Interview with the3six5 project founders: 365 days, 365 perspectives
26th January 10
Posted in crowdsourcing
“New tools give life to new forms of action…eroding the institutional monopoly on large-scale coordination… We are seeing an explosion of experiments with new groups and new kinds of groups.” Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody, 2008
One of the things that caught our eye last year was a blogpost from Len Kendall sharing the plan for a simple, yet audacious lifestreaming project. Every day for 365 days, Len and co-founder Daniel Honigman were going to get a different person to write about their experience that day. If you will, a crowdsourced diary for 2010: the3six5 Project.
Just under a month in and c.250,000 site views later, the project is growing into something with real currency AND potentially long lasting value. Before we get into the interview with Len and Daniel, here are a few early thoughts on why we think the project is turning out to be so interesting. As always, we’d love to hear other points of view, so please let us know what you think.
1. Currency: the3six5 mashes up three communication themes – crowdsourcing, curation and lifestreaming – neatly in one idea. (At the same time it’s a simple journal. The combination is very seductive: it feels experimental and familiar at the same time).
2. Cultural value: if the entries continue in the vein set down so far, it’s a time capsule of intensely individual thoughts. One year seen through 365 different minds, gathered in one place.
3. As communication models go, a continuous, virtuous circle. Fresh, surprising content, which in turn its originators & their supporters want to promote and propagate.
4. Great content: none of the above would mean anything if the words didn’t leap off the page. And boy, do they. A lot of writers have taken Daniel & Len at their word and taken risks, others have brilliantly evoked the day and their state of mind, often to profound effect.
5. Success or failure depends on the community: The project has the chance to go wrong at any point, all it takes is a missed post. If we’re honest, that adds to the frisson around the project. It also proves yet again that crowdsourcing is no cop-out for the curators. As wonderful as everyone is, we suspect it can still feel like herding cats at times. As one of the contributors so far, I can also testify to a what-if-you-fail-to-come-up-with-anything? feeling in your gut as you sit down at the end of the day to write a post to an immovable deadline.
We caught up with Daniel and Len, to hear how it’s going so far from their perspective, as well as their hopes and expectations for the rest of the year.
The 3six5 project is nearly a month in. What’s surprised you so far?
LK/DH: We’ve been pleasantly surprised at how personal these posts have been. Often when it comes to blogging, people write about their observations of the outside, or what they suggest OTHER people should do. We encouraged our authors (listed here) to examine themselves on their day and share something that would let the reader walk away knowing a bit more about who THEY were. This is something we feel is lacking in today’s world of “social media” and are happy to see our writers are stepping outside of their comfort zone while they have the spotlight.
How are you personally finding it running the project? What have you learned?
LK/DH: One might think that having other people write a blog for you is really easy. It’s not. In fact it’s probably 10 times harder to do it this way because managing 365 people is quite difficult. Not only are we in constant flux in terms of our schedule of writers, but some of our more “famous” writers are hard to get a hold of when quick deadlines are approaching.
One of our most recent challenges was receiving a post from one of our authors in Haiti. He was there helping with providing medical treatment to a rural village (one day before the earthquake) but didn’t have access to the internet. We ended up writing the post for him as he dictated his writing to us via the local phone. Things like this put us “on call” quite a bit. It’s extremely important that we don’t miss a day because it will take away from the macro result this project is aiming to produce.
That being said, there’s a laundry list of things we’re learning (only 22 days in) about this project, by the end of this, the case study on how we managed it will probably be just as interesting as the 365 day story that ultimately was created.
Content-wise, do you think there are some themes emerging?
LK/DH: There are two themes emerging in this launch month.
The first is the past. We’ve stressed to our authors that we don’t want them pre-planning their posts or picking days like anniversaries, birthdays, etc because it will cause them to write about something that happened earlier in their life, rather than what is happening that day. As the project is meant to be a chronological story, it is key that people reference how the present influenced their life and thoughts. That being said, we cannot escape the past either. People have done a great job with taking anecdotes from their earlier lives and weaving them into the present.
The second theme has been technology. Based on our set of authors, and the age we live in, the topic of technology is going to show up. It’s a utility in our life just like water, electricity, or transportation, it’s just a lot more fun to talk about because it evolves faster than any other utility out there.
What do you hope to achieve by the end of the year with this?
LK/DH: We have a few basic goals for this project right now, but they will obviously continue to evolve as we learn more.
First of all, If we reach success by day 365, then that will not be the last day of the project. We’ve received far more applications from people wanting to be authors than we could possibly fit into a mere 365 days. That being the case, if the demand to read/write these posts is still high, then we will begin again in 2011. (That’s when interns become a very serious consideration for us in effort to maintain our sanity).
Secondly, we want to be able to create something tangible out of this digital project. We’re already having discussions with other artists about collaborating to create a creative mash up of our words and their visual/audible works of art. Additionally, if it is financially viable, we would love to turn the end project into a book for all our authors. The 365 people who create this story deserve to have some kind of memory on their shelf. It would be incredibly rewarding to be able to give them that for free.
Thirdly, we want to walk away knowing 365 people a little bit better. This current iteration of the web has made it incredibly easy to meet people, but it has made it much harder to KNOW people. Through the posts, and the correspondences we have with our authors on the back-end, we’re developing new relationships with people that we never would have encountered in life otherwise. This alone, makes the project worth managing.
Follow Len on Twitter
Follow Daniel on Twitter
Look out for Ben‘s post, due up on February 2
And, for a great introduction to the project ahead of its launch, we strongly recommend you also check out @Brainpicker’s interview last year with them both.