Thursday, January 10, 2008


You may have seen the story in the Times the other day about BigThink - here it is.

What is BigThink? As the Times put it, its a web site that "...mixes interviews with public intellectuals from a variety of fields, from politics, to law to business, and allows users to engage in debates on issues like global warming and the two-party system. It plans to add new features as it goes along, including a Facebook-like application for social networking..." The founder of the site is cited in the article as seeing BigThink as a potential source of original material for college students doing research.

What are folks on BigThink saying about philanthropy? There's a flash video of Pete Peterson, Senior Chairman of the Blackstone Group, former Federal Reserve Bank member, member of the Nixon Administration, and author, discussing the following proposition, "The rich owe a debt to society." There are places for responses - from you, or me, or anyone. You can easily rate the discussions, link them to your Facebook pages, or bookmark them. It is a bit of "blog of blogs," with initial content and provocations presented in flash video. In this way it reminds me a little bit of the LongBets prediction site, except you're not betting or predicting, just discussing.

Or will we discuss, as compared to rate, vote or predict? What is notable to me on the BigThink site are the easy "ratings", "Agree/Disagree" buttons....Is this because we'd rather simply give something thumbs up or down than discuss it? Is it because we just love to vote? Love to bet - good, bad, be my American Idol? Is it something about us and how we talk to each other, or is it something about this kind of asynchronous media? Will these tools turn a platform for conversation and thinking into a prediction market? Are prediction markets spreading? I loved this story about the lunchtime betting at Google, a series of prediction market opportunities (currency of exchange: Goobles) that turned out to be an undercover economics research project on information flow. Alright, I've wandered away from the topic of BigThink and philanthropy...or have I? The purpose here? Keeping my eye on developments that influence how we give, think and learn about giving, institutionalize or accelerate or improve giving...Is BigThink that? I don't know, but I'm watching. *

So on philanthropy at least, there is not much being said, yet on BigThink, but there could be. Can we get a conversation going? Head on over, agree or disagree, add your thoughts, and check it out. You needn't be a BigThinker to become one - you can offer up your own ideas and get a conversation started that way.

*And I also found a potential first 2008 buzzword in this exploration. Drumroll, please...microgeography. Which feels a lot like last year's opener, hyperlocal.... But I'm not ready to call it 08's first until I start hearing about microgeographies of giving....

DISCLOSURE: I am the executive producer of The Giving Channel on I am not affiliated with BigThink.

1 comment:

Drew said...

If you like Big Think (mentioned above), you should check out another newly launched site,

Although lacking video content of famous academics, has a much more thorough engagement with intellectual ideas. The site includes comprehensive blogs of Harvard courses, including Social Thought in Modern America and another extraordinarily popular class, called Justice. The site also includes in-depth annotations of great works of literature, philosophy, and history with an innovative linking system.