collaboration matchmaking service

I recently attended Contact, a conference dedicated to exploring how ‘the evolution will be social’. As usual I spent much of my time talking & tweeting about how media arts has been innovating in technology & social networks for years. Sure I’m biased, but I have participated in some great collaboration models & I’m convinced media arts has a lot to offer current and future idea/product development in many sectors.

At the Bazaar (a kind of lunchtime trade fair) I presented my latest project, which might not aim to change the whole world, but certainly has a few strong ideas about our creative spaces. During these conversations I inevitably found myself talking about the work I have been doing with the Australia Council for the Arts in the last couple of years. In particular, I kept coming back to the Geek in Residence model that I developed to support arts/technology evolution through collaboration.

The ‘unconference’ style of the day created space for us to propose our own topics for discussions. I posted a session about creating guidelines for artistic collaborations with other sectors. I wasn’t sure how arts focused the delegates were, but a handful of people turned up (from both arts & other sectors) & we started some good discussion about models of best/worst collaborative practice.

The final session was to be decided by group vote. All ideas from the day’s discussions could be put forward to this final stage if you made a commitment to follow up with real actions. At first I didn’t see how ‘guidelines for collaboration’ could work as an actual project. But then I realised that a ‘collaboration matchmaking service’ was a much needed resource that I have really been working towards for many years. So I put my commitment behind the idea & added it to the selections. To my amazement it got enough support to make the final four & as a group we pushed the concept forward into the shape you can see below. HUGE thanks to everyone who joined both the discussions & added your red dots!

It probably goes without saying that this is VERY early stages of idea development, despite being something I’ve been thinking about for years. I’m very excited that now is the time to actually build it. If you want to get involved, email or comment below. Remember this is all totally work-in-progress… nothing below is set in stone, just throwing out ideas and discussions to kickstart thinking!


A collaboration matchmaking service bringing artists and geeks together with other sectors.

Collaboration is amazing… when done right. But getting it right is hard. You need the right kind of people with the right kind of expectations, respect and understanding for each others systems, processes and language.

This service aims to match your needs with the skills of the people who will openly collaborate to provide them.

Why me?

As someone who bridges arts/technology/business/etc I have always enjoyed networking and introducing people who I feel would work well together. I thrive on collaboration and despite having lead many projects I prefer to ‘lead from behind’ and allow the group to take control (and therefore ownership) of that project and process.

One of these processes resulted in a pilot project which has been running at The Australia Council for the Arts for the last couple of years – Geek in Residence. The idea there was to help arts organisations recognise the opportunities that technology could provide by placing a suitable geek (in this context defined as ‘artistically confident technician or technically confident artist’) in a subsidised placement. This encourages grassroots innovation & skills development and supports both the media artists/technicians as consultant/trainer/mentors/etc as well as the arts organisations working out what they need to know in this space.

As the creator/manager of that program, it was my job to find the geeks and frame their relationships with their hosts. I guess my role as a ‘collaboration matchmaker’ officially started there.

I see this project/product being useful in the first instance to artists & technical people looking to collaborate, but once it’s established as a workable model I would imagine it could apply to any sector/context (given some appropriate thought/tweaking).


  • Can a digital matching process replicate the human process I provided personally, or does there need to be some kind of digital AND human interface in the process?
  • How would such a human/digital interface manifest, especially given the anticipated international reach of the community?
  • Given that many collaborative projects are experimental and generally therefore unfunded, how do you create value in an under-resourced cultural economy?


  • Decentralised/distributed networks – given we’re now far more interconnected regardless of geography or culture, how do we help people to find each other so they can make good things happen?
  • Cultural economies – helping to build creative/cultural economic growth by connecting collaborative people, regardless of what country you’re in. This is the cash-based economic model with a financial return-on-investment.
  • Gift economies – creating support networks more like barter/LETS/time banking/p2pgiftcredit schemes to augment the cash-based economic model. This is more like trading skills/services to help people find the right collaborator for a startup/pilot etc & ensuring a fair return-on-effort. So as a member if you collaborate well on a project then your partners can gift you extra credit bundles (more thinking on this below).
  • Geek Speed Dating – a process designed to help arts orgs & creative geeks find/talk to each other.
  • Ranking systems – ebay, OKcupid, etc.


