Digital Think In harnesses high-tech brainpower

Allen Ginsberg may have seen the best minds of his generation destroyed by madness, but today I saw 60 of the best minds of *my* generation doing something more constructive: Putting their heads together to figure out the digital future of National Public Radio (NPR).

Hosted by San Francisco's frog design and happening as I write this, the Digital Think In is harnessing the collective brainpower of threescore tech luminaries including:

  • Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist
  • Reid Hoffman, chairman and co-founder of LinkedIn
  • Roger McNamee, managing director and co-founder of Elevation Partners
  • Chris Beard, chief innovation officer of Mozilla
  • Krishna Bharat, principal scientist and creator of Google News
  • Sue Gardner, executive director of Wikimedia Foundation

NPR isn't new to digital thinking, of course: It was an early leader in podcasting and was the first major news organization to publish an open API for its content. The Think In is aimed at building on NPR's initial steps into the Web and mobile spaces. Goals include enabling NPR's listeners to engage with each other, making NPR content available to all platforms at all hours of the day, and ensuring a healthy revenue stream for NPR and its member stations.

Today's event is not about pie-in-the-sky thinking; it's about coming up with projects that NPR can implement in the next 2 to 5 years. The participants have been divided into five breakout groups, each with a specific focus area: Social, Local, Open, Platform and Revenue. The Social group, for example, is looking into how the network of loyal NPR listenters can be tapped to create a vibrant online community where listeners engage with each other and with NPR reporters; the Open group is exploring how NPR can embrace open source while protecting its business model; and so on.

After an intial brainstorming free-for-all, they'll winnow down their concepts and develop a few of them into real-world scenarios. Midway through the day, they'll "cross-pollinate" the groups by having a few participants switch teams. And at the end of the day, each breakout group will present one actionable scenario to all the Think In participants.

It's an ambitious project for a single day, and it will be fascinating to see what proposals the participants come up with, and which are developed into projects at NPR. There will be a live video stream of the final presentations at the Think In's social network site at 6 p.m. Eastern / 3 p.m. Pacific.

You can also follow the conversation on Twitter. Update: The correct Twitter hashtag for today's event is #nprthink (sorry, there was a typo in the press release).

Update 2: Check out photos from the Think In on Flickr.

Update 3: The final presentations are complete; rough summaries are at Michael Winter's blog. Of course, these are only a few of the many ideas that were generated today. A great day for NPR and for collaboration!

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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