Here's a poorly-kept secret: I hang out with Web developers all day. And by their nature, Web developers tend to be Web savvy, and Web natives. Which means they are already using and hacking and rebuilding the next big thing online before most of us have ever laid our eyes on it.
Like this one: Stack Overflow.
Stack Overflow is a service where programmers can ask and answer questions.
That's all. Not too complicated when you describe it that way. But hidden in that description is a valuable system of voting and rating, where users earn points (call it Karma if that seems familiar) for asking and answering questions.
The most novel thing I've found about the site so far is that the user who asks a question can flag the correct answer, which then gets nailed to the top of the comment thread full of possible solutions. The user who submitted the right answer? Extra points for them.
So it's one part Slashdot, one part Digg, and a lot of thought about the value of voting systems as a way to filter content.
I've spent a lot of time talking about commenting systems for news sites over the past few years, and it usually comes down to a choice between ratings systems (think: Digg) and identity systems (think: Facebook).
How much value would a vote-for-the-right-answer recommendation engine like this have to a news organization? To a local community?
- Mahalo, a Wikipedia of sorts edited by paid employees. (Here's a page on Tofurkey.)
- Uservoice, a feedback tool for your online news startup among other things. (Here's a uservoice for the incoming Obama administration.)