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The Design Encyclopedia Wants You

As you may know, one of the other web sites we wish we had more than 24 hours in a day to run is The Design Encyclopedia and as you may not know, it’s already almost a year and a half old. During this time we have slowly created close to 600 entries and have enticed 647 people to register to get their Wiki on. It is time to add a little oomph to the process and kickstart some growth on that site. To that end — and with our never-ending love for naming everything — we are eager to introduce the Fill in the Blanks Initiative. We invite you to read on and hopefully persuade you into participating. If you have any questions or if you would like to inevitably discuss how this may or may not be spec work please feel free.

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 2921 FILED UNDER Speak Up Announcements
PUBLISHED ON Jan.22.2007 BY Bryony & Armin
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
Ricardo Cordoba’s comment is:

If you have any questions or if you would like to inevitably discuss how this may or may not be spec work please feel free.

Oh, Armin, just rebrand Under Consideration as Under Speculation and remove any lingering doubts already!

;-D

On Jan.24.2007 at 01:07 AM
Caren Litherland’s comment is:

All participants must register by using the button on the right column. This will jump to PayPal where you must pay a US$10.00 fee. This fee is a token of your commitment to the Initiative and will allow us to offer more enticing rewards in the future.

This strikes me as odd. It's one thing to offer an incentive to get people to contribute to your project; it's another to ask the contributors to pay to participate in the incentive. Then it becomes sort of like a lottery, and it seems to run against the wiki ethos. The Wikimedia Foundation solicits donations, but it's a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit org which, unless I'm mistaken, you are not.

On Jan.24.2007 at 03:10 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> but it's a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit org which, unless I'm mistaken, you are not.

Nope, we are not. That doesn't mean one can't ask for donations, it just means that those donating can't tax-deduct it.

> It's one thing to offer an incentive to get people to contribute to your project; it's another to ask the contributors to pay to participate in the incentive. Then it becomes sort of like a lottery, and it seems to run against the wiki ethos.

It's not like a lottery — where you have no control of which balls will bubble to the top — but it is a game of sorts — where you have control of your outcome and the rate of success is equally proportionate to effort put in.

We are charging for admission so that there is at least something very small at stake on the participant's end. Anyone could sign up and have us keep track of what they are doing, but if they didn't have to sacrifice $10 they would be more prone to saying "screw it, I don't want to do this anymore".

Also, we are using this admission like water in a fountain... it gets cycled through the tubes for a fresh spurt each session.

On Jan.24.2007 at 03:26 PM
Michael Surtees’s comment is:

Caren - for someone that has a Fulbright and a degree from Yale it's perhaps time you left the side lines and hit it hard with the knowledge you have.

/m

On Jan.25.2007 at 02:10 AM
Elliot’s comment is:

This does seem an odd move, especially as there's already a corporate sponsor. Adding new entries will extend the value of their advertising.

What has kept me from contributing so far is the lack of a clear copyright/usage policy -- who owns the content? Sorry if it's there somewhere, but it's certainly not obvious. Here's Wikipedia's:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Copyrights

I assume the footer "All official descriptions and biographies are publicly available and remain the property of their authors", is about sources rather than the TDE entries themselves?

I do wonder if this lack of clarity is why some of the gaps exist.

On Jan.25.2007 at 08:35 AM
Steven’s comment is:

This feels like a new low. This is a game not an initiative.

I understand the whole potential payoff, but still. Armin insists this is not a lottery… but it's definitely a competition/contest. The beautiful thing about Wikipedia is the willingness of the general public to contribute WITHOUT promise of reward or payoff. The premise of this initiative seems to betray that idea in favor of something just shy of bribery.

Is this the Wiki manifestation of spec work? All of those people who pay their 10 bucks and contribute many entries will still get nothing if they are not number one. Top that off with the idea of making every Wiki contributor pay for the privilege to play. Yikes! Why not have veer kick in the 300 bucks… surely they can afford it. Afterall, as mentioned above, they will be the ones with the true financial gain from this whole game.

