Question: What is the best way to access Big Think’s content?
Victoria Brown: I think there are several ways.
First of all, if they know specifically the areas of interest to them, on the left hand side of the Home page we have a list of categories. So they go from Meta, which are the sort of broad topics that are not physical – like truth and wisdom, love and happiness – the type of things that have been left out of the general conversation, I think, of late, and we’re trying to bring that back into discourse.
And then the second portion of the site is the physical – so things that are sort of obvious like technology, business, medicine, that type of thing.
The user could look through the categories and click on those. Or on the Home page we have a list of four features in the top window that we’ve created based upon users. So it could be, “Is the American political system broken?” Features that we’ve sort of put together on specific topics with different people answering the same question, or speaking to the same subject.
One could also click on the Expert Network. There’s a tab which is at the top left now, and will be moving a little bit further up actually, which lists all the experts. So when you click on them, you’ll see a list of all of them that are up, and that will be growing daily.
Just by testing and looking around the site, you can work your way through it. But there is definite order to it.
Question: What is the biggest mistake a user could make?
Victoria Brown: I think the biggest mistake is by staying just on the Home page and not looking around, and also not joining the conversation. You asked for the biggest mistake. Maybe the biggest mistake is not joining the conversation.
I think that everybody’s opinion matters. And actually the way to catalyze change is to have everybody participate, and especially shy people who all too often don’t. And they really don’t have to participate in a way that is public, in that your face doesn’t have to be shown, or you don’t have to leave a video. You can do it by pictures, or audio, or text. Hopefully video is the way you’ll do it, but there is all manner of ways to participate. So there’s really no reason why people shouldn’t.
Question: Who writes the blog?
Victoria Brown: Well five of us write the blog – everybody who’s working on team Big Think – and basically it’s kind of a way to highlight some of the content we have on the site, and also to relate what’s going on in the daily news and daily world to what’s on our site; to show that they’re intertwined, and they are. And also it’s useful for us to figure out what’s going on in the news and see the stories that we should be following ourselves.
Question: What is a feature?
Victoria Brown: When you click on any category, there will be a feature in the top window. And it could be just one person answering a specific question, or it could be several--up to ten people talking about a specific topic area. And so a feature is, in essence, based upon a general theme or a question. And it’s portions of interviews that we have pulled out with people speaking to this theme or question. And it’s on a specific topic, so it’s usually quite short. They’re in between maybe 30 second to two minute responses, and so you can compare the way that people have answered the question.
So say, for instance, people speaking about what the big issues of the next election should be. You could what Mike Gravel has said, versus Peter Thiel, versus Larry Summers, versus Moby. And so you get to see people from very different walks of life talking about the same issue.
Question: What’s on the horizon?
Victoria Brown: Well I think something that is not evident now, and will be evident soon, is we have our own interview platform, which is to interview experts from afar. So if they’re in, say, Sweden and we’re here, instead of having to travel or them having to come here, we can actually interview them real time about their areas of expertise.
The Expert Network, in more finite subjects and more specific subjects, will be growing. So you’ll be able to come back and see doctors speaking about health matters. Or business people speaking about specific things going on in business. That will be much more tangible and real information that’s accessible in specific subject areas, rather than broad questions. That will be growing.
We’ll also still be maintaining the larger-themed content because that’s what a lot of people are interested in too.
The user participation will definitely be growing. And we’ll be listening to feedback from what users want and incorporating their ideas as well into that.
But in the immediate term, I see the Expert Network growing quickly, and also just more and more content on the site. And most importantly participation from the people who are coming to it.
Recorded on: January 2, 2008