Ideablob says “Goodbye”

by Amy Sample Ward on November 13, 2009

For the last week, there’s been a rich discussion about Causes and the way that it abruptly, without much notice, left MySpace (deleting all of the related content, connections, communications, etc.).

(To dive into the conversations about Causes, visit my earlier post, or posts by Marshall Kirkpatrick, Ivan Boothe, Beth Kanter, and Joe Solomon.)

The most important parts of the conversation around Causes do not actually focus on Causes, specifically. The ideas and issues do focus, though, on the emphasis that nonprofits and individual supporting causes, campaigns and specific groups online have put on free, social media, 3rd party tools.  The Causes event makes many of the inherent risks in such emphasis or dependency on the tools very clear, like:

  • No access to data – whether it’s email addresses of supporters, actions taken, or anything else
  • Little influence in development – some tools and developers have put the users first in development decisions but most do not, so the features that could help your organization may never be created
  • Unbalanced “strategies” – organizations have fallen victim to the “all eggs in the same basket” trap
  • Unbalanced “diversity” – by focusing on just one platform, organizations limit the audiences they connect with

ideablobclose

And then yesterday, another tool that’s been used by many changemakers and social innovation groups has dropped off: Ideablob:

Goodbye!  Due to the recent chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of our parent corporation, Advanta, we are unfortunately no longer continuing ideablob and bloblive. If you have any questions please contact hello@ideablob.com.

Like with the sudden shut-down of Causes, Ideablob did not alert registered users (as I’m one of them), and there’s nothing in the Twitter stream.  The only thing to come out is the above message that now redirects from any page you try to visit.

The Ideablob closure is different than Causes as the purpose of the platform, the utility and functaionality it offered, the relationship of users to the platform, etcc  And, Causes left MySpace (an application within a platform) to focus on only Facebook (another platform where it was an application within).  Ideablob was a platform aimed at innovators, entrepreneurs, and changemakers where competitions awarded cash awards and provided spaces for people or groups to showcase their ideas and projects.  Their description on the MySpace profile says:

ideablob.com® is a website for entrepreneurs, small businesses, and idea people to congregate and submit business ideas with the chance of winning $10,000 towards growing their ideas*.

ideablob.com allows users to post business ideas. Whether these ideas are inventions, business concepts, or non-profit / social entrepreneurial, they are all welcome at ideablob.com. It doesn’t take much; no complicated business plans, just 700 characters to describe a compelling business concept… sort of like an elevator pitch.

Blobbers (as we call users of the site) browse, give advice, comment, and vote on each others’ ideas. The person with the most votes at the end of each month wins $10,000*. It’s pretty cool and it’s a fast growing community of really bright entrepreneurs. What’s more is that we have guest advisors, leading industry experts, come on the site and give professional advice to those who are interested.

If this sounds interesting to you, just come by ideablob.com

The message from Ideablob makes it clear that the shut-down has come from the bankruptcy of the parent organization.  But, the “why” is never as important in these conversations as the “what does this mean?”

So, what do you think this means? Have you participated in an Ideablob competition – were you alerted to this change?  How will it effect the work you’ve done so far?  How will it change your use of competition platforms or social media generally?

I would love to hear your ideas!

  • http://myactionmap.org John Brennan

    Hi Amy!

    Thanks for writing this piece. I was equally frustrated as a user, but actually more nauseous as an innovator up on ideablob this week.

    It’s upsetting that companies like this aren’t actually thinking or caring about the real people and ideas they are effecting. This week our idea was up for the sprint and in the top 3. Why did they even start the competition when they already were going through bankruptcy talks? There was even an article published Monday that they shut down, but failed to let time-stressed entrepreneurs know.

    http://philadelphia.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/stories/2009/11/09/daily2.html

    We did our first major PR push and rallied support from our users, twitter followers, and facebook friends to vote. If we didn’t win, that is one thing. But the fact that the competition was just shut down… that reflects very poorly on their internal management.

    Our community came together and not only voted, but shared the link with their friends and followers. It was an amazing 3 days of coming togetherness. The sad part, is that we probably won’t be able to do another push like this for a *real competition* to seek funding for some time (we prefer not to shake the trees too often while we’re in pre-launch mode).

    So I guess it’s back to scrapping the last savings in my bank account and crossing our figures about funding opportunities.

    Thanks for your write up!

    Readers interested in our idea can see it here:
    http://myactionmap.org
    use preview code “socialgood”

    Much love,
    John

  • http://www.amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

    Thanks for your contribution, John!