Steven.

On Jan.25.2007 at 11:19 AM
Lorac’s comment is:

I'm going to have to pass on the "Fill Your Pockets Initiative" as well...

On Jan.25.2007 at 11:41 AM
ps’s comment is:

i'm sure that the editors are not out to fill "their pockets." they would choose different businessmodels to do that. they work their asses off to run speakUp, TDE as well as the new quips. and if i'm not terribly mistaken, they work regular jobs to "fill their pockets. so i think that argument is greatly misguided. also, you can contribute the way you usually do, without the $10. having said that, some of the points are valid. there is something to be said about the free model of wikepedia and the initiative might run against that spirit. there is always room to reconsider. if they were merely asking for donations or a membership to help support their various endevours, just as public radio does, it probably would be received quite differently. and i assume many contributors, lurkers that see the value of these places would drop a dime in the bucket.

On Jan.25.2007 at 12:28 PM
Steven’s comment is:

I definitely don't see Armin and Bryony as trying to fill their pockets with this. I have total respect for everything they are doing and I am confident that it is a labor of true love and little else. God knows the financial 'payoff' of such a contest would probably not even be enough to cover the costs of TDE server space and bandwidth for more than a month (if that).

And yes my criticism is based on the idea of the Wikipedia model being a free one and this feeling oddly like design competitionn or spec work. People should contribute because they want to—not to win a contest. I think UnderConsideration's heart is in the right place but this particular 'initiative' just seems quite a bit off base and counter to the community spirit that makes this place so strong.

Steven.

On Jan.25.2007 at 01:42 PM
Su’s comment is:

Wikipedia gets a lot of attention. That's nice, and a good thing.
Wikipedia also has a lot of problems, is not the only wiki on the planet, nor is it even particularly the most interesting.
If you object to the money involved here or whatever else, it's fine to say so, but appealing to what Wikipedia does or does not do, or to some "wiki ethos"(which one?) is not valid and a waste of everyone's time. Wikipedia would never tolerate the blatant marketing entries people have created. Most "old-school" wikis don't require or even offer registration. Blah blah blah.
But if we accept that it's too late, it should be pointed out that at least one Wikipedia branch instituted an incentive program at one point; it's non-English, though, so I don't know what the ultimate result was.

Lack of ownership statement: Okay, this is probably valid. The inherent nature of wikis hamstrings the entire concept of ownership, but it'll probably come up at some point.

Is this the Wiki manifestation of spec work?
Godwin!
I once had a protracted e-mail argument with someone who had an extremely fundamentalist view of what spec work is. Suffice it to say nobody has the same definition. Besides, wasn't it "spec work" to contribute to the site in the first place? Though spec doesn't generally involve you paying the client. I do allow that it's sort of unclear if/whether this is a competition or what. But I'll also say that some people are looking for things to be offended by, and therefore finding them.

financial 'payoff' of such a contest would probably not even be enough to cover the costs of TDE[for a month]
UnderConsideration is on Dreamhost. Even on the cheap plan, I doubt there's too much to worry about on this point.


(And just so nobody tries to pull that disclosure crap on me again: Yes, I built TDE. That was[note past tense] the extent of my involvement, which may include updates in the same vein; otherwise I get nothing from it.)

On Jan.25.2007 at 06:11 PM
Steven’s comment is:

Su,

Thanks for the reply. I would argue that comparisons here to Wikipedia are "not valid and a waste of everyone's time". Wikipedia is, like it or not, the gold standard by which most Wikis are measured. They have a well-proven,sometimes flawed, model which has allowed them to build an inspiring collection of information.

