Homer Simpson climbed out of a television set on the second floor of Lewis Hall, walked down the stairs, strolled onto Flagler College campus and asked the first person he saw, “Hey, where can I get a beer?”

A Million Penguins, launched Feb. 1, 2007
Goal: A Single Narrative. The question: Can a community write a novel?

Reaction: “The man was clearly mad! No rules? It would never work! You may as well get penguins to write a novel!”

  • 10 hits a second for the first few days
  • Nearly 1,500 people contributed to the writing and editing
  • 75,000 people visited the site; more than 280,000 page views

Photo: Satan's Laundromat


  • Rewrote sections of the wiki-novel along a banana-based theme.
  • Example: In one scene, describing someone getting stabbed with a “stiletto knife,” Bananaman changed it to “a sharpened sliver of banana.”
  • The completed novel features a banana version.
  • Photo: The Daily Tube

What organizers learned

  • There never was a single narrative thread
  • The output was massive: 1,031 pages
  • Dominant themes: Freedom, opportunity, challenge, generosity and fun
  • “Not the most read, but possibly the most written novel in history.”

Other examples of crowdsourcing

  • Beastie Boys. Concert movie, “Awesome, I Fu*kin’ Shot That!” Fifty fans with Hi8 cameras shot it.
  • Blogs and social networking are the foundation of the site.
  • Prints T-shirts with designs submitted to its Web site. It expected to earn $20 million in earnings in 2007.
  • Second Life. Residents of this online world spend more than 22,500 hours on the site every day, stocking the virtual world with everything from giant tree houses to ninja armor.
  • Zazzle. Users submit designs and the company puts them on mugs, posters and shirts. If other people like your design and order your product, you get a cut.
  • Lego. Customers design robot operating systems and more.
  • John Fluevog Shoes. Fans of the shoes submit their own designs. So far, 10 customer-created designs are in production.

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