Social Machines: The Experiment Worked

Back in May we asked readers to join an unusual experiment in participatory journalism. We published a draft of my article about “continuous computing” on a satellite blog and invited blog visitors to leave comments, corrections, and suggestions. As comments…

Jul 6, 2005

Back in May we asked readers to join an unusual experiment in participatory journalism. We published a draft of my article about “continuous computing” on a satellite blog and invited blog visitors to leave comments, corrections, and suggestions. As comments rolled in, we inserted them back into the draft itself in the form of pop-up notes. Then, when it came time to lay out the article for print, we chose some of the best comments and printed them in the magazine, right alongside the main article and my own footnotes.

Now you can see how the experiment came out. The final article has just been published on the Web and in the August print edition of Technology Review.

I’m really grateful to all of the people who took the time to leave comments on the early draft. The contributors added fascinating perspectives that, for lack of knowledge and time, I couldn’t have brought to the article myself. And the comments amounted to much more than just “bonus materials” for the finished article: they inspired substantive changes in the piece itself. For example, I beefed up the section on the history of ubiquitous computing substantially after readers commented that the draft dealt too offhandedly with vital precedents like Mark Weiser’s work at PARC.

Now I hope we can keep the conversation going, both in the forum area here at TechnologyReview.com and on the Continuous Computing Blog. The social and cultural changes wrought by mass-market mobile gadgets and always-on Internet access are going to provide us with story after story, and we want you to help guide us to the best examples and let us know what you think we’re missing.

And as long as we’re in the Shameless Promotions department…please check out my first-ever podcast. It’s about how to make your own podcasts, and I produced it recently to go along with an August print article about Odeo, a new online podcast subscription and production service.