    [For full disclosure] I voted for you in the Ideablob competition last week. I’ve voted to support others in the past, but as you say, being someone that had participated in an open competition made it even more frustrating and disheartening to not be alerted to the “goodbye” message before it happened.

    Aligning this event with the recent Causes departure from MySpace, I’m interested in a few things:
    – what made you start using the Ideablob platform originally (was it the community already there, was the awards, etc.?)
    – what kind of benefit for your community, your project, etc. did you see by using the platform?
    – how did you ensure that you’d be able to follow up with those supporting you on Ideablob?
    – what kind of response have you had from your community of supporters post the closure?

    Thanks again for sharing your experience here!

  • http://www.EpicChange.org Stacey Monk

    In short, I literally cannot imagine how it felt to be John last week. Having done this ourselves, it’s a sleepless week of pounding pavement, and, it’s a source of $10,000 that a social entrepreneur may simply have no other way to raise. You can only go to your own network so often for funds, and other funders often want you to be further along than a good idea – and normally offer some guarantee of “success”. Real innovation that pushes the edges requires a real risk of failure.

    There are far too few funding sources for true experimentation and early-stage social innovation, or for people with great ideas that may not yet have cultivated a sphere of influence. IdeaBlob held an important role in that gap, and I, for one, am hopeful that another organization will take it on.

    It was the $10,000 we won from IdeaBlob that funded the implementation of our #TwitterKids project in Tanzania. Other than reaching out to my already-tapped social network (to whom I will reach out on many other, less sexy, efforts this year), I have literally no idea who would have funded that project. I can’t imagine a world in which experiments like that are only possible if someone with a good idea has the right connections.

    I firmly believe there need to be platforms like IdeaBlob where people with imaginative ideas for social change can find funding and support without wooing a wealthy few.

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  • http://www.theCoup.org Matthew Willse

    This is a really important issue. We’ve very quickly become terribly vulnerable to the whims of our service providers.

    As a community, we should probably temper our excitement for the latest and greatest tools. I don’t mean we should opt-out. But we should vigorously demand a standard of participant rights. We should explore and experiment with new tools, but at the very moment things start getting exciting, we need to remain sober. What would you do tomorrow if your google or facebook or twitter accounts vanished? Should we use and support services that give us so few guarantees?

    We should not only have open and portable data, but an agreement on how a service provider will close its doors if that day ever arrives. This agreement should specify how we will be notified and it should detail our options for exporting our data or migrating our accounts. Startups have very little time for such doomsday planning. But those that step up will be thanked with eager and faithful users.

    What else can we do in the mean time? Lean toward open services like Identi.ca rather than Twitter. Maintain a diversity of tools even if it means duplicating a little work. If you push out your videos on a few different platforms, you’ll have much less to lose if youtube takes issue with your content and pulls the plug on your account.

    Any other ideas?

  • http://www.amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

    Thank you for sharing, Stacey!

    I really appreciate you taking the time to add your story to the mix here. In my latest post about the Causes/MySpace and ideablob events, (a guest post on the Tactical Philanthropy blog: http://tacticalphilanthropy.com/2009/11/causes-myspace-ideablob/) I’ve proposed that perhaps what we need is a platform or space where users—whether they are individuals, communities, organizations, or any other broup—could voice their ideas and requests for functionality, tools, etc. This space could serve as a community-driven development directive, where anyone building tools could come to find exactly what users want, and so on. I think an integral part of this process would be some sort of model or commitment that the community be part of the making, molding and adoption of tools from the very beginning (hopefully increasing the number of community-generated ideas that take off but also the number of adopted tools where community is still central to the ongoing design and communication, etc.).

    What do you think about a space like that? Would you use it?

    Thanks again for contributing here. I’m very excited about the possibilities for our sector from whatever comes next.

  • http://www.amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

    Thank you so much, Matthew! I’m really happy you’ve joined the conversation here and have added some very balanced thinking.

    As I just commented to Stacey, in my recent post on Tactical Philanthropy blog ( http://tacticalphilanthropy.com/2009/11/causes-myspace-ideablob/ ), I’ve proposed that perhaps what we need is a platform or space where users—whether they are individuals, communities, organizations, or any other broup—could voice their ideas and requests for functionality, tools, etc. This space could serve as a community-driven development directive, where anyone building tools could come to find exactly what users want, and so on.

    I think we both agree that an integral part of this process would be some sort of model or commitment that the community be part of the making, molding and adoption of tools from the very beginning (hopefully increasing the number of community-generated ideas that take off but also the number of adopted tools where community is still central to the ongoing design and communication, etc.).

    Do you think, as someone who’s touching both sides of that process in some ways, that a platform or space like that would work? What would you want it to include or how would you want it to work?

