20% time revisited

I don’t get 20% time, though there are times I think I have 100% time, but that’s not the point.  Today’s topic is how Q&A services utilize our 20% time.

When I take a look at services like StackOverflow, Quora, and LinkedIn answers where professional people spend time to answer questions for others, I have to start wondering why, the obvious motivators are:

  • Status and reputation
  • A need to help others
  • Puzzle challenges

Recognition — It’s very clear when you look at those services that recognition based system are where they are focus on creating the greatest value.  Very similar to how farmville gets you to plans strawberries three times  a day and gift them to a friend…  At the heart of it your seeking some recognition for who you are, most likely you’re spending part of your day Dilberting away in an office.

Helpfulness — In general humans want to be teachers, we want to help others.  This Nova episode bring the point home:  “Teaching may be the signature skill of our species”

Puzzles — Watch a while ago Wordplay where the topic is Crossword puzzles, but in it they spend quite a bit of time with Will Shortz (NY Times Crossword Editor), and I also realized he’s on PBS, etc.etc.  Think about it, Crosswords, Puzzles on Radio Shows, etc, etc.  Grandma & Grandpa sitting around watching Jeopardy.    There must be a whole class of people out there who will work on challenges just for the challenge sake.

Back to 20% time — I’m currently trying to figure out how to find new ways to involve people in interesting puzzle actives that both are challenging and seek to reward them with either reputation/recognition or other long term status bits.   The short code fragements of StackOverflow are too small, asking people to do code reviews is too big…  How can we turn peoples attention into fundamental productivity?

If you’re interested in finding out more, drop me a note via twitter.com (@koblas)