted to my personal space since the blowup of social media.

Some of my favorite Twitter feeds are those of my favorite comedians. There is obviously no shortage of funniness in the world, but I often get thinking about how disposable and… I dare say wasted their brilliant humor is on Twitter. Is there really no better way to harness these genius ideas than flicking them into the tweether? Sometimes I think of these mini-bursts of comedic genius as funny bricks which could potential build a funny palace but are instead scattered about in this wasteland of funny bricks (and all kinds of other bricks). All hope is not lost, and I have great hope and confidence that there will be a Twennaissance to breath new life into underappreciated and overlooked genius. To put my money where my mouth is, I just bought

This past weekend, tech guru Leo Laporte posted to his blog (remember Leoville?) for the first time in a month. In what would turn out to be a thoughtful tirade against social media, Leo announced that his Google Buzz had been broken—sending out nothing and failing to feed his Twitter stream—since August 6th… and no one noticed or brought it to his attention! This is unbelievable when you consider Leo’s rabid following. He’s garnered 17,000 followers since Buzz’s launch and is followed by well over 200,000 people/robots on Twitter.

This unnoticed absence is perplexing, but speaks volumes about social media. It suggests to me that Google chose a fitting name for their service– Buzz has been added to the other vuvuzelas of the social sphere to create a cacophony of content that makes it challenging for anyone to give a shit about 98% of the noise that comes their way. Certainly, social media has its place. And that place might just be permanent. But it’s incidences like Leo’s that put things into perspective. Let’s all take a step back and figure out the best way to deliver our content and document our best thoughts and work. Let us not allow our best ideas fall on temporarily deafened ears when we could be putting them somewhere for posterity.

Regretfully, not long after Google rushed to fix the issue causing his problem, Leo’s tirade was paved over like an embarrassing blackout. The Saturday blog post that ended “Screw you Google Buzz. You broke my heart.” was followed up earlier today with an apology to his followers on Buzz and to the folks at Google for his tantrum. Weeeeaaaaaak. But at least he made a great argument and gave us something to chew on last Saturday. And unlike a tweet or Buzz or whatever, people might actually refer back to to the blog post after a few hours.

  John Basile · Idea Scale blog contributor

Based in Oakland, California, John Basile is a regular contributor to the IdeaScale blog. He is also the founder and CEO of Scraster Professional Screencasting.

Crowdsourcing as a Small Business Marketing Strategy

by Jennifer L. Shiff of

More ecommerce businesses are using the crowd (i.e., their customers, Facebook fans and/or employees) to help them develop new products and build brand loyalty — and the strategy seems to be working, at least for some online businesses. But is crowdsourcing a viable marketing and/or product development strategy for every small business? And how do you successfully harness the power of the crowd? Small Business Computing spoke to several ecommerce businesses that tried crowdsourcing to find out.

Read the full article…

IdeaScale introduces badges

You may have noticed that the accounts of moderators on IdeaScale are now denoted with little moderator badges. The introduction of the moderator badge is only the first step in our rollout of a whole line of badges. IdeaScale’s voting model inherently gives its users a sense of ownership and pride, but we think that our new badges, which are akin to those you may be familiar with on popular sites like foursquare, will add another level of functionality and community to IdeaScale. Keep one eye on your IdeaScale and the other eye on the blog here for more information later this month.

One Decision That’s Not Crowdsourced

If you’re a regular reader of the IdeaScale blog, you’re aware of the enormous popularity of the crowdsourcing trend. Every savvy internet marketer, business head, and government agency has turned their attention to the value of crowdsourcing, as if it’s a fountain of actionable knowledge. And for the most part, it is. Crowdsourcing is speeding the plow across the board—whether it be improving customer experience, the creation of new government initiatives, or the flash-funding of emergency relief.

Like any trend, however, crowdsourcing is not the cure-all or universal answer to decision making or getting things done. This was made refreshingly clear to me yesterday when listening to Binah, a radio program from KALW in San Francisco. The show featured our Poet Laureate Kay Ryan reading from and discussing her work at the SF Jewish Community Center. During a Q/A session towards the end of the program, an audience member asked “What is the process of selecting a Poet Laureate?” The answer was… the opposite of crowdsourcing. And pretty fascinating, really.

First, let’s answer a few questions you might be curious about. What exactly is the Poet Laureate? The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Librbary of Congress serves as a kind of national spokesperson to raise awareness and create a greater appreciation of poetry in America. We have our national Poet Laureate, and other countries and each of the U.S. states have their own laureates.

Our national Poet Laureate, who serves from October to May, is appointed each year by the Librarian of Congress—a single individual. The Librarian’s decision is informed by his/her appointees, the current Laureate, and by a community of critics close to the Librarian, but it’s a decidedly individual decision, which is obviously uncommon in our often bloated democratic process.

I might eat my words (or delete this post) when the Library of Congress decides to turn the process of selecting a Poet Laureate over to IdeaScale, but for now, it’s refreshing to know that some decisions are confidently left to the power of one. Agree or disagree? Feel free to leave a comment below.

If you’re not familiar with the work of Kay Ryan, you may want to click on a few of the links below. There are also a few links for you to learn more about the post of the Poet Laureate.

More info:

  • About the post of U.S. Poet Laureate
  • About Kay Ryan
  • Kay Ryan on KALW radio program Binah
  • Kay Ryan on
  • Kay Ryan on Wikipedia
  • John Basile · Idea Scale blog contributor

    Based in Oakland, California, John Basile is a regular contributor to the IdeaScale blog. He is also the founder and CEO of Scraster Professional Screencasting.

    New IdeaScale Feature: Custom Fields for Selective Emailing

    Custom fields is another advanced feature of IdeaScale that enables powerful customization of your community. There are basically two ways for a community moderator to collect information to associate with members: info can either be collected via the sign-up form when users register for IdeaScale, or certain questions can be built into an idea submission. For example, if a moderator asked “What is your department?” on the sign-up form, that data could be stored in IdeaScale for later.

    The “custom fields” data can then be used in a number of ways–the newest of which is within emails that go out to community members. When the moderator clicks “email idea” from the Idea Detail screen of any idea, they can email the idea to a certain subset of people. Borrowing from the examle above, this might mean sending email only to people in a particular department, (ie. accounting, marketing, HR, etc). See the links below to learn more about custom fields and emailing.

    More info:

  • Custom Field Settings
  • Email Settings: User Notifications