In preparation for his book Where Do Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson spent five years studying the environments that lead to unusual rates of innovation. He ended up detailing seven attributes in his book, but if there was a prevailing theme through his research, it was that good ideas don’t happen in vacuums. They happen when people, often with weak ties and diverse intellectual backgrounds, collide ideas together. Today we’re announcing a new website designed to help do that. Say hello to Nerd Collider.
Getting a diverse group of knowledgable people to share what they know isn’t a new idea—magazines, social platforms, and conferences all attempt to pull that off. What distinguishes Nerd Collider is its approach: Nerd Collider is a platform-publication hybrid—we’ve built a discussion app designed to be customized by editors.
We ended up here in a roundabout way. Kate and I both have backgrounds in media and journalism but by the time we left college we were assured that everyone was going bankrupt and that if we were going to do a startup, our approach needed to be much more Zuckerburg, less Denton/Keller. So we did that, we built multiple iterations of a site with a scaling open platform mindset and watched many others in the space. What we found was that helping a specific community talk to each other (like the Silicon Valley startup scene) is a manageable challenge with clear objectives—helping multiple communities talk to each other is substantially more difficult because it requires a lot of personal attention.
So instead of fighting that we’ve created a design that’s flexible—one that allows us to create a unique environment for a particular discussion. We can customize who can participate in a discussion, the weight certain people have in that discussion, the length of time it’s open, the design of the prompt/invites, rewards for specific actions, and contextual data on the people participating.
We’re new at this and over the next few months we’ll be experimenting with a wide variety of prompts and platform designs.
You can check out the first one here. If you have an idea for a prompt or a discussion, we’d love to gchat.
firstname.lastname@example.org and follow us on @nerdcollider