July 23, 2010

Crowdflower: Toward a world of crowdsourced labor

Crowdflower: Toward a crowdsourced world from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaOne of the most interesting start-ups that keeps popping up on my radar screen is Crowdflower, which connects nonprofits and companies with people around the globe looking to work on crowdsourced tasks.

It’s a fascinating glimpse at future contract labor models and at how work relationships are becoming more distributed, global, ephemeral and efficient.

Crowdflower takes simple tasks and breaks them down, using a global network of workers to determine, say, if a tweet about a brand is negative or positive, or if a piece of content violates a site’s community guidelines.

The person might spend 2 minutes on a task, an hour, or more. “The advantage is that the person doesn’t have to drive to work, they don’t even have to sign up for a website. They can just come to a job post, accomplish a task and get paid — in minutes,” says Crowdflower CEO and founder Lukas Biewald.

I spent three minutes chatting with Lukas at an extremely noisy rooftop party at South by Southwest Interactive. The video won’t win any awards for aesthetics — I was being jostled while holding a Kodak Zi8 hi-def camcorder — but it’s evidence that when you meet interesting people, it’s good to have a handheld recorder in your pocket.

Watch, embed or download the video on Vimeo

One mind-blowing angle: You’d be surprised at the number of people willing to perform tasks, such as in a Facebook game, in exchange for virtual currency that can buy them more trees in Zynga’s Farmville or more weapons in Mafia Wars. “People don’t realize how much this virtual money means to people,” he says.
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June 18, 2010

Green Mountain Coffee: Changing lives

Green Mountain Coffee from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaI‘ve been swamped by work and speaking engagements this spring, so I’m only now able to edit and publish the interviews I conducted at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin three months ago.

First up is a six-minute conversation with Amanda Cooper, new media specialist for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (its consumer site is here). I had heard of Green Mountain but wasn’t aware of just how much they’ve been doing in the social good space. The company has been donating 5 percent of its pre-tax profits to social and environmental causes for a number of years, with a focus on helping to alleviate poverty and hunger through its coffee supply chain.

Watch, embed or download the video on Vimeo

Green Mountain works with partner universities, such as Dartmouth, to send interns down to the coffee fields of Nicaragua. “One of our interns lived down there for three months interviewing coffee farmers, spending time with their families, breaking bread over dinner and working on the farms with them,” Amanda says. “So it was a really life-changing experience for him.” The company puts a premium on getting to know the lives of the people they’re working with and the impact the company is having.

Green Mountain has also supported fair trade guidelines and organic coffee purchases since 2001.

The company works with nonprofits like Save the Children and Catholic Relief Services. “We’re looking to not just be a funder but be a partner,” she says.

August 17, 2009

Vote for these awesome nonprofit panels at SXSW

sxsw2010Beth KanterThe SXSW Interactive Festival (scheduled March 12-16, 2010 in Austin, Texas) is a mega huge social media industry event. The final program is done through a combination of an open submission and community voting process. The panel picker process just opened — so you can vote yes or no for the panels you think are worthy of being on the program or not until Sept. 4.

The nonprofit presence at SXSW has been growing steadily over the past couple of years. In 2008, I was on one of the few nonprofit panels on the agenda. It was organized by Ed Schipul. At the end of that panel, we all hoped there would be a larger nonprofit presence on the agenda for this 2009. And yes, indeed, in 2009 there were many more panel proposals about or by folks who work with nonprofits and voting. Last year, many more nonprofit panels made it onto the agenda and there was even a nonprofit lounge hosted by BeaconFire.

So, let’s get out the nonprofit vote for panels at SXSW!

Last year, there was an event called “Social Media for Social Good” organized by Jeff Pulver that prompted quite a rich discussion on whether social media for fundraising and marketing can effect real on the ground change. There’s quite a buzz right now about whether or not “Slacktivism” doing activism online, all the time, can effect change. (There’s even a panel proposal for Slacktivism.)

These ideas inspired the SXSW panel proposal I submitted for 2010:

Crowdsourcing for Innovative Social Change
Social media builds buzz and raises money, but what about real, on-the-ground change? The Social Change Challenge will crowdsource innovative ideas from nonprofits to change the world. We’ll share big ideas for using social media for nonprofit program delivery and some good tips for crowdsourcing for social change.

The panelists include Holly Ross, NTEN; David Neff, American Cancer Society; Kari Dunn Saratovsky, Case Foundation; Amy Sample Ward, Netsquared; and Joe Solomon. And like last year’s ROI Poetry Slam, our session will be interactive, thought-provoking, and dare I say, fun! In addition, there’ll be lots of learning shared freely.

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May 16, 2009

Sloane Berrent on the cause-filled life

The cause-filled life from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaSloane Berrent, who publishes TheCausemopolitan and blogs at LAist and GirlsinTech.net, talks about causes and building community in this 3 1/2-minute video interview. I caught up with her a few minutes after the LA tech scene session she co-moderated at South by Southwest 2009 in Austin; the session drew about 120 people.

Sloane, who practices what she preaches, is heading to the Philippines as a @kiva fellow for 12 weeks. She’ll be at the Kiva fellows social Wednesday at 6:30 pm in San Francisco. She’s already a good way toward raising the $7,500 she needs for air fare, vaccinations, work vise, lodging, transportation and daily living costs — you can support her here.

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