Evolution or Revolution?

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Listen to the 'Talk of the Nation' segment on 'Wikinomics'

Happy new year all.

It was a strange day here in Washington. There remained a bit of that subdued holiday mood: quiet streets and little traffic since much of the federal government was closed due to President Gerald Ford's funeral. I think we are still trying to absorb the meaning of Saddam Hussein's execution — a brutal man meeting a brutal end. And it was a day of new beginnings: a new mayor in Washington was sworn in, new members of Congress are starting to arrive.

And — surely not as momentous — it was my first time as a guest on NPR! I was a guest on Talk of the Nation this afternoon (I show up about 17 minutes into the segment).

The subject was a new book called Wikinomics, and one of the authors, Don Tapscott, talked about how major corporations are using the open source method to solve problems and research new products. I found this fascinating because I was familiar with corporations (and news organizations, for that matter) using focus groups to test new ideas and products, but I wasn't aware that some rather large companies had begun opening that process up to the public. Which is, of course, exactly what we are doing with my new show. And I thought it was our idea! OK, not really. Are there any original ideas? And does it matter?

As you may know, Talk of the Nation is a call-in show and it occurred to me that our open piloting method is the logical extension of the sense of community and inclusion one gets from that show. One caller asked, "Is this evolution or revolution?" I don't know. You tell me.



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Heard your segment today as part of the Wikinomics discussion

here is my suggestion: survey people to see what they ACTUALLY WANT TO HEAR ABOUT... and as outlined: consider collaborative creation.... the tech is there to do so, relatively easily

story telling/reporting from the real life level.... which is why "This American Life" is so popular

for example, todays vast NPR coverage of President Fords funeral was mostly WAISTED AIR TIME

granted, Ford was a likable guy... who did play a part....

but you know what? his part is long gone.... for that matter, the part of "President" is quickly declining itself...

and the issues confronting us NOW are way more important and engaging .... throughout the world ... the whole world... which believe it or not does not consist of only the US

a little coverage of the Ford demise would have been good... but not again and again with various pretentious persons presenting their takes on what happened 20 or 30 years ago.... with "grand" musical accompaniment

useless! and boring!


RADICALLY DIFFERENT (if you want to have a Utube type success)

Sent by David Anderson | 9:45 AM | 1-3-2007

Michel, I listened to your hopes and concerns about this new show on Talk of the Nation today. In particular you mentioned your wish to reach out to new listeners, not necessarily comfortable NPR standbys, but a desire to bring fresh voices into the process. Well, I doubt you'll find many of those by talking about it on NPR, so how about setting up a MySpace or even YouTube presence, and flesh out your ideas there?

Sent by Ched Baker | 9:56 AM | 1-3-2007

Hi Michel

No, not too many original ideas. But this moment is crazy exciting, no?

I'm producing a film starring DJ Spooky with my producing partner, Vernon Reid. We call it WHAT WE GOT, and it embraces share technology and the new "digital transparency" as it uses hip hop, animation and effects to quest for an understanding of The Commons...all the stuff we all own that is being threatened by overzealous privatization. I've been blogging about the process of making the film (sound familiar?) at http://blog.myspace.com/iblich. Well eventually let our website visitors collaborate on making scenes for the film. Well have "our version" and a zillion other versions....hopefully. Big departure for me (a PBS guy) and my editor, Sam Pollard (a PBS and Spike Lee guy). Check us out, when you have time. Ill definitely be tracking Roughcuts.

Thanks for being on Talk of the Nation, today. And, thanks for all your great work over the years for Nightline.

Sent by Brad Lichtenstein | 10:08 AM | 1-3-2007

First congrats on the new show - and on taking a "modern" approach to media. I listened to todays discussion on Wikinomics/collaboration and it was exiting to hear about it being discussed in the "mainstream." I am a new media consultant and have been working for the last seven years to help companies understand the power of collaborative networks - so to see it coming into use on NPRs Rough Cuts is plain wonderful.

