November 7th, 2008

Idea Tempest

Bare with me.... this is going to ramble a bit.

I continue to feel that the Idea Storm concept, as implemented by Dell and other places, is not a good tool for sustainable community contribution in a a project relying heavily on volunteer hours. It makes some sense when you have dedicated engineering resources to spend and are looking for ideas to spend it on. But if you want to grow new volunteer involvement, I don't think the Idea Storm implementations we are seeing make sense for that. The popularity of an idea simply is not enough. We have to have a mechanism which helps individuals turn personal interest in to personal action...instead of encouraging them to wait for someone else to take their idea and run with it.

I've been thinking about what that new mechanism would taste like, using the Idea Storm idea as a starting point.

What if we could build something better than a simple popularity polling mechanism for ideas? What if we could build a mechanism that looked at the associations between people and ideas expressed in the voting patterns? Could this help us organize people into proto-teams around particular subject areas? And once identified as a group, could we burn resources to get these people interacting as effective contributors?

I want to turn the voting habits of individuals in what I'm calling the Idea Tempest, into a series of network graphs and explore the connectedness of those graphs. First there is the graph of like-mindedness of thunbs-up and thumbs-down voters. Can we identify groups of people who are well-connected across multiple ideas? Second there is the graph of connected ideas. Can we use that to identify clumps of ideas that like-minded people agree on as a focus area.. without arbitrary subject labeling?

With these sort of graphs, we could ask and try to answer a number of interest questions. The most interesting question to me is this one:

'Who out there in Fedora land share my interests (as expressed in my idea voting record) and would be good to work with in a new collaborative effort?"