I went to NPR’s Unconference this weekend, which was held at American University, where I taught Statistics for People Who Don’t Like Math in 2004-2005.
Andy Carvin, NPR’s Social Media Guru, was sort of in charge, as since this was an Unconference, everyone was collaboratively in charge. I went to one of his sessions. He mentioned an awesome social media idea NPR tried out during presidential debates in which NPR asked the general public to fact-check the candidate’s statements. While most of the comments were along the lines of “McCain is a dork,” “I hate Obama,” there was enough useful participation that enabled NPR to analyze the debate much quicker than they would have been able to without the help of all the volunteers who contributed.
There’s something powerful in this. NPR enabled the public to contribute information it needed, instead of pledge money. Bartering in the form of information. And the public was eager to participate – they wanted a chance for their voice to be heard, the opportunity to contribute to the discussion.