I recently blogged about how to put community into the center of the marketplace. Three relevant concepts which I discuss were dual-use curation, bookmarking, and single and multi-player modes. Check that post out for a fuller description.
Let me throw in another concept that can super-effective for building and keeping community in the marketplace, as well as surfacing and validating talent. This is annotation of the important documents, and this concept is best explained, curiously enough, by rap music.
Andreessen Horowitz recently put money into the rap lyrics community site, Rap Genius, which has built community through the annotation of the meaning of rap lyrics — and Marc Andreeseen explained why in a post:
Only a handful of people know that the big missing feature from the web browser – the feature that was supposed to be in from the start but didn’t make it – is the ability to annotate any page on the Internet with commentary and additional information.
Back in 1993, when Eric Bina and I were first building Mosaic, it seemed obvious to us that users would want to annotate all text on the web—our idea was that each web page would be a launchpad for insight and debate about its own contents. So we built a feature called “group annotations” right into the browser—and it worked great—all users could comment on any page and discussions quickly ensued. Unfortunately, our implementation at that time required a server to host all the annotations, and we didn’t have the time to properly build that server, which would obviously have had to scale to enormous size. And so we dropped the entire feature.
I often wonder how the Internet would have turned out differently if users had been able to annotate everything—to add new layers of knowledge to all knowledge, on and on, ad infinitum. And so, 20 years later, Rap Genius finally gives us the opportunity to find out. It’s an ambitious mission, and one we are proud to get behind.
CTO Vision has a post about applying some of the principles from RapGenius to enterprise IT. Two excerpts:
RapGenius is a site that lets users upload lyrics. Then it lets other users annotate and explain the meaning of the words for each song. It has rocketed to the top of lyrics sites and is quickly becoming the top destination for lyrics on the net. Part of the reason why is the incredibly smart way they built their annotation capabilities. It is powerful and easy. Users can upload lyrics (or any other text) and others can very easily comment on that. And then people can evaluate the comments and suggested continued improvements. In building a platform for lyrics annotation they have built a great means to add context to text.
One non-rap example is the Apple iTunes Terms of Service. Clay Shirky uploaded that to Rap Genius after he saw another document (the Mayflower Compact) had been uploaded. Apple’s terms of service, like so many others, is long and hard to understand. Shortly after Clay tweeted about his upload people started coming in and annotating it and clarifying that is is you are agreeing to if you accept these terms. Other than just explaining, people are also pointing out places that make these terms potentially voidable and other issues of note. This is turning into a great example of how our platform can help people communicate and clarify meaning and form assessments on action the meaning might compel.