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By now, most of you out there know what Crowdsourcing means. It’s a term coined by technology journalist Jeff Howe in 2006 and means ‘Outsourcing a Job to the crowd’ or simply inviting a large group of people, usually on the internet, to cooperatively tackle a big project.

From reading Jane McGonigal’s book ‘Reality is Broken’, there’s a crowdsourcing ‘GAME’ mentioned that’s worth sharing.

Citing page 219 et seq.

On June 24, 2009, more than 20.000 Britons joined forces online to investigate one of the biggest scandals in British parliament history – investigations that led to the resignations of dozens of parliament members and ultimately inspired sweeping political reform. How did these ordinary citizens make such a big difference? THEY DID IT BY PLAYING A GAME.

When the game began, the scandal had been brewing in the newspapers for weeks. According to leaked government documents, hundreds of members of parliament, or MPs, were regularly filing illegal expense claims, charging taxpayers up to tens of thousands of £ annually for personal expenses completely unrelated to their political service, such as an MP from the southern coast of England who claimed £ 32.000 for personal gardening expenses, including £ 1,645 for a ‘floating duck island’. The public was outraged and demanded a full accounting of all MP expenses. The government shared the data in the most unhelpful format possible: a collection of more than a million expense forms and receipts that had been scanned electronically, saved as images. The editors of the newspaper Guardian knew it would take too long for their own reporters to sort through the data dump to make sense of it. So they decided to ‘crowdsource’ the investigation and tap into the wisdom of the crowds, not with a wiki, but with a game.

A young software developer converted the scanned forms into 458,832 online documents and set up a website where anyone could examine the public records for incriminating details. The Guardian launched ‘Investigate your MP’s Expenses’, the world’s first massively multiplayer investigative journalism project.

Just three days into the game, more than 20,000 players had analyzed more than 170,000 electronic documents. That is a visitor participation rate of 56 % (by comparison, roughly 4,6% of visitors to Wikipedia make a contribution to the online encyclopedia). What accounted for this unprecedented participation in a citizen journalism project? Game expert Simon Willison concluded that it boiled down to rewarding participants in the right way: with the emotional rewards of a good game.

The No.1 lesson from this Project: Make it feel like a game. Any time that you’re trying to get people to give you stuff, to do stuff for you, the most important thing is that people know that what they’re doing is having an effect.

Plus, the game interface made it easy to take action and see your impact right way. When you examinded a document, you had a panel of bright, shiny buttons to press depending what you’d found. When you made your selection, the button lit up, giving you a satisfying feeling of productivity. A real-time activity feed showed the names of players logged in recently and the actions they’d taken in the game. This feed made the site feel social.

Some of the key results:

  • On average, each MP expensed twice his or her annual salary which resulted in total cost to taxpayers £ 88 million annually.
  • Over 20 MPs resigned
  • New expense codes were being written
  • Hundreds of MPs were ordered to repay their unjustified expenses

–> Investigate your MP’s expenses enabled tens of thousands of citizens to participate directly in a new kind of political reform movement.

More about amazing massive multiplayer online games, read:

Jane-McGonigal-Reality-is-Broken

Details about the game on the Guardian’s Website:

http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2009/jun/18/mps-expenses-houseofcommons

Interesting data visualization of the game’s outcome:

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2011-12-05-data-journalism-draws-the-line-between-the-quick-and-the-dead#.UfuHpS3wCJA

Feel inspired and forward this article to political journalists in your country.

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