How to Get Heard? Join a Chorus

For those activists, journalists, students, and organizations that find it difficult to be heard among the clutter of opinions mounting on the web, the founders of a website called MixedInk.com think the resounding chorus of collaborative expression can be a more powerful tool for making change than the songs of a thousand soloists.

MixedInk.com makes it easy for like minded writers to submit their take on a wide range of topics, and invite the public to work together to generate a collective opinion that can be submitted to newspapers or government officials to incite change or endorse a message.

According to founder David Stern, the idea for MixedInk.com was sparked during the 2004 presidential election when the Internet went haywire with oodles of blogs and mounds of comment fields that competed for attention, but never really allowed users to be heard.

“It was amazing how much energy there was, and how many people there were talking to each other online,” Stern says. “It seemed like this revolutionizing force, but it also seemed like a problem because there was too much. Too many people talking over each other, too many comments in the blogs, too many blogs to read, and it was impossible to distill a collective point of view, which limited the community’s potential impact.”

MixedInk.com stepped in to encourage what Stern and his team call, “mass collective expression,” the idea that huge groups of people can speak with a single voice that can be easily understood and used to make powerful gains. Anyone, from individuals to corporations, can access this free site and call together members of a community to brainstorm on an idea, generate a petition, or create a newspaper editorial.

This innovative tool supports a community collaboration that is similar to the application used on Wikipedia.com, but MixedInk features a rating system that democratically pinpoints the collective opinion, giving users the freedom to decide how they want their thoughts to be broadcast.

Let’s say for instance, a non-profit organization wants to write a letter to a newspaper editor submitted on a collective behalf. The organization introduces the topic on MixedInk, and interested members of the community can submit their versions of the letter, edit each other’s versions, and mix and match the sentences and paragraphs of other users to create entirely new versions.

During this transparent process, everyone can rate each letter submitted, so that the best ideas filter to the top and get fused together. In the end, the top rated version is the one that reflects the community’s point of view, and gets passed on to the newspaper to publish. “Instead of being written by just Tom Friedman or David Brooks of the New York Times for instance, you can say this story was created by 13,422 NYTimes.com readers, and that’s a powerful byline,” says Stern.

The possibilities for this powerful application are limitless. MixedInk can be used to generate product and movie reviews, allow organizations to get feedback from employees, and enable companies to solicit ideas and commentary from customers.

The site just launched in January, and although the Washington, DC-based team is still ironing out the kinks and logistics, its current progress speaks volumes to its ingenuity. A partnership with Slate magazine helped generate some buzz, and there are even more opportunities on the horizon.

“I would like MixedInk to be a tool used by hundreds of media organizations, hundreds of political advocacy groups and campaigns, and maybe even thousands of companies to solicit feedback from their various stakeholders, constituents, and donors,” Stern says. “I want us to become a destination, a community of sorts that alters the existing processes of group interaction.”

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