New “Crowdsourcing for Idiots” book features town

There’s a plethora of books on crowdsourcing out there, but only one documents the crowdsourcing of a city’s entire downtown. In other words, it shows you how far crowdsourcing has come along, from T-shirts to now cities.

Below is the full excerpt from the book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Crowdsourcing by Aliza Sherman, published July 2011 (sure, we had something to do with it). Two days after the book was released, the NY Times published an article on the crowdsourced placemaking of the city’s downtown as well, You ‘Like’ It, They Build it.

Chapter 21: Organizing for Crowd Action

Bristol, Connecticut, Sources Ideas

The city of Bristol, Connecticut (pop. 61,000), crowdsourced ideas for a local site revitalization project. The city had a vacant 17-acre former shopping mall site. The developer, Renaissance Downtowns, turned to “crowdsourced placemaking” company Cooltown Beta Communities (, which specializes in gathering “beta communities” to come together to help innovate community-oriented places.

For Renaissance Downtown’s Bristol redevelopment effort, Cooltown was brought in to help the developer crowdsource ideas to revitalize the site and to incorporate what the community actually wanted and needed. They were looking to create a sustainable, environmentally-friendly local destination: a town center.

Community members joined the crowd to help develop a future neighborhood that focused on the “triple bottom line” of “people, planet, profit.” Cooltown used Ning as the online space for gathering their community and incorporated their proprietary online tool, Bubbly (, to create a visual idea-sharing mechanism that let community members submit and rate ideas. The project sites are Bristol Rising ( and Bristol Rising Survey (

Since fall of 2010, over 240 residents were participating in the project, submitting and voting on ideas. Ideas that receive a minimum number of votes will be assessed for financial feasibility, then potentially move on to inclusion in the project’s master plan. The project was still in progress in the spring of 2011.

  • It’s interesting to see how people gather and share their ideas for the benefit of their own community. Another great initiative for a city is Give a Minute. Give a Minute, a campaign created by advocacy group CEOs for Cities and media design firm Local Projects, which looks to take public dialogue out of town meetings and into the streets. Read more about this initiative at

  • I can’t wait to feature Give a Minute as part of the crowdsourced placemaking field, though I’m waiting for word on how the ideas will formally be implemented. There’s Mind Mixer, User Voice, Change By Us and other idea generating services, but the key is how will the results be implemented in a less than vague plan.