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Blog Launches: Does It Pass Clay Shirky’s 3 Rule Test?, David Cohn’s innovative site to help fund journalism projects via crowdfunding, launches today. Here is the idea in four bullet points:

  • People submit tips
  • Journalists pitch stories
  • People fund pitches or journalists to do the stories
  • Stories are reported

Clay Shirky in his book Here Comes Everybody (Chapter 11), lays out three rules for successful social action sites like this to work. All three rules must fuse together to have a chance for success :

  1. Is there a plausible promise? — Why would anyone want to join? In the plausible promise is that you can help fund important journalism that might not otherwise get done. So for me passes point one.
  2. Are the tools effective? — Will the tools at the site make effective collaboration possible or at least manageable? Will the tools help people approach the promise together? At you find a story you like and you push a button and contribute, just as you would at Kiva. It’s very easy to understand and simple to use. So for me passes rule number two.
  3. Is there an acceptable bargain with the users? — What is expected of the user and are the returns to the user enough to make the user want to participate? Will people help underwrite journalism before they see it? Will the stories have enough value to users that people will want to try it out and then keep coming back? That’s the key question for the success of Cohn’s experiment.

Lots of the story ideas that get posted will not get funded, but that is okay. The key is to have enough out there that people have some choices. The best ideas get funded, the others wilt away — at least that’s the plausible promise.  It’s like Meetup. Many group ideas are posted, a few stick and people find worth in them. Will be as successful as Stay tuned, but one thing is certain this Knight News Challenge winner is  an important experiment worth watching.

Update: As pointed out by Brendan in the comments, in full disclosure, I am an unpaid, volunteer advisor to But what I write here is not seen first by the folks at It is exactly what I would have written directly to them but went publically with it here, although I had advance notice that the site was going live. Thanks Brendan for the pointing out my oversight.

5 Responses to “ Launches: Does It Pass Clay Shirky’s 3 Rule Test?”

  1. Brendan Says:

    Should you disclose that you’re listed on as being on the board of advisors?

  2. Leonard Witt Says:

    Hi Brendan:

    Yes, I should and I am on the advisory board, which means I take a look at the site occasionally and send feedback, probably much less frequently than David would like. It is a volunteer position for which I receive no compensation. But yes I should have said I am on the advisory board.

  3. Brendan Says:

    Thanks for the clarification, Leonard.

  4. Grayson Says:


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