News & Views
Crowdsourcing meets eavesdropping

We are living in the era of the livetweet. In the beginning, we would just text our friends or post random thoughts during the latest episode of Game Of Thrones. But our love affair with social media has now progressed to the point where we are narrating our day to day interactions to an audience of acquaintances and strangers alike.

Take romance, for example. Who hasn’t rattled out a quick update and sent it off to their followers while their date is queuing for more drinks at the bar? Then there are those golden moments where you stumble across someone in your timeline who is providing a play-by-play account of the break-up occurring on the table next to them at Starbucks. Sure, the ethics are questionable and the entire phenomenon is voyeuristic as hell, but that doesn’t prevent us from lapping it up.

Lauren McCarthy has created an app to enhance this experience, by transforming the narrative into a two way street. Crowdpilot lets you broadcast your first date, work meeting, or stilted party conversation, and ask people for advice on how to proceed. “Crowdpilot lets you crowdsource your conversations by inviting a group of people to listen in and give you suggestions in real time,” she says.

McCarthy has a vision of a world where there are no awkward silences and everybody has the perfect opening gambit: “I see the possibility of having this networked hivemind that weighs in on your decisions, like having a ‘wingman’ in the bar.”

Of course, there are those among us who will be less than eager to receive unsolicited advice from anyone who feels like offering it; after all, that’s what besties and meddling aunts are for, right? There has already been a backlash against Crowdpilot on Twitter, with people branding the app “creepy” and “manipulative”. And it is certainly true that if you leave your settings open to anyone, then you run the risk of getting some un-curated, potentially inappropriate recommendations. As McCarthy notes; “the general public is a mixed bag.”

There’s no denying that the crowdsourced conversation concept has potential, even if some of the privacy-related kinks need ironing out. Says McCarthy: “Will it make us more connected or turn us into total robots? We’re trying to make people directly confront these questions. Maybe you’ll think it’s terrifying. Or maybe you’ll find it’s actually kind of wonderful and fun.”

Still, I think I’ll be flying solo on my next date. If I’m truly stuck for conversation topics, I’ll Google some knock knock jokes.

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