I only bring up the idea of spec work since it seems to be such a hot topic these days and most of it is brought on by semantics. I really don't know why Armin and Bryony seem to refuse to refer to such things as 'contests' or 'competitions'. We have an 'entry fee', we have a 'goal' and we have a 'prize'…

Like I have said before: I think the motives are excellent. We will all benefit in the end from more entries on TDE. But let's stop the "we-don't-want'to-demean-our-profession" semantic run-around. I am ultimately dubious about the potential outcome of this contest. When you start talking about rewarding quantity it is quality that is the first to suffer. And if Armin and Bryony are actually going to judge "the most relevant and comprehensive contributions" then how is that not a lottery?

I also wouldn't consider myself offended by any of this… more than that I find it amusing. At this point I am playing devil's advocate. Someone needs to.

Steven.

On Jan.25.2007 at 07:18 PM
Mark Notermann’s comment is:

FYI, this story of Microsoft paying for Wikipedia article content has been getting play in Seattle lately, not sure if others were following this or not.

Not directly related to this thread I admit, but relates to the subject of Wiki ethos.

Since content can be submitted to TDE without the entry fee, I don't see any issue here. As with any internet info, Caveat Emptor.

On Jan.26.2007 at 12:56 AM
Su’s comment is:

Wikipedia is, like it or not, the gold standard by which most Wikis are measured.

Sorry, but no. It makes the most noise. That is a different thing.
My issue is primarily with any sort of general reference to Wikipedia or some un-cited Platonic wiki ethos. Specific examples need to be chosen, eg: the link to their copyright page. Anything less accepts things such as the fact that Wikipedia puts "verifiability" over actual objective truth. Or are you unaware of danah boyd's[sic] issues last year regarding the presentation of her name, in which the presss' was given precedence over that of you know...her legal documents?

On Jan.26.2007 at 04:36 AM
Su’s comment is:

Also, Mark, you might find this post of interest re: the Microsoft thing. What has been largely glossed in most coverage is that WP provides no particularly good way beyond the kindness of strangers(and we're talking about Microsoft here...) to have content about you corrected. MS probably didn't go about this in quite the best way, but it's generally being presented a bit incompletely.

On Jan.26.2007 at 04:45 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> What has kept me from contributing so far is the lack of a clear copyright/usage policy -- who owns the content?

I guess we have been vague about this because it is the absolutest grayest area. And looking at Wikipedia's own copyright page I'm actually comforted by how legally and convincingly vague they manage to sound. The legalese basically translates to "do whatever the fuck you want, and don't even try to sue us, 'cause we are not responsible for anything, m'kay?".

One of the main points about TDE is gathering facts, information, links, resources, books, etc... These are not ownable by anyone. It is what it is, bits of data. Whenever we copy, word by word, a bio or description we make sure to acknowledge the source. (If said source didn't want us using it they can let us know). Anyone looking to "own" their contributions to TDE is looking for the wrong thing; start your own repository of design information and write everything in your own voice and do what you want – this is not meant in a dismissive tone, just showing you what the other option is.

> This feels like a new low. This is a game not an initiative. // I understand the whole potential payoff, but still. Armin insists this is not a lottery… but it's definitely a competition/contest.

Yes, I already acknowledged it's a game and a contest. One can choose to play or not play. More...

> The beautiful thing about Wikipedia is the willingness of the general public to contribute WITHOUT promise of reward or payoff.

As Mark just said, you can still contribute WITHOUT promise of reward or payoff. FitBI is running parallel with this premise, we are just giving people the opportunity to change lanes.

> Why not have veer kick in the 300 bucks… surely they can afford it. Afterall, as mentioned above, they will be the ones with the true financial gain from this whole game.

As far as I know, Veer makes their money off of photos, fonts and merchandise that they sell.

> I'm going to have to pass on the "Fill Your Pockets Initiative" as well...

That's right, at $10 a pop and giving back 30 times that, we are laughing all the way to the bank.

> When you start talking about rewarding quantity it is quality that is the first to suffer. And if Armin and Bryony are actually going to judge "the most relevant and comprehensive contributions" then how is that not a lottery?

