What the hell does a product-design site like Kluster have in common with a community-filtered news service like Digg? They both use vibrant communities of enthusiastic—and perhaps overly opinionated—people to make decisions. Kluster, only in its infancy, decided to put its main design service on hold, and use its crowd power to publish a daily newspaper from its new service, Knewsroom.
Knewsroom works like this: Members submit story ideas, which can be as basic as "Apple Introduces 3G iPhone." Then, people find stories around the web that they like, maybe one from Giz, one from Engadget and another from, let's say, Ars Technica. Readers vote on the stories they like, but if someone doesn't like any, they are free to write their own, possibly combining those three sources for a better overall story. (As if.) The final product is a daily Knewspaper that runs only the biggest crowd pleasers, and the Knewsroom writer, if one is selected, gets paid for services rendered.
You may say, "That doesn't sound like Digg," and in truth, this once-per-day concept isn't very Digg-like. But if you belong to the community, you'll be seeing the popular stories rise and fall day in and day out, just like they do on Digg. Then, people with less time or maybe just better perspective will hit the daily site, to see what the top stories are and then get on with their actual bona fide lives.
The funny thing is, this all came from a guy who wanted to use the collaboration to create gadgets. Ben Kaufman—who at 21 is so much younger than me it's embarrassing—has already sold one company that was successful at doing just this: it was called Mophie, and now it's a part of mStation, an exotic iPod accessory product maker.
Ben wanted Kluster to be an expanded Mophie, a place where companies could go to find design inspiration for whatever they were trying to build—iPod docks, sunglasses, board games, you name it. It worked almost like a massive sim game—you bet on various ideas at various stages of development, and if your idea wins, you get a piece of the bounty offered by the client companies. That's right, you got real money.
The downsides were that the companies who most liked the service wanted it on their own terms, and a site with a broad mission to design anything and everything with a massive, nebulous volunteer workforce was hard to manage. As a result, Kluster pulled down its initial infrastructure, and is in the process of building mini Klusters for companies. It will also launch specific Kluster "labs" for specific product categories. Ben thinks a more focused studio breeds better and faster decisions.
It's all pretty crazy, and I don't blame you if it's hard to follow along. But what's important is that you go there, because shit, someone's got to start submitting those Gizmodo stories, and if it's not you, then who, baby, who? [Knewsroom]