Why Wikilerts?

Wikilerts evolved out of a classic “scratch your own itch”-situation: we wanted to get alerted about certain happenings, couldn’t find fitting alert services, so we launched a platform which makes the setting up of alert services (and sending of alerts) easy and accessible to everyone.

However, what’s the precise reason why Wikilerts (with its core process) is needed? What’s wrong with information markets today? Where do they fail, and which gap does Wikilerts fill?

A) Create alert services where none exist today

On many topics there are no alert services. The following (random) examples are meant to demonstrate this principle:

  • Greencard lottery is on
    We love Europe – but the main reason why Wikilerts is not a US company is based on a simple fact: we couldn’t get the visas. In previous years we threw our hats into the ring at the occasional Greencard lottery but we missed out on the last one. Why doesn’t a simple alert service for this exist?
  • Prof is sick (dammit, I could have slept in!)
    When still students we frequently commuted to university only to find out that the 8am class is not taking place because the professor is sick. That would have been good to know before (yawn!). No alert services existed for that. Some were lucky and got told by friends before – but not everybody was that lucky, and not everyone has friends.
  • Local events
    Almost every town has occasional events, from little festivals to local fairs and sport events. Those may get announced offline, and maybe also on a website, however for most there is no proactive information push (e.g. a newsletter) at all. That’s a pity, because potential event-goers miss out, and event organizers don’t get as much attendance as there could be. 

We all have cases which we’d like to get alerted about (yours will be much different than those above) for which no alert services exist. But why don’t they exist? There would be demand from the information-receiver side, no doubt.

A key reason seems to be that there’s not enough incentive for the information-provider (who knows about the happening first) to go through the hassle to set up a message distribution system (e.g. a blog, website, or social media account) and send alerts. Why should the professor care about students not sleeping in? Why should the US government alert people about a lottery for which there are too many applications anyway?

In those cases the community has to take over and help itself – by setting up respective alert communities on Wikilerts.

B) Send more specific (=relevant) information

In most cases information channels (feeds, newsletters etc.) do exist, especially for news many people are interested in. However, almost all of them send too much content. Therefore people shy away from subscribing in the first place – and miss out.

Some examples:

  • Tour dates
    It might be a huge stretch, but picture yourself as Madonna fan. To keep things real, let’s assume you’re not so fanatic that you want to hear about everything she does, you just want to see her the next time she’s touring your city. What you need is a reliable alert service which informs you if her tour dates are out, so that you can buy the tickets – before they’re sold out.
    Information streams which include this information exist in plenty: ticket companies’ newsletters, Twitter feeds, or her own newsletter. All of those come with an obvious drawback: they will also send you a lot of other (irrelevant) stuff.
  • Restaurant openings
    What’s your favorite restaurant cuisine? Do you want to get alerted if a restaurant of that type opens in your city? Probably the answer is yes. And probably you’d miss out on it today (or only hear much later about it) because you’re not subscribed to a respective channel / alert service.
    Here again, if you really want to hear about it early, you’ll find a way: newsletters or Twitter feeds may contain this information. And again, they’ll send a lot of other stuff – too much to subscribe.
  • Automated alert services
    Automated, keyword-based alert tools, such as Google Alerts or Mention work great for reducing the noise when the keywords are unique. However, for most topics they don’t work as well, i.e. send you irrelevant content. Some services try to create artificial intelligence-type algorithms to figure out what you want to know and what not, however they are not really reliable (as of yet) – the human brain is still needed.

That’s why the alerts on Wikilerts are specific by design (“Get alerted if…”) and human-powered. When initiators set up an alert community they get asked to define when alerts shall be sent, providing a clear framework for others to report and review alerts.

C) Protect people’s private information

Even if specific alert services existed on the various topics you’re interested in – you may still hesitate to subscribe because you’d be revealing your contact details to many different publishers.

That’s because you don’t know…

  • How easy it is to unsubscribe again (different publishers, different processes)
  • What the publishers will do with your email (sell it?)
  • If the publisher knows how to protect your information from hackers

Today, if you sign up at several different services chances are that sooner or later you’ll receive content from third parties you never heard of before.

