The World Economic Forum wanted to tap into the power of YouTube in an attempt to become more transparent, more open, and more democratic. Unfortunately, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The World Economic Forum – a gathering of influential people and world leaders in Davos, Switzerland – has garnered the reputation of being a bit of a closed door venue. It’s an invitation only event and isn’t open to the public. That is, until the World Economic Forum turned to YouTube.
Starting last year, the World Economic Forum opened it’s (virtual) doors by allowing anyone to submit their thoughts to Davos. It was a good idea, but their first start had a lot to be improved upon. I had written about it on this blog when it happened – I was really excited at the idea, but was disappointed with the original execution.
This year, it seemed that the World Economic Forum had learned from its first run and was coming back stronger than ever. Instead of just submitting videos that were to be spliced into a clip show, one lucky person was to be flown to Davos to interact with those attending. And best of all? The YouTube community would help pick the winner.
Unfortunately, I was left with an overwhelming sense of déjà vu and disappointment. Click the jump to find out why.
According to the rules, 30% of the evaluation was to be based on “YouTube Popularity” (that is number of views, ratings, and what the average rating is). Another 30% was to be based on “overall originality and creativity” with the final 40% being whether or not the video offered “tangible solutions”. All of this had to be done in under 180 seconds.
I decided to make a new video for this event. The question I chose to answer was the one about politics: “Will an Obama Administration Improve the State of the World in 2009?”. To answer this question I pulled together footage from Bangladesh, from Canada, and from Barack Obama’s ancestral home not far from Kisumu, Kenya. This was going to be a hugely original video in both breadth and scope.
After I got this video edited and online, what happened next blew me away. There was a huge international groundswell of support to try and get this video as popular as possible. Friends from around the corner to across the the Atlantic were sharing this video. School teachers from half way around the world in Dhaka, Shanghai, and elsewhere were posting the link on their school intranets in the hopes of getting their students to support this video.
In less than a week this video got over 7,000 views, over 700 positive ratings, and over 500 comments of support and encouragement. This, by far, was the most popular and most democratically supported video about the World Economic Forum. Yet, alas, this video was not picked as the winner. And, worst of all, it was not even included in their clip show. Most confusing of all was that the winning video had little (if any) community support from YouTube.
I wrote to the World Economic Forum asking how this decision was made. In their reply, they hinted that I had lost because of a lack of originality and proposing a solution. I was kind of surprised. Given all that I tried to mention in my video, a lot of the finer details were left on the cutting room floor. This begs the question, why limit us to three minutes if extensive detail is important? A 3 minute video is less than 1/3rd of what YouTube allows as the maximum length for a video.
I can’t help but feel that the World Economic Forum dropped the ball on this once again. This could have been a real exercise in online democracy. Instead, given this particular winner, we find that public opinion and input didn’t really matter. Given that open nature of this debate/contest – this could have been a really transparent judging process. Instead, the winner was chosen in secret with little to no rationale or explanation. Finally, this could have been a really great opportunity to have insightful, detailed, and thoughtful contributions. But the arbitrary time limit meant even the most succinct of us had to cut back.
It seems that the more the World Economic Forum tries to change – the more it stays the same.