Libraries are fun. Whenever I’m there I hardly read a book because the people around me and the way they relate to each other and the books keeps fascinating me. They take notes in books, underline important (or ridiculous) phrases and read books about the weirdest things.
Library books are a small reflection of the internet. With some phrases underlined the next reader automatically assumes this is an important part of the book.
The many online platforms supporting crowdsourcing do more or less the same, but on a much bigger scale: the crowd of people raise a topic, emphasize content and together create reality.
A hero who turned the crowd into a massive knowledge base is Luis von Ahn. Although his name makes you think he’s a wealthy German count living in a castle in the mountains, he is actually a Guatemalan genius of the Web.
Luis is the inventor of reCAPTCHA, the user-dialogue system, acquired by Google, to help protecting the web from spam and abuse.
So what’s so inventive about this? Well, reCAPTCHA uses pictures of numbers, asking the users to enter these numbers in order to proceed. These pictures come from Google Maps. So what? It helps Google knowing the numbers of these houses, being able to give your far more relevant information.
Ok, maybe the Google example isn’t immediately convincing, but his latest project, Duolingo, must inspire you. Duolingo has two goals:
1. Teaching you a new language
2. Translating the entire web (!!!)
With the same concept as reCAPTCHA, Luis uses the crowd’s answers within the language course as input for translation, the same way he did with the Google Maps images. With this, he’s able to find out what is (probably) the correct translation and, with this, can translate the web.
So, what’s next?
Text and numbers are great of course, but also I see great use for this wisdom of the crowd with the Internet’s new darling: Voice.
Siri is great and so are its compeers, but voice technology still has a quite some steps to take before it reaches maturity. Of course, we can leave these steps to the smart developers and linguists at Companies like Nuance, but why not help them a bit with the Voice of the crowd? By creating your own voice commands, you could help yourself AND help these companies improve the voice technology to a level where it will actually reach mass-adoption of which we will all benefit.
So Nuance, IFTTT (Internet of Things API) and any appmaker, what do you say?