Is it a revolution or evolution? Definitely an evolution. This is sociology, not technology. While technology is enabling us to connect more easily, collaboration is as old as the human race. It is just that we could only efficiently collaborate with those in our geographic locations. Technology has been expanding that (printing press, flight, phones, email and now, the Internet).

What is fundamentally different today is that because we can all connect so easily and so rapidly, we don't need corporations (or media) to be our connection point. This has diluted the some of the power of corporations and media because we can so easily connect to each other. These entities are just now learning how to leverage crowds through collaboration, predictive markets and mind sharing.

The evolution from centralized to decentralized marches on!

Thanks for a great segment - and for Rough Cuts!

Sent by Linda Zimmer | 10:27 AM | 1-3-2007

I heard about your new show via other NPR podcasts that I listen to.

I'm waiting for this particular segment to come out on podcast. What kind of delay are you doing between broadcast and podcast?

I listened to the music segment and the mocha moms segment. I enjoyed them both. The music was fantastic.

I did feel that there was a bit of one-sidedness on the mocha moms segment and it was marginalizing. However, I also recognized that the women were speaking their truths but that those aren't universal truths.

I'm looking forward to different segments to give more feedback (and understanding the concept of this new show would be great).

Sent by Dawn | 3:45 PM | 1-3-2007

Im a little confused about the idea behind the program. On the Wikinomics segment and in most of the posts to this blog, it seems like its supposed to be an all-inclusive collaborative effort. Sounds fascinating, and I think hearing Michele describe that concept on TOTN a couple days ago brought many of us here.

Problem is that, in Micheles bio the first paragraph says that this will be "a daily afternoon public affairs and cultural program focusing on stories of importance to African Americans." Definitely seems that the first two podcasts were produced with that concept in mind. I don't have any problem with that concept whatsoever and, frankly, think that NPR could use some more non-white perspective to its news programming, but I think someone needs to make up his/her mind about what this show is and where its going. Then again, maybe thats the point of this whole naked pilot idea? That were seeing the evolution that normally occurs behind the scenes before the first second of audio is aired? Or maybe the answer is somewhere in between, that the idea is to have a collaboratively created concept, but one steered toward an African American perspective?

That last one sounds ideal but, if thats the plan, I think some of the previous comments were dead on about this not being the right place to gather that feedback. I've never seen the demographic data about NPR listeners (none of the info I found online broke down the percentages by race/ethnicity), but I suspect that its probably more Caucasian than the general population.

Still, this is an interesting idea. Even if the show ends up not being for me, its fascinating to see this process.

Sent by Justin Stanley | 12:36 PM | 1-4-2007

Id say make it like the PBS show NOW for radio. Uncover all the stones and see whats there.

Sent by Buzz | 12:40 PM | 1-4-2007

I really like the idea of this show. I listened to the story on mocha moms and I loved it. I think bringing new perspectives like this to light is very important to help us all broaden our views. The story on wikinomics is really good too. I like to think of it as applied globalism. why shouldn't we start thinking in terms of human collateral on a global scale, we are entering into a new age of communication we might as well use it.

Sent by Lovely Murrell | 12:46 PM | 1-4-2007

I subscribed to Rough Cuts after hearing the promotional tag 3-4 times on other podcasts, although the actual programming wasn't what I expected.

The name indicated to me that it was going to be raw interviews on a variety of topics. It was only when I got 30 seconds into each that it clicked what the promo had meant by diverse voices. I stopped listening to each at maybe 90 seconds in once I realized that it was diverse voices rather than diverse topics (perhaps more correctly, it is the topic OF diversity).

Ill stay tuned for a few more episodes and see if the choices broaden out any. With so many choices and so little time, I generally subscribe to podcasts that can consistently deliver information concisely and in a compelling way.

Sent by David Wyatt | 4:09 PM | 1-4-2007

Yes, I'm in. Sounds great. Go for it, sista-friend!

Sent by Gwendolyn Harvey | 6:23 PM | 1-4-2007

I am extremely interested in Nature vs. Nurture, religion and gender bias. With Nancy Pelosi now the speaker of the house, this would be a perfect time for some renewed feminism.

