In O’Reilly’s core Web 2.0 strategies, there is a focus on leveraging the knowledge of the crowds. The Harnessing Collective Intelligence pattern is focused on developing content that can be leveraged to the strategic advantage of an individual or organisation. There is a clear focus on producing reliable and correct data from the knowledge of experts out on the Internet. Looking around the Internet, there are a lot of examples of collective intelligence; Google Docs, crowdsourcing via Twitter and suggestion engines such as Last.fm and Urbanspoon, but none mentioned really do much in the way of building the global village.
This is where LiveMocha comes in. LiveMocha is a social language learning platform, where the users are both students and teachers. All of the courses hosted on LiveMocha are written and maintained by the community; even interactive writing and speaking “exam” submissions are checked and assessed by native speakers in the community.
The LiveMocha experience has myriad positive factors making it a viable way to learn a language online – course content is produced by experts peers, and is checked by other course experts. Users learning a language are supported by users who are experts in the language and can actively contribute to content. There is a focus on users helping users in both cases. As the user base and active contribution accelerates, more languages and quality content becomes available, increasing application value, which is likely to attract more users, magnifying and multiplying the effect.
Users are invited to use the service and actively participate through multiple channels, encouraging growth and customer loyalty. An account on the service is free (lowering the barrier to entry), an account is designed to be social and courses are mostly free. For users acting as experts (the language teachers), there is a point reward or cash reward system for their teaching, and this is linked to feedback from student users as to the quality of their teaching. This implicitly creates an environment where good content and better teachers are rewarded and recognised more, improving content quality.
The only real negative for LiveMocha is that the quality of a course comes back to the quality and knowledge of contributions. The quality and accuracy of each course’s content comes back to the number and quality of contributors available to develop and approve content; its all tied back to the network effect.
Overall, LiveMocha is quite unique. The service deals with a topic which is uniquely innate to a global audience, and leverages the knowledge of its users well. The number, coverage and quality of course, while considerable now, will continue to grow as the active user base grows. It will be exciting to trial this product over a longer period of time to see if it is completely feasible to learn a language solely online using collective intelligence.