Dead Parrot?

I sometimes feel like a negative Nancy when I write my blog entries, seeing all the flaws and problems in the article. So this week I tried to be more positive about our readings. I think I failed.

I wanted to see the website that inspired this weeks readings. I discovered that it had been hacked and taken down.Shawn Graham wrote an article about this and stated that it was now a dead parrot - he added a link to a Monty Python episode, which I have added now for your enjoyment and enlightenment.

I do not think that the loss and death of this website was the dead parrot, instead I think that their experiment was the dead parrot. Having worked with local rural communities before sending letters and emails seldom makes an impact, you have to talk to people, you have to get them involved and show them how to take advantage of what you are giving them.

Yet the concept was interesting, seeing if a collaborative project can be created through the internet, like Wikipedia. However the examples that they gave – Ancient Lives and Field Expedition: Mongolia, where very different from their goals. These website although involve the public, do not actually use what is given by the public. They do not crowdsource in the way Graham, Massie and Feuerherm crowdsource.  Instead these two websites inform the user by getting us to help solve a puzzle, which if we miss things are pointed out to us. In other words they both use ‘gamification’. Wikipedia with all of its flaws is an amazing example of crowdsourcing, generally easy to use, easily accessible, hopefully not that easy to hack and involves people engaging with the articles. What Graham, Massie and Feuerherm wanted was an engagement about the local history in much boarder context. Perhaps that was the problem. Maybe they needed the community to contribute to a theme or an idea. That may have empowered the contributor instead of having the contributor feel unprofessional and invalid.

As Graham states in his reflective article

“Perhaps my role is to fail gloriously & often, so you don’t have to. I’m ok with that.” 1


  1. “How I Lost the Crowd: A Tale of Sorrow and Hope”, on October 9, 2012,

3 thoughts on “Dead Parrot?

  1. I agree – I think that in order to use crowdsourcing effectively, there have to be some parametres involved. Otherwise, not only do you get those feelings of inadequacy, but you also become inundated with information that, while interesting, may not be in line with what the end goal is.

  2. I definitely also agree that for a project like the one they had proposed there needed to be actual contact in the communities. It seems sort of like they imagined, from afar, what would be good for a given community as they conceived of it, rather than actually investigating what would actually engage individual communities.

    It sort of reminds me of the “Going to the people” movement in Russia in 1874 when tons of educated students went into the Russian countryside to infiltrate peasant communities and teach them about the inequalities of their lives. However, their ideas of the peasants were totally idealized and the project failed because the peasant reality was very different from what the students perceived.