Crowdwise – A Voting website with a difference

Crowdwise asked DMJ to build them a voting website allowing members to answer questions added to the site by other members and to add their own questions for others to answer.
27 Feb, 2010

Client Brief:

James Surowiecki - The Wisdom of CrowdsTo develop a voting website allowing registered members to answer questions that other members have added to the site and to add their own questions for others to answer. The idea for the site came from a book by James Surowiecki called “The Wisdom of Crowds”, where the author claims that you can obtain an accurate answer to any quantitative question by asking a large number of people from a variety of backgrounds what they think. The average answer may well be more accurate than the answer one might have obtained from a so-called expert.

The initial development budget was limited, due to the largely experimental nature of the project and no immediately obvious revenue-generating opportunities.

Crowdwise - where you ask the questions and find the answersOur Solution

We set out with the aim of using as much readily-available opensource software as possible, in order to keep development costs within the budget agreed with the client, and chose to use :

  • WordPress 2.9 to provide an easy-to-use, self-hosted, content management system
  • Woothemes ‘Digital Farm’ theme
  • WP-Polls plugin to provide the basis of our polling booth solution
  • WP-Include plugin to allow us to integrate our own customised php code

Although using such an array of products gave us a great start, there was a lot of customising to do, mostly around the WP-POLLS plugin, which although it’s a great product and did 80% of what we wanted, lacked a key bit of functionality. The client wanted questions to be asked that could be answered by members typing in a numeric value, with the average of all answers being displayed. WP-POLLS did not handle this, and only allows questions that can be answered by the member choosing from a number of pre-set answers.

Our solution was to modify the opensource code so that members could choose to create either a normal polling question (i.e. What is your favourite colour? Answers: Red, Blue, Green, etc.) or a quantitative question (e.g. How many gold medals will Team GB win at the Winter Olympics? – where members can enter their own numeric answer). This presented a number of complications, especially when modifying the javascript code that controls the Ajax transformation when members answer the question.

Overall, we are pleased with the result. There are many opportunities to improve the design and web copy now that the site is launched, and we will be working with the client to address this over the coming months. In addition, we are considering the best ways to market the site to get it in front of a large audience. It is free, but users do need to register in order to add and answer questions.

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