Yes, quantity helps, but we would never let it overrun quality. And my guess is that we have a smart enough readership that we assume that entries will be of good enough quality where we don't have to worry about giving one up for the other.

> And if Armin and Bryony are actually going to judge "the most relevant and comprehensive contributions" then how is that not a lottery?

Because it's not left to random choice and the immutable laws of ball-bouncing. Presumably we have established ourselves as somewhat competent decision-makers when it comes to the content on our various sites. We are judging contributions based on what we've been doing so far at TDE, we are not just pulling out a name from a hat and giving that person the $300 – I hope this ends the lottery comparisons.

> At this point I am playing devil's advocate. Someone needs to.

Steven, thanks for that. Even if some of my comments sound defensive, you and others help us clear up some points that help explain our thinking and position on matters that may not have been from the outset.

We are not out to change anyone's mind. It's a free country and everyone can choose where to put their money and spend their time.

On Jan.26.2007 at 08:45 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

"Anyone could sign up and have us keep track of what they are doing, but if they didn't have to sacrifice $10 they would be more prone to saying "screw it, I don't want to do this anymore"."

So, what's wrong with volunteers donating their time and efforts for a while and later tire of it and say 'screw it' I'm done? Does that really hurt anything?

Or maybe this is just some very, very clever reverse psychology. I have to PAY to contribute!? Hmm...this must be a really super important, ultra exclusive club. Sign me up! ;o)

On Jan.26.2007 at 10:35 AM
Bryony’s comment is:

I have let Armin answer most of your points here, having been out of town myself.

Regarding the fee, this is not reverse psychology in any way. It is a method that has worked for a long time, where a token of commitment exchanges hands. While in college I used to volunteer at “Colonias de Vacaciones” a non-for-profit that devoted it’s time and energy to taking kids from the streets in Mexico City to a week long vacation of activities and learning experiences (in a house that was donated to the organization). Each week we would take 100 kids. The exchange, a roll of toilet paper. It was hard for some of these kids to come up with one roll of toilet paper, but you know what? It worked. This is somewhat different than our contest, but the basic premise is the same. The one catch, you can go ahead and contribute to the wiki, without participating in the contest. You have the choice, and nobody can choose for you.

As far as a sponsor goes, we could find one if we really wanted one. Why not? Because in this case, we have managed to scour the 300 dollars by ourselves based on other UnderConsideration projects and we can give it back.

So far we have two groups of people contributing to TDE. a) those who sing up, write one or two entries about themselves and their firm and then disappear (that Su mentioned above) and b) those that keep coming back, sometimes frequently, sometimes in a flurry, and sometimes sporadically but with constant contributions in various levels of quality. We are open to everyone who wants to participate, and those who want to search the information. But we do edit, we do make sure people are being objective in the information and we take responsibility in this. In the same manner we will be taking responsibility as we select the winner. I would rather celebrate one thorough and complete entry than ten fluffs. It is not quantity we are after, it is quality. But the quantity of information plays a part in the quality of information.

On Jan.26.2007 at 11:14 AM
Tim Daly’s comment is:

Just glancing through your wishlist

http://www.thedesignencyclopedia.org/uk_logo_design_arena

Throughout its design services time-line, Logo Guru UK has created logos for some of the UK’s most renowned corporate Identities and has established itself as a recognized logo design firm in UK.
Quite apart from the lack of sense how accurate and objective is this?

On Jan.27.2007 at 07:56 AM
Bryony’s comment is:

Tim, I agree. This is one of those cases I spoke of earlier, where an individual registers, self-promotes and disappears. This particular entry is from last week, and we did a quick edit to eliminate the most self-professing areas, and now during the weekend we go back and clean it thoroughly.

Unfortunately I can’t edit every entry the moment it is published due to my day job, but I do try to get to them as soon as I can.

