Assignment Zero, as my regular readers will probably know, is the NYU/Wired.com journalism experiment I'm working on. The idea is to use the crowd to research crowdsourcing. We're about halfway through the project, and couldn't be happier about our progress. Some 900 contributors and 30 professional jounalists have begun work on the roughly 200 assignment (go here for a full list). In the spirit of open source software, we decided to go public first and let our contributors help us refine our site, ideas and ultimate mission on the fly. Well, one point they're asking us to clarify is just what, exactly, is the purpose of all this work?
That's easily stated: It's to gather as much information as possible and write it up in a series of compelling, entertaining and edifying pieces. Written by our volunteer contributors, these stories will be published on NewAssignment.Net when Assignment Zero concludes (probably on June 1st, though like everything else on AZ, that's up for discussion). Over the next few days I will pour over all the assignments, published articles and survey data we've collected and tie it all together in a culminating essay that will run on Wired.com.
There's been some question about what form that Wired.com story will take. Here's what I can tell you: Not a whole lot like what we're used to reading. We're trying to create a new model of journalism here, and I'm determined that this spirit of experimentation run through my own bit of writing as well. First off, I will be relying heavily on our AZ contributors, and giving them due credit in the process. Not only will I be linking to the articles that run on NewAssignment, but I'll be linking to the original research and reporting on the AZ site as well. That's one of the reasons we've created home pages with their own URLs for each and every topic we're covering (Here's an example).
Of course, the ostensible point of my piece will be to draw some conclusions about how well Pro-Am journalism works and what we've learned about crowdsourcing. But just as important, my Wired.com piece will also show just how much research and reporting go into a feature story. In most cases, I do all that work myself. In the model we're all trying to pioneer however, there are hundreds of contributors filling that role. We believe that a large group of wildly diverse people can come together to perform the kind of in-depth investigation that was once the sole province of the professional. If we succeed—and we're cautiously hopeful we will—I'll be highlighting their contributions to show that our faith was well-placed. Thanks, and stay tuned.