Your Customers Know More Than You Do


I did a little crowd-sourced journalism this weekend, and it's turning out well.

Writing in my hometown newspaper, the Greensboro News & Record, I wondered about the people memorialized by two old gravestones in an historic African-American cemetery near my office. One, a woman named Harrett Pinnix, died in 1918 at the age of "about 100 years." The other, Thomas Reese Alexander, served in the 10th Cavalry -- the legendary Buffalo Soldiers -- and died at Yuma, Arizona in 1914.

I asked my readers to help me fill in the gaps left by the brief words on the stones -- some details about these people and how they lived and died.

The responses were almost immediate. People searched census records and death certificates and old newspapers clippings. By Sunday evening I knew a lot more about Ms. Pinnix and Trooper Alexander than I had that morning, and the information is still coming in.

I'll post updates beneath the original column at my website, and put something in an upcoming print edition of the paper, too.

All well and good, but why do you care while you're at work? Because of what it says about the eagerness of regular folks to participate in projects that interest them, and the abilities they bring to the game, and the greatly-increased power that a team effort brings to many endeavors. Not a surprising story in late 2008, but even for someone who's written about this stuff for some time now, an exciting one.


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