People-Powered Internet Grows Up

On today's Internet, algorithms rule. But a handful of startups are using large-scale human participation to offer online services that computers alone can't deliver. Can human judgment scale with the Web?

Chris Dannon in Fast Company:

People-powered-internet2 The question of the next decade is: How can we find what we want — the perfect job, just the right pair of shoes, exactly the news that's important to us — amidst the maelstrom of information that's available on the Web? Google, of course, is the de facto answer, it's algorithms generating a ballpark guess at what we want when we type in a few search terms. But the burgeoning mass of data on the Internet is threatening to outmode such robotic tools. So a growing number of start-ups is putting forward another strategy for filtering the Web: Use human judgment first, computer power second.

Of course, human judgment is unreliable, inefficient, expensive and difficult to scale. It's also a relatively scarce resource compared to data, which grows online at an exponential rate. Here are four people-powered sites, and how they plan to keep their people-powered business models durable as the Web shifts and swells.

ThisNext is a “product discovery tool” that lets users take recommendations on products they didn't even know existed. Founded in 2006, the site attracts about 1.4 million users per month, many of whom know they want something new — a lamp, rug, table — but whose queries are too broad to return useful results on other comparison shopping sites.

More here.