Sent by Whitney Lamb | 6:26 PM | 1-4-2007


May I suggest that you form a community around your new show. Perhaps the show could have a pseudo listeners board, and the members get sneak peaks about what is coming up on the show. This board can help provide the show staff with any interesting information that they are aware of a certain topic while providing questions and suggestions for upcoming segments.

A couple of radio shows do have community.

Chris Lydons "Open Source" (www.radioopensource.org) from PRI is an American example.

Another compelling example is "World, Have Your Say" from the BBC World Service. This show has a blog that enables listeners to set the shows agenda. It already has a community of dedicated listeners that it recognizes. In fact, one of the presenters, Ros Atkins, e-mailed these listeners to tell them: "I am going to start sending out an email each day outlining what were doing on the show and seeing if you'd like to comment on the story or how we should cover it. Ill also use it to tell you about trips and programs coming up that we may not want to put on the blog right away. Hopefully it'll help you all feel more involved in the show."

If you really want to collaborate with listeners, may I suggest that you follow the lead of "World, Have Your Say."

Sent by Steve Petersen | 11:34 AM | 1-5-2007

Hi Steve,

That's very similar to what we're hoping to do. While we're hoping that public interactions on the Rough Cuts blog will help us craft Michel's show - and future shows as well - we also hope that this online interaction will serve as the building blocks for an online community for the show itself. Both Radio Open Source and BBC-WHYS are excellent examples of the types of things we might end up doing when the show goes on-air, using the Internet as a sounding board and community space. One thing that's different is that both of those shows are established with their own formats, schedules, routines, etc., and Michel Martin's show is starting from scratch. So we're hoping that you and other members of the public will join us in helping us craft the show itself, then participate online in various ways once the show is on air.

Sent by Andy Carvin, NPR | 5:30 PM | 1-5-2007

Here are some interesting thoughts to keep in mind when building communities -- which totally don't discount the value of community building...

The Creating Passionate Users blog has some interesting commentary on the whole wisdom of crowds concept at http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2007/01/the_dumbness_of.html. While community building has its purposes, for crowds to function as James Surowiecki describes in his book The Wisdom of Crowds, individuals need to remain as independent of each other to protect the potency of a crowd. Here's one of my favorite sections of this commentary piece:


What's the difference between Collective Intelligence and Dumbness of Crowds? A few examples:

"Collective intelligence" is a pile of people writing Amazon book reviews.

"Dumbness of Crowds" is a pile of people collaborating on a wiki to collectively author a book.

(Not that there aren't exceptions, but that's just what they are -- rare exceptions for things like reference books. I'm extremely skeptical that a group will produce even a remotely decent novel, for example. Most fiction suffers even with just two authors.)

"Collective Intelligence" is all the photos on Flickr, taken by individuals on their own, and the new ideas created from that pool of photos (and the API).

"Dumbness of Crowds" is expecting a group of people to create and edit a photo together.

"Collective Intelligence" is about getting input and ideas from many different people and perspectives.

"Dumbness of Crowds" is blindly averaging the input of many different people, and expecting a breakthrough.

(It's not always the averaging that's the problem, it's the blindly part)

"Collective Intelligence" is about the community on Threadless, voting and discussing t-shirts designed by individuals.

"Dumbness of Crowds" would be expecting the Threadless community to actually design the t-shirts together as a group.

Art isn't made by committee.

Great design isn't made by consensus.

True wisdom isn't captured from a crowd.


I hope that y'all find this interesting.

Sent by Steve Petersen | 5:54 PM | 1-5-2007

Why not get people to send in audio files of their comments? Most your audience is very aural/audiophile or they wouldn't like radio. Asking them to contribute by typing is not going to be as natural as asking them to get you content. Now that would be a rough cut! If I had the bandwidth I would too. I am writing this from my home in Ho Chi Minh City and suffering behind severed subsea cables as is much of Asia. Bye for now.

Sent by Tom Vovers | 2:24 PM | 1-8-2007


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