    Thanks again for joining in!

  • http://www.thecoup.org Matthew Willse

    Amy, are you thinking of something like getsatisfaction or uservoice? A service or tool can be tracked on getsatisfaction whether its maker is using the getsati or not. Hopefully, people create enough buzz to force a response. Here’s a groundswell of folks hoping that tweetdeck will support identi.ca. Ok, maybe it’s not a groundswell, yet. http://getsatisfaction.com/tweetdeck

    I think another direction would be a third-party stamp of approval, like fairtrade, verisign, or the better business bureau. If a web service meets certain criteria, they get to sport a lovely icon in their footer.

    This third-party stamp could work, if a few big names were attached to it. Ideally, it’d be an open body that sets the specs of a user bill of rights. It probably couldn’t get into the specifics of development, but at least create a broad standard for ethical services.

    • http://www.amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Hey Matthew-

      Thanks for thinking this through with me! I mentioned somewhere as well the idea of a code of conduct or bill of rights as well; I think it could be really powerful and helpful in opening organizations and users to the conversation and components of using 3rd party tools, let alone the impact it could have when coupled with something like a stamp of approval, etc.

      UserVoice or GetSatisfaction are similar to what I was thinking, but perhaps a platform or space that was a bit more dynamic or collaborative for building out ideas. Not sure, just thinking :) It would probably need to be something that could take inputs for what users want (functionality, roles, etc.) as well as ideas from the developer side and have them collaborate.

      We’ll obviously need to keep talking about!

  • http://nathanrichmond.wordpress.com Nathan Richmond

    Hi all! I’ve been digesting some of these very same ideas for the last six months while I’ve been wandering around India!

    I stumbled onto this discussion after passing a parked car on the street tonight with a ideablob.com t-shirt used as a seat cover for the drivers seat!

    Personally, I would like to see all of society shift from a model of secrecy and competition to one of collaboration and co-operation. Basically, I want to be able to dream, and see my (and obviously many others as well) ideas come to life.

    I’ve been playing with some models in my mind, but I would love to join a discussion with anyone and everyone who might have similar dreams! I’d especially like to connect with some artists, architects, and passionate dreamers who have the energy to get things done!

    Cheers for now . . . I hope to find you all engaged in your passions, and working side by side with me to create a better future!

    -Nate

    • http://www.amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Hi Nate-

      Thanks for joining in the conversation here! I’m looking forward to hearing more about your ideas about collaboration and hope that as the topic is one of my focuses for the blog in 2010 I can start a few good conversations and brain waves for you to contribute to!

      Again, really appreciate you joining in and hope to hear more from you going forward :)

  • http://ideapals.org Solomon Rothman

    Hi Amy,

    I too was a member of ideablob and very active in the in-person “bloblive” events. I met my business partner and CTO of my company, MoviePals Open Cinema, at a bloblive meetup. I was inspired by the way people shared ideas and I’ve always been a huge supporter of collaboration, in fact my original idea was a collaborative film studio allowing people from all over the world to connect and create movies together, owned by the artists and distributed online for free with advertising.

    I was not happy when Blobliveand Ideablob went out of business and I began to think about collaboration. Specifically how people come together to work on ideas and share their passions. Thousands of hours of development and 400 cups of coffee later: IdeaPals.org beta was launched.

    I liked how people got excited about sharing and the competition as a bonus. I don’t have a large amount of capital, but we can build collaborative websites that can scale to millions of users and since we’re creating a year long web series, we also have some serious advertising space available for the most active members of our community.

    I would love to get your feedback or have you take part on the site or on one of our inperson events. This is only the beginning. WE really believe in this. You can get an idea of what we’re doing on the front page of http://IdeaPals.org and we’re throwing our first in person open mic in LA on the 28th of this month. That info is available here: http://www.meetup.com/ideapals-la-open-mic/ . You can also see the idea I started with, MoviePals Open Cinema, taking place in my ideapals group at http://ideapals.org/premium/moviepals

    • http://www.amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Hi Solomon-

      Thank you so much for finding this conversation thread and joining in! I’m really excited to hear of your rising Phoenix story…if I can call it that!

      There’s a group in Brazil that’s created a project you might find interesting that has created an online space for collaborative media design and sharing, especially for youth. If you’d like to learn more, let me know and I’m happy to make an email intro to them. Their website is: http://eletrocooperativa.org

      I’d love to check out Ideapals and share ideas/feedback. I can’t make the event on the 28th, but what is the best way for me or other readers who are interested to join in the discussions/collaborations/development with you?

      Thanks again

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