Crowd Sourcing Organisation

November 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

There’s recently been a lot of work in MusicBrainz trying to clarify the direction of the project, and roughing out a schedule of how urgent tasks are. I initially selected a few people who are extremely active in the community to help me with the task of sorting through around 200 issues, with the hope that we could decide how important they were. After getting through 30 issues, and scheduling ~25, it was clear that this was a fairly hopeless endeavor. Not only were we not going to get through everything, part of me was left uneasy by the alienation of the rest of the community.

Along with the scheduling discussions, there has been light talk about decentralizing our organisation (at least away from the IRC centralization we currently have) and introducing more democracy into the process. Sorting out this scheduling seems like a perfect candidate to try this out, but it needed organisation to get the results we wanted.

Last Friday, I began work hacking away on mashing up a subset of issues in our bug tracker in a tiny little web app which I fairly unimaginatively called “the Voting Game.” The idea is simple: present users an issue at random and ask they if they think it has to be fixed within 3 months, 12 months, or can remain unscheduled.

The results have consistently amazed me.

I threw the first version of the application online a few hours after I start working it, and results came in thick and fast. At first I put this down slightly to people just enjoying using something new/wanting to break it, but good data came in after the initial announcement. I deemed the project a good idea and continued work on it, finally getting it officially online yesterday.

In less than 24 hours since I announced the launch, I’ve had users encounter problems of emptying the queue – they’ve managed to vote on every issue in the system! Not only that, some issues have feedback from 8 people, considerably outweighing the input of a little group of IRC regulars.

I’m sure to a lot of people this sounds obvious, but with a community as vocal as MusicBrainz, it can often become a burden to manage so much input. This tool has shown me that if you give people the right tools, it can do just the work for you, and the answers just fall into place.

The Scheduling Game is live on ocharles.org.uk, and source code is available at GitHub.

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