All Our Ideas offers groups, governments a new way to discover ideas

All Our Ideas, is a service that allows users to discover and prioritize ideas with a new take on the standard survey. Users weigh only two choices per question and pick the one they prefer, or they can submit their own unique idea.

The idea, is a research project started by Matthew Salganik, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Princeton, and is based on choice warring like that seen at Kittenwar. Salganik partnered with the undergraduate student government on the Princeton campus to determine exactly what students really wanted and expected out of their student government by pitting campus initiatives against each other.

CivSource spoke with Salganik about the trial run at Princeton and the future of the project now available for public use. According to Salganik, the Princeton trial was a success – garnering “more than 2,000 student contributions, 40,000 votes and 100 new ideas.” Some of the top ideas were submitted by students during the process and were needs unknown to student government.

The project is gaining traction and has received a funding grant from Google, typically offered to computer science based projects. Salganik points out that despite the difference in background, Google is interested in aggregating information which is what All Our Ideas does. Google, has its own service, Google Moderator which offers a similar type of survey but All Our Ideas is different and as Salganik argues, more advantageous.

“All Our Ideas users vote without knowing anything other users have already done, which prevents the herding effects we see in other surveys,” he says. The interface is also extremely simple, limiting choice to just two items at a time, instead of giving a long list. Salganik also points to the light user interface, which he says is meant to be fun and encourage engagement.

Any user can create their own public or internal ideas marketplace and get a custom URL to give to respondents. Researchers involved in the project will be analyzing the data generated by users. Salganik says that while he thinks the service can have value for anyone, he’s especially interested in its use by small defined groups and the potential implications for local governments. “We think this system will work best in small student government or town sized units.” His research team is hoping to partner with a government or organization that has previously used other survey methods to do a comparison study of All Our Ideas effectiveness.

Based on the success of Princeton trial, Salganik hopes that All Our Ideas will provide a way to overcome the problem of determining the best ideas within groups. A problem which can’t always be solved by a traditional set of multiple choice questions he says, “the good ideas are out there you just need a system that allows them to sort of bubble up.”

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