A central platform – which Wikilerts aims to be – solves this: no publisher will get your contact details, there is a standardized way of subscribing & unsubscribing, and state-of-the-art security measures ensure that your private information details stay safe.

Conclusion

Wikilerts aims to tackle today’s shortcomings in information markets and become the central platform for alerts …

  •  …where you can find alerts on almost any happening
  •  …which send you only relevant content
  •  …to which you can subscribe & unsubscribe without fear

Help us to build the platform by spreading the word (which will earn you points & privileges) or dive right into the action by joining or setting up new alert communities!

 

If you don’t want to miss out on future posts please subscribe.

First Feedback Is In

Thanks to the very useful service Feedbackarmy (10 reviews for 40 USD) we got our first feedback. Have a look at it here.

Overall, it’s quite encouraging. The concept seems to be clear to most people, esp. after we made a few tweaks to the homepage and the intro page based on the feedback we got in the first feedback round (we had two). Also, the majority sees an added value in the service which is good to hear.

Some points we’ll need to think about:

  • Worry about information overload
    This is either because potential users don’t know what happens with their emails (we won’t share them, we swear), or because they believe that joining an alert community will result in a flood of information.Regarding the latter, we need to make clearer that the reason why of the service is to prevent exactly that: it’s all about having more specific alert communities which send out less messages than other feeds, newsletters etc. We adjusted our intro page to emphasize this point.
  • Lack of inspiration for useful alert communities 
    A few people struggled to come up with alert communities which they’d be interested in personally. We’re convinced that there’s something for everybody (everybody wants to get alerted about something) so we need to think about providing users some means for inspiration. Maybe a comprehensive longlist of potential applications will do the trick? We got it on our list for a future post.
  • Opposing views on design
    While always a matter of taste of course (e.g. some users request more color on the homepage, others were fine with it) the point that the text on our homepage is too large and “punches people in the face” might be valid. We’ll think about reducing it a notch [update: done].

Feedback like this is really helpful for us. If you read this and haven’t shared your feedback yet, please do so either as comment to this post or by contacting us directly. You’ll help us to build a great product!

 

If you don’t want to miss out on future posts please subscribe.

Wikilerts’ sources of inspiration

Although the way Wikilerts works isn’t complex, understanding new concepts can be facilitated by drawing parallels to exising services (esp. to those which inspired Wikilerts).

Those are mainly the following three (great!) services:

  • Wikipedia showing how to tap the most powerful source of information there is – “everybody”
  • IFTTT as a super-easy-to-use alert tool
  • Twitter demonstrating the power of “keeping it short”

So although the service is still tiny (in terms of users) at least conceptually Wikilerts is standing on the shoulders of giants 😉

In any case, Wikilerts aims to contribute something new:

  • While Wikipedia is a great resource to read existing information, it doesn’t offer the feature to get alerted if something new happens (future information)
  • IFTTT is machine-driven and based on automatic processes, while most alerts still need to come from humans (the algorithm alerting users only when they want still needs to be discovered)
  • Twitter = Information overload. Wikilerts aims to be the opposite – only get alerted for the things you’re really interested in.

Please give us feedback in this post’s comment section to tell us what you think. Also, browse alerts and spread the word – earning you points & privileges!

 

If you don’t want to miss out on future posts please subscribe.

Hello Secret Code Knowers

Congratulations on getting hold on our encrypted, hard-to-remember access code (otherwise you couldn’t see this page)! [Update: We’re live now]

Please browse the site and learn how Wikilerts works, set up a few communities, report alerts, and invite your friends (who will also get access then).

Going forward we’ll be posting more about the idea behind Wikilerts, however for now we’d be very interested in hearing from you, the super-early user…

  • Is it clear to you what the service does?
  • Do you think it adds value?
  • What do you think could be improved?

Positive comments go into the public comments section, critique can be conveyed confidentially via our contact form… just kidding, all feedback is great, and should be public.

Thank you, early Wikilerters. If you like what you see please don’t forget to grow the community which will earn you points & privileges!

 

If you don’t want to miss out on future posts please subscribe.