Stephen Baker

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My breakthrough on BusinessWeek's Biz Ex

February 6, 2009General

I've had a small but significant breakthrough on BusinessWeek's Business Exchange. That's the  magazine's social site. It's engineered to entice the brains of the world (ie. us) to share their learnings, via links to posts, papers and articles, with us all. The other idea, to be clear, is to create millions of pages of fresh new pages that can carry advertising and be found on Google.

This free labor business model in increasingly common. (Here's my recent story on it.) Many companies, including ours, must put forth the best possible recruiting call to free laborers. We have to make a strong case that our network is not only worth their scarce time, but also their efforts.

How does a company create such a social magnet? It starts by sending marketers out to bring big shots on board, like John Battelle and Henry Blodget. And it encourages staffers to get busy on the site, to establish new topic pages, and to shepherd them a bit.

So I started a page. I wanted it to be called the Numerati, but the administrators nixed that. Guess it seemed too self-serving. So I called it Mathematical Modeling of something or other. And for months I hung out there alone. The search engine located some relevant stories and blog posts (which helped to feed this blog). And I stored the stuff I liked or wanted to keep. It was my own little place, run by me and a machine. Later, in a surprising burst of sanity, I decided to rename it "Datamining."

A couple of weeks ago, something funny happened. I started to see additions by someone else. It was Venkat Viswanathan, CEO of LatentView. ( He's emailed me a few times and plans one day to drop by the New York offices). Anyway, Venkat was posting articles. They were ones I hadn't seen, and they were right on topic. Now I see a glimmer of the power of this concept. Imagine if I was finding articles by Venkat, but others by dozens or scores of other people, people like you. It could become powerful--and earn its place atop the results on a "datamining" Google query. It might be so relevant, in fact, that any extra search-engine optimization would be superfluous.

I have to say that I'm still not crazy about the BX experience. The page design could use more features and zip. It lacks a good forum for people to express themselves and mingle. I would also like to be able to keep things in folders, each with its own URL, and to link to them in blogs and e-mails and Twitter. We could and should use BX to share dossiers with others. I'm told that more features will be rolled out over coming months. It's a work in progress.

But the Datamining page is doing much better now than it was when I ran it all by my lonesome.

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