Sociology of ideas

Related to my previous post, this was in my inbox today (thanks to ACM TechNews):

Computers Intersect With Sociology to Sift Through ‘All Our Ideas’
Princeton University (07/19/10) Emery, Chris

Princeton University researchers have developed a new way for organizations to solicit ideas from large groups and to have them vote on the merit of the ideas generated by the group.  The system, called All Our Ideas, combines the concepts of sociology and computer science to enable an organization set up a Web site where people can contribute and rank ideas.  The researchers say the system could help governments tap into public opinion and provide sociologists with a new research tool.  “This is a hybrid method that combines the quantitative power of surveying with the power of focus groups to generate ideas,” says Princeton professor Matthew Salganik.  All Our Ideas allows survey creators to present respondents with a question and two possible answers.  Respondents can either pick one of the answers or submit a new one, which joins the pool of answers that are voted on in pairs.  The researchers designed All Our Ideas to avoid the pitfalls that have plagued other systems, such as stopping people from voting for their favorite entry multiple times by programming the system to randomly select two voting choices.  The system also accounts for some ideas being in the system longer than others, preventing older entries from dominating the rankings because they have been voted on more times.

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