Monday, March 26, 2007

GiveMeaning's new site is launched

At 6am this morning, we launched a brand-new version of the GiveMeaning website.

As most of you know, we here at GiveMeaning have been hard at work on a new version of the site since last September. We have codenamed this new site "SaveAnything" because one of the most significant new features of this site is that you can submit any news story that addresses something that needs "saving" to the site, tag the story based on what causes it's addressing and geotag the story (i.e. pinpoint the exact location of the story).

The original inspiration for GiveMeaning was from a news article that I read written by Christie Blatchford about a boy named Randall Dooney who was murdered by his father and step-mother. I was so shocked and horrified that this kind of abuse was known but not prevented in time that I wanted to DO SOMETHING about what I was reading. I went online but there was nothing I could easily find. While I spent hours looking (I wasn't working at the time), most people would spend a few minutes and if there was no gas to ignite that spark into action, it would just be a spark.

So now, there is a place where any news story in the world, no matter how local or global in context, not only can you raise awareness about that issue but by submitting a proposal, you can actually DO something about it, rate other proposals, see active projects that might match-up with the story and talk amongst a community of people that care about this news story. Later, we'll add other contextual relevance.

For the first time in many years, I've been able to apply my brain for new technology to my passion for philanthropy. When GiveMeaning first came onto the scene, it was an innovative use of existing technology for the philanthropic sector but it wasn't from a tech-execution perspective anything new. Here we have with this launch a number of new innovations that contribute to the general web world as well as the philanthrosphere.

A more thoughtful rating system
Most of the social bookmarking sites are strictly binary: You either agree or disagree on that story. On most social bookmarking sites, I find myself mindlessly clicking on stories based on a headline. Mindlessness will actually degrade a user's reputation on the site.

What we've done is created a real demand on the user to actually think about the story before rating it, knowing that it's not how many people have rated the story but how the community agrees with your rating of the story that influence your rating. In other words, we want people to submit a story that says "look, I feel that this a very important issue but the quality is rather week however it does detail the crisis in Darfur in a way that hasn't been covered before." You may rate the story's importance as a 5, its quality as a 2 and the informativeness as a 4.

Because we ask that when a new story is submitted, that the person submitting the story credit the actual writer of the story, the forth rating box is the "Source" rating which is scored by the credibility (based on past ratings) of BOTH the writer of the article and the person who submitted the story at GiveMeaning. Soon we will be able to show the actual ratings of individual writers and bloggers on an issue by issue basis (as determined by the GiveMeaning community).

Individual members of the community are not rewarded based on the number of stories they submit but rather based on their ability to be respected for their contributions and the accuracy of those contributions by the community at large.

This rating system is now applied across everything at the site. The reason I am excited about the rating system for new "proposals" and active projects is that it creates a feedback loop amongst the community to the "founder" of the proposal or project. Previously, if the community thought that the proposal addressed an important need but lacked detail and quality of the proposal, the proposal would likely just "die on the vine." Now, the feedback loop is there which will hopefully inspire project founders to think through how and what they present to the community in a new way.

The map feature is "just a mashup" of projects but is nevertheless very compelling visually. The ability to zoom-in on a tiny town in Malawi gives a whole new context to the project.

A new approach to tagging

We've developed a new collaborative tagging method for all media on the site that I really like. My big problem with leaving tagging something up to the person submitting the story is that this invites tag-spam and inaccuracies. I am guilty of bad tagging of my posts because I'm trying to tag based on what I think will get the most search-engine hits not what is actually most accurate for the story.

So what we've done is that as a logged-in user of the site, you have the ability to vote for the top 5 most accurate tags for that item. You can also "flag" tags that are either inappropriate or poorly submitted. As more people take time to tag the content on the site, the "related projects and proposals" will get a lot more accurate too.

Speaking of tags

The new search system on the site uses a combination of "Location" and "Cause" to help find things that interest you. So for example, by typing in Toronto, I see all the places near Toronto in the location cloud and in the "Cause" cloud, I see all the tags that have been submitted on content located in Toronto. Or, I can type in a tag like "womensrights" and see all the locations in the world where content has been tagged with that description.

We have a bunch of improvements and a new Q&A and About Us section that will launch in the next couple of days. Minor and major improvements will be made in the coming weeks. But I'm thrilled with this new release. We move away from being a site focused purely on "give money to this cause" and more of a place where you can come to find out about what's going on in your own backyard or about a community or cause that matters a lot to you.

Start submitting stories and let me know what you think!

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