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23 Nov, 2011 – 5 comments

help create the definitive inspiration engine for the creative community

it’s probably best to view this fullscreen

I’ve been doing a good deal of thinking around improving this site and what my readers (that’s you!) actually need from a site like this. The document above goes into depth about my ideas. I’ve taken inspiration from sites like PSFK and Buzzfeed, and from people like Noah Brier.

I’d love to hear reactions and suggestions. Moreover, I’m interested in finding people that want to bring this to life with me. Editors, writers, and developers that want to own part of this and dedicate their time. My time is very limited, especially now that I’m back writing on the book, so in order to move forward I have to find a group of passionate people that want to build this together from scratch.

Behind the ideas are some trends or concerns I have about the state of publishing:

  • RSS is the new QR Code – With Google Reader killing the community aspect of their product, I worry that the super user group inside Reader is scrambling like I am to find a new way to source content, new ways that involve algorithms like Percolate that sort content and not RSS readers that merely present it. Also, my site has taken a traffic hit since Reader lost its community. I see RSS still being functionally very useful, but less and less of a consumer facing technology.
  • We’re Building Tools of Distraction – Flow content, the rush of ephemera on sites like Buzzfeed, is more and more the norm across the web for brands and publishers. We’re reinforcing a shallow attention span and we’re not innovating on long-form pieces with the same creative effort.
  • Archives are Graveyards – When I consulted for CNN, I was interested in making their archive of content more useful to readers and the content more valuable to the brand. Think about it, in the way most sites work (in reverse chronological order), content has a shelf life of a few minutes. The efforts of editors and writers are worth more than that and every publisher should be experimenting with making their archives more useful and valuable. I’m calling my idea the Inspiration Board, but it’s just one possible outcome for content.

In essence, I’m proposing a massively collaborative project, powered by a small community. Are you interested in joining our little cabal of editors, writers, designers, and developers? If so, hit me with a comment or shoot me an email.


  1. An Inspiration Engine | Blog @ Percolate
    An Inspiration Engine | Blog @ Percolate November 28, 2011 at 9:10 am .
  2. Len Kendall
    Len Kendall November 28, 2011 at 9:54 am .

    Agree with all your points, though I’m mostly concerned with the second item. “Shallow attention span” nails the problem and I would love for all of us to have access to more substantial content. Your third point also is worth exploring because often times, old content is still great content, but because we’re all stuck in this desire to find “what’s new” we don’t always stop to read the classics of the web.

    I’m hoping to help address this with and the help of other curators as well. Happy to contribute to a larger collaboration.

  3. Timothy Post
    Timothy Post November 28, 2011 at 1:04 pm .

    I’m with you… working on a similar project myself. Couple thoughts:

    a. I think what we’re driving towards is more of a dashboard-like format that combines the stocks/flows seamlessly. The word dashboard is easily understandable to the average layperson and so it’s what I’m using… although I’m tempted personally by the term “engine.” Instead of a search engine, think of the underlying software behind the “dashboard” as a content engine. Marshall Kirkpatrick got me thinking w. his Plexus Engine.

    b. I strongly believe that in order for such an inspiration engine to work, there must be a central curation functionality built into the model from day one. I thought at Pinterest or Tumblr and wish that both offered a way for users to grab content and “inject” it into a Wikipedia-like topic page. We need to give people the tools to take flow data and turn it into valuable stock data.

  4. Farrah Bostic
    Farrah Bostic November 29, 2011 at 3:10 pm .

    I find myself having two reactions:

    1. Sounds cool – let’s do it!

    2. Wait, what is this about and who is it for?

    I’m trying to understand the real roots of this – is there a real problem you’re solving (aside from figuring out how to take this blog to the next level)? What is it? Who has this problem? What are they doing now to solve it? How will this be better than that solution?

    I acknowledge that people talk a lot about ‘surfacing content’ or ‘keeping up with’ blogs and streams and what have you. I suppose I let serendipity do most of the work… Google reader has, for me, taken a back seat to the twitter stream. My favorite feature of Percolate is the daily email with a round-up of what’s getting talked about, but I find I’m rarely on-site and don’t use it as a sharing engine since it’s typical for me to have seen the content Percolate sends me beforehand…

    PSFK, Buzzfeed, HuffPo… Other aggregators and publishers… I keep vacillating between subscribing in Reader (and then forgetting to go there), or following them on Twitter (and then being annoyed when they seem to drown out the interesting conversations that take place in my stream). I’ve toyed with unfollowing those same sources in Percolate because I feel saturated by them and the people who mindlessly retweet anything by @Mashable or @PSFK.

    So my need for inspiration is real, but I don’t know how deep the pain is about the ways I get it now. And when I find something a creative partner might find useful or inspiring, I usually just email it to them with a little note and we have a chat that way. The lack of an archive or central space is a little annoying, but with search as a function of most email clients, you can always go find that thing again…

    And then there are so many tools that do parts of what you describe on an ad hoc basis… Basecamp, DropBox, Skype in shared screen mode, or even Google Hangouts – can be used to handle sharing content and ideas and data, and in brainstorming virtually.

    But on the other hand… I’ve played with HATCH – a shared creativity & inspiration board created by McKinney – and like it, but find getting other people on it to use it takes too much cajoling (my collaborators are mainly my clients and agency partners, so… They’re not always keen on new tools. Using dropbox is still a step too far for many of them). Facebook groups have been useful as it’s where a lot of people are already hanging out, reading, and sharing but then if it’s an agency team they make sure that group is private given client confidentiality. Google+ for certain circles of contacts has been great for in-depth discussions in the roundtable mold. But no one tool seems suited to everyone I come into contact with – at least on the sharing/collaboration side of the equation. I suppose this is why I attend so many workshops & meetings & conference calls. Sigh.

    And maybe on a more existential basis – can there be a ‘definitive’ source of inspiration? Does that sort of take the fun & serendipity out of feeling inspired, stumbling on an aha moment, discovering something you haven’t seen before, listening to a new point of view…? I’m not sure. Maybe I like my messy content feed because it’s messy. Maybe the chaos of it makes the connections I make between different ideas feel more like true inspiration.

    So maybe I’m not sure what the real problem to be solved here is… Would love to know more what started to spur your thinking in this direction.

    And then I’m not sure who the ‘creative community at large’ is. Is that people like us who are strategists and makers? Are these creative directors? Are they designers? All of the above? Is it people with particular mindsets or roles or interets or hobbies?

    I guess this is a long way round of asking a very Steve Blank/Eric Ries set of questions: Is there a real problem to be solved by this new engine such that people would be willing to substitute it for their current, perhaps piecemeal, solutions? Which people? What can you learn from them that can augment what you’ve clearly learned by observing how you use the sites & tools you mention?

  5. amber
    amber December 1, 2011 at 10:01 am .


    It’s interesting, because this is a great idea to stay on top of news and what’s happening in general, but like Farrah, I get stuck on a “definitive source” for inspiration.

    I feel like everyone getting inspiration from the same pool of stuff leads to similar output – most “creative” people would rather have super secret and fringe sources of inspiration, I think. Not sure if you’re coming across this now that you’re at an “ad agency” ;) like me, but when you’ve seen every idea pitched in it’s original form on Buzzfeed a week before, you start to realize that varied and random sources of inspiration are a good thing.

    I think one thing that would be awesome is an engine that showed you content that was LESS related to what you and your community consumes. Like a content exchange student program. ha. Not sure how or if that could work at all?

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