This idea is to build a website and online community that applies Open Collaboration to the task of innovation. This concept is inspired by the success of communities such as Wikipedia, Stack Exchange and Github. These websites have leveraged their communities to build vast repositories of knowledge that benefit all of humanity.
The rather ambitious goal of this idea is to do for innovation what Wikipedia has done for knowledge, what Stack Exchange has done for questions, and what Github has done for software.
What's an idea anyway?
Those sites I mentioned above have a clear definition for what their content actually is. Wikipedia has articles, Stack Exchange has questions, and Github has code.
I think we should define an idea as something that can be realized and solves a problem.
Problems, Ideas and Realizations
We can delegate the task of deciding whether an idea is interesting to the community, via simple up/down voting mechanism. This has been super effective on sites like Stack Exchange, as well as for reviews like on IMDB and Amazon. So that seems to be a solved problem - let's not reinvent the wheel. Thumbs up/down it is.
As to what makes an idea "tangible", we need to be able to link ideas to actual implementations - tangible things that realise the idea. In addition to Idea content I propose creating an additional content type called a Realization, which documents the actual implementation of an idea into something concrete that can be used by others. These Realization nodes can be voted on as separate nodes. So now we can imagine a kind of graph structure where Ideas are realised by Realizations.
This is fine, but you can quickly see a pitfall; Who is to say that A cap with a solar-powered fan is something that actually solves problem or is useful? We're asking the community to rate the idea, but it's difficult to know whether an idea is a good one in isolation; it needs a problem to solve.
Adding a Problem content type addresses this. We should allow users to create Problem content that describes things that require a solution in the form of an idea. See the example below:
While these examples are trivial, it's now easier to see why the author thinks you might want A cap with a solar-powered fan. It's now much easier for the community to see the potential benefit of each idea, to decide whether it's something they would want, and to vote on the quality of the idea given the problems they solve and the realizations that are available for actually getting the product.
Topics: More than just a way to organise
The first and most obvious use case for Topics is to organise content and give users a place to pursue their interests. Wikipedia achieves this with its subject classification, and Stack Exchange does it via its network of sites. This makes sense, and even within topics we may want to one day add something like tags or categories to further classify content. The above examples might belong to a topic called Life Hacks or Lifestyle.
But where I'm hoping this community could really drive innovation is when we learn to find linkages between topics. The ability to link Ideas to Problems from different topics will be integral to the site, and this could lead to some really interesting connections that might represent new and interesting ways of doing things and ways to solve really tough problems using the tools already at our disposal:
Where to from here?
The first Topic on the site should be meta, a topic for discussing and implementing ways to improve the website itself. A lot of what I've written here is just a disparate set of ideas, and it won't succeed until others try it and propose improvements. One benefit is that the whole website is designed to foster innovation, so finding ways to improve the site will be the first test of its usefulness!
So... I guess I'll get started writing the Realization now..