As social networks grow and evolve from audiences into dedicated communities, some news sources have begun to tap their online readership as volunteer investigative reporters. Journalists are now looking to their Twitter followers and Facebook fans for help in gathering research and information for news articles. This leads to a better source of material, as readers are often closer to the heart of the story and more specifically knowledgeable about the subject at hand than most journalists could become. Afterward readers anticipate the release of the story to see what results their input has yielded. One such instance added elements of gamification into the mix to engage the community further and drive a quicker outcome.
Following a release by Parliament in the U.K. of MPs’ personal expenses, The Guardian asked for help from its readers scouring through thousands of pages of documentation to find any suspicious claims. Volunteers are asked to mark what type of page it is (a receipt/invoice, an expense report, a stationery sheet, etc) and whether it deserves any further attention. Users can do this anonymously, or they can create an I.D. in order to write additional notes on a particular page and have their contributions shown on the leaderboard. The front page also shows how many pages have been reviewed and how many are left to go to encourage a speedy turnover.
It’s fascinating to see online social networks being used for such a purpose and basic game mechanics being implemented as motivation. It goes to show what powerful tools we now have at our disposable and how individuals are able to participate in and shape media, rather than simply absorbing it.