2012 Twenty Questions Interviews : Matthew Crowder
20 Questions Interview with Matthew Crowder
Head Idealist at IdeaStormz
1. What's your name?
2. Where are you from?
3. Who are you today?
The creator and "Head Idealist" at IdeaSmart.
4. What do you do? (Elevator speech)
I made the brainstorming service IdeaSmart, including community development and product development (creating new features that allow the community to crowdsource creativity on most any topic).
5. What's your story (how did you get here)?
I started out working for America Online, getting a education on the internet in the 90's and early 2000's. Along the way I created a number of net communities focused on sports and sports cards. We would discuss my favorite team (the Atlanta Braves), our favorite players, the intricacies of throwing the knuckleball, and the state of the hobby. Later on I volunteered in and then worked to help develop the Answers.com question-and-answer community.
6. Why is creativity important to you?
Without creativity there is no progress. You always want to be open-minded to new ways of doing things so that you develop more efficient methods and keep improving. Great inventions come about from thinking outside the box.
7. When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
After leaving Answers.com I got to thinking about how to create a structured platform to pool our creativity on most any topic. So many people seek inspiration on a daily basis; the service can help steer them in beneficial directions they would not have previously considered.
8. How did you embrace it?
I spec'ed it out with my programmer. How do you bring contributors together to brainstorm on the subjects they're interested in? What would be the best way to organize each set of ideas?
9. How did that feel?
It was rewarding. Creativity was always encouraged at my previous workplaces. But there were always limitations in it (that were unavoidable). Now I can pursue whichever course I feel will generate the best ideas.
10. Where has your journey taken you?
I worked with several programmers to create the site that you see today. Each one brought their own strengths to the table and helped to shape the direction of the site. I've met some great contributors along the way who can plant the seeds as the community grows.
11. What challenges have you faced?
Sometimes contributors will describe the ideas they seek in different ways. One way to direct people to the right ideas is to display targeted suggestions of topics, for which ideas already exist, while the user is typing their search. That feature is high up on my list of priorities.
12. What worked for you?
Organization, either through tagging or categorization, is key so that users can easily find what they're looking for. A point system effectively recognizes and incentivizes those making the best contributions. You also want to ensure that display advertising relates to the subject matter of the website. A mixture of hand-picked, targeted advertisements and automatically-selected, dynamic ones provide a balanced experience for the users. Users who have registered an account and logged in will respond to different ads than a new user who is not setting up an account.
13. What didn't work for you?
At first, I inundated new users with information about the ideas available. I talked to the users and then determined that it was best to show the more detailed information after users registered and became more involved with the development of the community.
14. What three tips can you share with those starting on a similar path?
Start with a solid programming foundation. Map out all of the basic features that will be needed to launch the beta version of your site. Be sure to test out all aspects of the site with different browsers.
15. What are you working on now?
Targeting of the banner ads needs to be more precise. The programming code of the site also needs to be streamlined to improve the load speed of the site and prevent bugs from developing in the code.
16. What's coming up for you in the next year?
Devising new ways to highlight the highest-quality ideas. I also would like deeper integration with social media.
17. What else do you desire/dream to do?
Like with Answers.com, a forum will give users a greater voice in the evolution of the service. More notifications of new ideas and comments in the users' favorite topics will also provide a better experience for "idealists."
18. How will you make that happen?
It's only a matter of time for my great programmer. I've mapped out most of the features needed.
19. What one question would you like to answer that hasn't been asked?
Who have been the greatest influences on your development of IdeaSmart?
First, I would say Chris Whitten who made FAQ Farm, the heart of Answers.com, which was largely the inspiration for my idea-sharing community. The programmer for that site, Brian Casey, has also been invaluable as the the developer of IdeaSmart. Gideon Greenspan did an excellent job designing and coding Question2Answer, the foundation upon which I built my site. Crystal Ponti (the left brain to my right brain, or is it right to left!?) was my partner in crime, teaching me so much about nurturing a volunteer online community.
20. What’s your Web site address?