6 Fascinating Ideas From The Connected World Conference

Last Friday the MRS held its first Connected World conference – a social media research event with a difference. Though the attendees were social media researchers and clients, the speakers were almost entirely drawn from outside the research business. In fact, BrainJuicer were one of only two research agencies represented – the other were social specialists FACE – on a panel about how to “cut through the noise” in social media research.

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But for the most part, research took a welcome back seat, quit its yapping about disruption and transformation, and listened for once. Marketers, psychologists, fandom experts, designers and comedians took the stage for a conference centering on inspiration and shared knowledge, not just trotting out the latest case study.

With that in mind, here’s my pick for the six most interesting things I learned at Connected World. Continue reading

This Is Our Jam

What do Boston and Lagos have in common? Like almost every global city, they have their fair share of traffic problems. But these cities have innovative, crowd-sourced ways of dealing with them – which might just inspire researchers!

In Lagos, the Gidi Traffic Twitter account has been providing minute by minute updates of the city’s jams, letting people vary their routes and avoid trouble spots. It’s a simple idea for a service – the kind some Western consumers might take for granted with GPS. But that technology is rare in Africa, and Lagos – with 57 different local authorities – is too big to make co-ordinated traffic news easy. Gidi Traffic – a constant stream of retweets – asks the crowd instead. As this BBC article says, running the account is the work of just one person – Kaptin Idoko – but it captures the voices of hundreds. It acts as a nexus for traffic news, driver questions, shared frustrations and jokes about driving in Nigeria’s biggest city, and has more character than any other traffic news I’ve ever heard!

“But how to they manage to Tweet at the wheel?…Oh, OK, I get it.”

In Boston, meanwhile, hundreds of motorists will also be contributing to a crowd-sourced road improvement project. But unlike the Lagos tweeters, they will do so passively. The Street Bump app uses their smartphone’s accelerometer and GTS to work out when they’re driving over potholes, and send the results back to a central database. The result will be a real time map of potential road problems – in theory more up-to-date and objective than a human-sourced one could be.

There’s not a researcher in sight in either case, but both these projects remind us of innovative research forms. Gidi Twitter is a kind of “we-research” – where an army of observers builds up information. Street Bump is an example of passive measurement – with self-recruited respondents contributing data without every answering questions. Both projects create a more powerful picture than any single analyst or survey could, while staying true to the subjective experience of the people taking part.

(I found both these stories via Ethan Zuckerman)