Web startup reinventing Wiki? Well, sort of

Web startup reinventing Wiki? Well, sort of 

Techno File: Erika D. Smith
July 8, 2007

People seem to have a visceral reaction to Wikipedia.

They either love it or they hate it. The haters have good reason to hate. The online encyclopedia with content supplied by tens of thousands of anonymous users isn't always a bastion of accurate information. Sometimes the information is just flat-out wrong. Other times, like the entry that stated WWE wrestler Chris Benoit's wife, Nancy, had died — posted hours before police found her body last month — the information is just befuddling. Many, many things on Wikipedia are accurate.But slip-ups here and there without quick clean-ups have tarnished the idea of doing legitimate research on the Web. Wikipedia is a poster child.
A Fishers man and three other entrepreneurs are trying to change that. They want to return credibility to online research via their startup company, Mindback.
Many Web services, from Google to ChaCha to Wikipedia to LexisNexis, have marketed themselves as tools to filter the Web and turn up exactly what users are seeking. It remains to be seen if Mindback will stand out. The company is in "gathering mode" and won't have any clients to tout for about a year.
Still, the concept is pretty cool and a tad different. It works like this:
Experts exist on just about any topic — whether they are academics doing research at a university or employees studying a subject at a Fortune 500 company.
Mindback wants them to share their expertise, in the form of written reports, for a profit.
Once reports are submitted to http://mindback.com, schools, governments, health-care organizations and businesses can buy them. In exchange, Mindback and the experts split the profits each time a report is sold.
Mindback is not talking thousands of dollars, like those that market research firms sell online. The company is thinking $50 or $100.
"It's a win-win," said Kevin Talbot, Fishers, a principal for Mindback. "They're compensated for their knowledge. People who need that knowledge have access to it in a very affordable way.
"We're going to analyze anything that comes in," he added, "so it has to have merit and has to have value."
Assuming the company can get some experts to buy into the idea, the company will have more accurate information than Wikipedia, but the scope of topics will be narrower.
Search Mindback a year from now, and you're more likely to find a case study on how RFID (radio-frequency identification technology) can improve safety at schools.
Consumers: I'm with you. I would roll my eyes at the usefulness of Mindback, too.
But for cash-strapped city councils and school boards, this kind of database of experts could come in handy. Imagine finding a council in a comparable city that already has done the legwork of testing out a proposed program or product. Imagine the time and money having that information would save.
"People have gone through experiences that someone else might not need to go through again," said Talbot, an information technology business analyst and consultant by day. "There's power in leveraging and collaboration, instead of always just kind of reinventing the wheel."

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