I attended an MITCNC (MIT Club of Northern California, see http://www.mitcnc.org/) event 10/9/2007 in Palo Alto, called "Crowd Sourcing". This event was moderated by Brian O' Malley, Senior Associate, Battery Ventures.
The presenters were;
Devin Poolman, COO, 8020 Publishing, http://www.8020publishing.com/
Scott Brave, CTO and Founder, Baynote, http://www.baynote.com/
Jim Fowler, CEO and Founder, Jigsaw, http://www.jigsaw.com/
Thor Muller, CEO and Founder, Satisfaction, http://www.getsatisfaction.com/
An interesting observation about these companies, they all build their business model on rapid expansion by sourcing information and conversations from the community, the "crowd" instead of trying to build the base themselves.
8020 Publishing is a hybrid media publisher who creates printed magazines by getting content from the community and conversations or voting about what should go into the magazine. Their first magazine is the JPG a picture gallery based magazine.
Baynote uses community and conversations to build search engine relevance for customers/enterprises. Instead of just getting a list of search results, you get a relevance factor sorted list of results with links to associated documents. Scott also presented interesting statistics about people's attention span. Traditional search engine hits, no 1, 100% of people pay attention to, this drops quickly down to 9.5% for hit number 10 meaning people give up there after.
Jigsaw is a business card exchange program where users can trade business cards or subscribe to the service and search/acquire business cards. Jim Fowler made comparisons to pay services such as Hoover where Hoover has to build the database. Jigsaw lets the user community build the database and provides "a carrot and a stick" model where users get challenged if they put in incorrect information in the database. Jigsaw has quickly gone from nothing to more than 6M business cards. Jigsaw as a service is used a lot by sales and recruiting people. Jim also pointed out the importance of personally contacting your early users to get traction in the community, this is very important to get enough traction to grow. I use the service myself and can highly recommend it. Join by clicking here.
Satisfaction is a community and conversations based system for customer service and how to quickly get a customer satisfied. Thor pointed out the importance of providing relevance based on instructions from the community and people who are already using a product instead of depending on each individual companies produced manuals or directions from their websites.
Please feel free to contact me for your thoughts and comments.