A thousand points of light

My hometown newspaper, The South China Morning Post (SCMP), recently went live with a reader driven mashup site dedicated to reporting environmental damage. The SCMP calls the site Citizen Map. It looks like it’s gaining traction. The public responded with more than 20 tip-offs in the first few days.

Mashups are nothing new. Typical examples include real estate listing databases married to neighborhood maps and school district information, sites that track epidemic outbreaks around the world and geo-location restaurant guides.

But most mashups are meant to broadcast a single author’s voice, or at least a single group’s message. What the SCMP has done looks a little different. The paper has put together a number of services, some commercial, some open source, that let other people generate the content around a theme. Arguably, user generated content is nothing new either. Think Twitter or Facebook.  But Twitter and Facebook cater to everyone, or at least try to.

I would guess that the SCMP has no idea where this is going to go but the framework is clear: the SCMP has created a point solution (in contrast to an enterprise or utility solution) to aggregate community generated information on environmental damage. Individual postings might lead to follow-up investigations, government responses (one hopes), name and shame reporting or public debate.

The sum of the parts

In Born To Win, his book about the 1983 America’s Cup race, John Bertrand relates the story of Dennis Conner bragging that Bertrand and his fellow Australians would never beat Conner because Conner had a better boat and a better crew to sail it, a crew 100 percent made up of world-class, individual champions.

Bertrand said he didn’t need a team of individual winners because he had something better — a winning team.

The Australians made a lot of mistakes and suffered some spectacular hardware failures but, in the end, did beat Conner, a four-time America’s Cup winner.

In fact, Bertrand’s win took the cup away from the Americans for the first time in 132 years.