On Jan.27.2007 at 09:32 AM
Pesky’s comment is:

This is getting intriguing like a spy novel...

Will nefarious Bryony and Armin's scheme to get rich on this encyclopedia thing pan out?

Will they become the Design World's Equivalent of American Idol judges?

Will Verve engulf everything Holy and Unwritten about Design until every punk has Badass Designer written on their resume?

Will there be a fresh breeze of written design content or more hot air?

Does a Design Encyclopedia need a logo?

And what ARE the blanks that need to be filled in?

Stay tuned.....

On Jan.27.2007 at 10:27 AM
KevinHopp’s comment is:

Funny this comes up - the other day I was thinking of how much thedesignencyclopedia.org refuses to recognize certain pockets of not-so mainstream design and designers.

Now I see I have to pay them to educate them. I don't think I've ever heard of a more arrogant system.

Can someone please tell me what's in it for anyone besides Armin and Byrony?

Thanks.

On Jan.30.2007 at 03:57 PM
pesky’s comment is:

Oh, come on, Kevin, don't be so crusty and negative. That is such a shortsighted answer. Since I started a very new out-of-the-blue opportunity to teach design students - sort my weirdly Zen style of teaching - I've seen how this project could ultimately benefit students. And I see this as a progression of ideas worthy of development.

On Jan.30.2007 at 08:08 PM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

I just learned yesterday that the last Monday in January is the most depressing day of the year (especially here in the UK because income tax is due today along with all the Christmas bills that have piled up, plus the dismal grey weather).

Perhaps a vitamin tonic or a brisk walk would help to create a positive outlook and shoo away any crusty feelings of underappreciation and crankiness that might still be lingering after Monday's attack of gloom.

On Jan.31.2007 at 10:49 AM
Kevin Hopp’s comment is:

Pesky, that wasn't an answer, it was an observation. I'm probably not getting it - the paying to contribute mentality.

Do you have to pay to contribute to Wikipedia?

I still think Armin and Byrony are acting foolish by exploiting their network gained at SpeakUp.

Why can't we just contribute for free, or why can't we be paid for our efforts? This is an online magazine that publishes information, writers should not be addressed like starving students, they should be paid for their time and energy. I feel awkward knowing Armin and Byrony will be paid for my time and energy.

Good Luck!

On Feb.03.2007 at 04:50 PM
Kevin Hopp’s comment is:

Pesky, on another note... who wants to read student writing? Honestly, most Jr Designers right out of school don't have a flippin' clue what's going on!

Geez, am I the only sane one around here?

On Feb.03.2007 at 04:51 PM
Pesky’s comment is:

Kevin, excuse me, but I don't see where you're anger is coming from. Oh, wait: I called you crusty, right. Sorry about that. I was smiling when I typed it...

I have no stake in this encyclopedia personally. It's just that it seems like you're worried The Vit Expansionist Empire is growing rich at your - our - expense. All I can say to this observation - that you resent paying to contribute - is that it may be completely legitimate for you, but perhaps someone else wants to go that other route.

On Feb.04.2007 at 07:10 PM
k’s comment is:

Oh totally Pesky. Everyone has their opinion.

On Feb.04.2007 at 08:16 PM
Nic’s comment is:

Think of how limited the universe of possible contributors for -design encyclopedia- would be when compared to:-encyclopedia (...about everything, everyone is involved)-.
Statistical correction is just too many steps away; besides... understandably, B & A want it to work soon. Plus, wikipedia ain't made of gold either; it still does depend on a fair share of paternalistic intervention.
It's simple, the -team- is composed of just two.
Ten bucks may keep them from editing too much trash.
Plus, since we (design people in general) are already in the mood of throwing money at the most minimal chance of attaining glory at a competition; Why not pay a little for a chance at achieving a bit of pride -or even, knowledge- at the design encyclopedia?.

On Feb.18.2007 at 10:28 PM