70 Best Ideas of 2007 * New York Times

Here are a few (social web) highlights from NY Times Best Ideas of 2007.

MOB JURISPRUDENCE – New Zealand Police uses a wiki.

When the New Zealand police force said they were open to suggestions about how to rewrite national policing laws, they meant it. In September, they posted the 1958 Police Act online and invited Kiwis and non-Kiwis alike to visit the site and type in their own revisions to the law — extending the concept of “Wiki”-style collaborative writing from encyclopedias to democracy.

“The idea was to take something that’s inherently dry and intellectual” like law reform, explains Superintendent Hamish McCardle, who is in charge of the review, “and transfer it to something that’s cool and innovative” — like Web 2.0.

By making the Wiki open to anyone who cared to participate, the police force hoped to make it easy for international law and policing experts to weigh in, as well as those one million or so New Zealand citizens living abroad.

…despite the novelty of the Wiki process, …plenty of old-fashioned checks and balances are in place. The Wiki follows a traditional review process and will culminate in a document that will advise, rather than mandate, Parliament in its decisions regarding the Police Act.


The Radiohead Payment Model – Radiohead, without any pre-release promotions in place, allowed users to name their own price (if any) to download their new album.

The value of music is what the listener will pay. But as of Oct. 10, it became a viable business model. That was the day Radiohead made its seventh studio album, “In Rainbows,” available for download online. Customers were invited to pay whatever they wished. Clicking on the question mark on the Radiohead site led to a screen that read, “It’s up to you.” Clicking on that led to another message: “No, really. It’s up to you.” According to early estimates, 1.2 million downloaded the record in the first two days, earning the band somewhere between $1 million and $5 million.

Wikiscanning – Virgil Griffith’s Wikiscanner can unmask Wikipedia vandals.

When Virgil Griffith, a 24-year-old hacker, heard reports that Congressional staff members had been caught altering Wikipedia for the benefit of their boss, he got to thinking of all the other kinds of spin occurring on the site. After all, the very elements that make Wikipedia popular — its egalitarian, participatory spirit, mutative nature and easy anonymity — make the online encyclopedia all too vulnerable to manipulation by unscrupulous contributors.

But what if those contributors’ identities could be traced? Griffith created a computer program to unmask Wikipedia vandals. Here’s how it works: When anonymous editors visit Wikipedia, they leave a public record of their computer’s I.P. address.

The YouTube (Accidental) Audition – Web platforms enabling unknown talent to rise.

…it was notable this year when the director Chris Robinson featured a largely unknown kid named Samgoma Edwards in the rapper Jay-Z’s latest video. Back in 2004, Edwards, who was then 11, began a collection of homemade music videos for Jay-Z songs with the help of an older brother and a friend. The series, which they called “Young Hov Project” and posted on YouTube, featured Edwards as Jay-Z — a no-brainer role for a young man who looked so much like the rapper. The videos soon went viral and won Edwards and his partners many fans, including Robinson.

Zygotic Social Networking – Not really sure what to think of this one (yet) and it likely falls into the web 3.0 bucket…DNA social networking.

In October, two companies started social-networking Web sites based not on friendship, business connections or dating desires but on cheek-swab DNA tests. Participants fill out their genetic profile and link up with strangers who share DNA markers. Users can upload baby pictures and home videos, compare family trees and e-mail distant cousins to find out what life is like in the old country.

GeneTree.com and Ancestry.com’s new DNA Ancestry project both begin with a $100 to $200 DNA test. Once in the system, users participate in online DNA matchmaking games.

read more | digg story

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