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A Tale of 80 Interviews and 103 Authors: Assignment Zero and the Age of Conversation

Posted by Becky Carroll on August 3, 2007

team.jpg In March, Wired.com announced the formation of a crowdsourced citizen journalism project called Assignment Zero.  The idea was to have a crowd of volunteers write a report on, well, how crowds of volunteers are affecting business in the New Media age.  In April, I signed on to be part of a collaborative project to write an ebook called Age of Conversation.  This book was jointly written by 103 authors each contributing one chapter (a one-page essay) on the aforementioned topic in whatever way they chose.  It turned into a hardcover, softcover, and an e-book orderable through lulu.com, with all profits going to Variety Children’s Charity.

Each of these initiatives was something of an experiment in collaboration – one in collaborative journalism, the other in collaborative publishing.  Moving others to action towards a common goal is a great benefit of web 2.0 technologies!

Results of each initiative:

Assignment Zero: Some great feature stories were published on Wired.com (including this great article from Kristin Gorski on Crowdsourced Books!).  One of the best results was a powerful resource: the AssignmentZero Interview Directory, containing transcripts for 80 interviews of some of the best minds and experts around crowdsourcing, customers, and technology (go to the bottom of the above linked article and click on the category that interests you).

I had the privilege of interviewing two leading thinkers.  First was Dr. Martha Rogers, co-founder of Peppers and Rogers Group (where I was formerly a senior consultant); her interview is called Customer Relationship Management: Crowdsourcing at Work or How a business can collaborate with customers.   I also interviewed Jack Jia, founder and CEO of Baynote, Inc; his interview is called What Exists Beyond the Seen Crowd or The wisdom of invisible crowds.  Although I had a few standard questions to ask each of them as part of my reporting assignment, I was able to be flexible and explore other areas as well.  A real learning experience for me!

Age of Collaboration: A fabulous book with many varied insights from the 103 authors.  I just received my hardcover book the other day and am still working through it!  It was great to see the different perspectives on conversation; it reminds me how important it is to understand another person’s context before trying to get your own message across.  My chapter is on page 14 called Conversations and the Customer Experience.  It is about looking at a customer’s experience as a set of conversations across the customer lifecycle.  If we can manage the conversations properly, we can create a fabulous customer experience!

The most amazing part of this collaborative effort is that it has only just begun!  The conversation is continuing at Facebook, on the various blogs of the authors, and best of all, through new conversations between the authors.  We are becoming a large “team” who is getting to know each other better and building a special community.  We are using social networking to pull together sub-teams to champion the book and its cause.  I love being part of this kind of team with such passion – a team of great thinkers from around the world.

How can you start to collaborate today?  Who would you do it with?  Your customers are a great place to start, and they just might be waiting for an invitation.  Your competitors are another area to consider.  Sometimes a collaborative offering can be more impactful in the marketplace as it focuses on meeting customer needs more completely.

Take a few moments this weekend to peruse some of the AssignmentZero interviews, or get yourself a copy of the Age of Conversation ebook and start reading.  Keep a pad of paper and a pencil close by; you just might find an idea or two worth putting into action through your own network next week.

(Photo credit: solarseven)

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4 Responses to “A Tale of 80 Interviews and 103 Authors: Assignment Zero and the Age of Conversation”

  1. KG said

    Hi Becky!

    How exciting that you were involved in Assignment Zero!!! And thank you for your gracious note of my article.

    I love the angle you took on your interview approach with these innovators! Your post here describing the tie-ins with both of these collaborative projects is inspiring and spot-on. Isn’t it amazing that we live in a time where collaborations like this are possible? :)

  2. KG, it is truly an amazing and inspiring time. I never dreamed I could collaborate in such a way with so many! I love the openness and transparency of this medium.

    Thanks so much for being a part of it!!

  3. JJ said

    Becky, you are one of the best interviewers I have met. Your articles rock!!! Best of luck with these interviews. A book, maybe?

  4. JJ, thanks so much for the compliments! Of course, you made it easy for me. I love doing interviews and learning more about others. Any ideas who I should interview next? Let’s talk about the book idea…

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