Usability, content, search and analytics on the corporate intranet

Engagement and crowdsourcing

2 August, 2010 – Luke Oatham
“Uservoice” screenshot

“Uservoice” screenshot

Engagement and innovation are the buzzwords at work at the moment. The message from the top is “go forth and engage.” Engage with the public. Engage with the staff. And come up with ideas. Help us save money. How can we be more efficient? Which laws can we repeal:?


I have never seen so many sites canvassing for our input. And they appear to be working. People are contributing and interacting. Voting and rating.  Commenting and arguing. These idea collection sites are not barren. Sure, there’s a load of rubbish on them. But alongside the jokes and profanity there are some golden nuggets.

And on the intranet, finally, we are getting requests to be able to comment on news articles and share stories with work colleagues. And a need, more than ever in this time of austerity, for a crowdsourcing tool to collect, vote and comment on ideas from staff.

Having been a  moderator for a crowdsourcing project, I thought I’d put my usability hat on and take a look at some of the products available on the market at the moment, from both the moderation point of view and the end user.

A major problem on crowdsourcing sites is duplicated ideas and comments. Duplication happens when lots of people enter the same idea (lots of people, one idea) and also when people hit the submit button again and again (one person, repeated idea). Uservoice has cracked this problem using type-ahead functionality when people enter ideas. As they type, it shows similar ideas that other people have already entered. They can then view, comment and vote on an existing idea rather than creating a duplicate by entering a new one. And a clever system shouldn’t let you hit the submit button again.

It’s often possible to flag an idea or comment as inappropriate. But in my experience of this people have tended to flag ideas that they don’t like, rather than because there is something in the idea that breaks the moderation policy. If people are able to flag up content as inappropriate then there should be some mechanism to question their action. Otherwise moderators end up with an inbox filled with *thumbs down* messages instead of the correctly flagged content that they need to moderate.

Site owners should spend their time harvesting the good ideas rather than moderating them.

The calculations that are used to *bubble* content up to the top of the list need to be fair. If one idea gets 80 fourstar ratings and another gets 1 fivestar vote, then which sits on top?

How do you stop people going vote crazy or getting idea diarrhea? Uservoice adds a nice touch by limiting the amount of votes that any one person can use. Votes can be used to promote existing ideas.  And adding an idea of your own costs you a vote. Votes get refunded if your idea is used or closed. This helps to limit the number of fanatical posts.

In addition to comments and a little light discussion, site owners should have some method to communicate back to let people know what is happening with ideas. People shouldn’t be left thinking “what happened to my idea?”

Here’s a selection of platforms that I looked at:

Any success stories out there?

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