  • We want a trusted network, but how do you build trust in a social media platform? Probably the best way is referrals, like a peer-reviewed model, so you get nominated by people who have worked with you before. This was discussed briefly at the conference and there were some concerns about peer review working well… so this is just an idea at this stage. Suggestions/comments/existing models all appreciated.


  • Skills
  • Personalities
  • Geographic location
  • The time/duration you can commit to
  • Ethical standpoint – what issues do you want to actively support or won’t go near? How far would you go, where are the deal-breakers?


  • Website/app with member profiles.
  • API links from other social spaces (Facebook, Diaspora, G+, LinkedIn, etc etc) that ‘bump up’ your reputation without reinventing the wheel.
  • API links to those other spaces so your other networks can see your ‘collaboration value’ (a bit like Klout only more directly targeted to your collaboration skills). NB of course both the APIs in/out will also help spread the word of the site/collaboration network.
  • Pitch space – here’s my project, here’s the roles/skills/mindset I need.
  • Algorithm (possibly with some kind of human interface stage) to match potential collaborators with potential projects.
  • Human facilitation role to broker between the partners and set concrete roles/responsibilities/tasks/timelines/returns (whether cash/credit) leading to contracting and possible revenue share agreements (aka ‘metrics & reputation’).
  • Marketing/word-spreading on these open collaboration calls to the international community. Could be crowdshared like Amway / where the people sharing the message are rewarded with extra gift credits. Or auto-generated QR codes.

Add-on services

These could either charge a fee or take a cut of any revenue/credit output.
  • A designated human ‘account manager’, to act as time/project manager to help the project come to fruition. This person as an outsider to the team could assign credit rewards/penalties based on the positive/negative actions of each of the partners over the course of the project.
  • Legal advice/support to ensure that (regardless how open fluid and lovely the partners are) any agreements are legally binding in all relevant countries and designed for the greater good of the individuals and the successful outcome of the project.
  • Business development advice and support service.

Financial models for members

  • Founders gift contributions – considering the ‘gift economy’ model and wanting to start small & controlled to prove the concept, we discussed maybe the founder members receiving a larger chunk of the gift credits as an incentive – you could practice what the site as a whole is preaching and in doing so end up as a gift-billionaire.
  • Memberships – sign up for free, if you get a project selected then you can choose to ‘invest’ in that project via donating your time. (someone suggested ‘donating the use of your beach house as a place to meet/brainstorm or just as an exchange value’… but I don’t know anyone with a beach house!).
  • Successful teams could be connected to Kickstarter/Indiegogo/etc platforms as a space for ongoing investment in their projects, given that they wil have already built a potential audience/market. If the service makes revenue then some of that could be apportioned into grant-giving/credit reward systems.
  • Shareholder community – all members in a given year automatically become ‘shareholders’ and so receive a dividend of any profits (either cash or gift style) generated by the community. This could get complicated with scale, so maybe introduce a ‘bump-shareholder’ scheme which encourages activity by competition – so there can only be x shareholders a year and your activity within the community bumps you up/down a list of potential recipients (ref Jonah Brucker Cohen’s Bumplist & Bump_Net).

Financial models for this service

  • Crowdsourced funding – we got some kind of support from IndieGogo to help us run a campaign so I’ll look in to that and see what that means.
  • See above re the initial team to develop the site/service.
  • While I want this to be all positive in a cultural economy sense (see above models) there would also need to be some kind of revenue to help the service build/sustain… so maybe a percentage on the project (like Kickstarter/indiegogo) or just relying on selling add-ons like the business/legal support. Not sure about this yet.


  • Potential markets – who would be included in the initial pilot scope? All artists or just digital savvy ones like media artists? All technologists or just creatively focused ones? My world is media arts and that’s where my networks/knowledge and soul sits, but this isn’t just about me…
  • Similar models / ‘matching algorithms’ – I see this more like a dating site than a traditional employment site (because collaboration is often more about personality than skill), so perhaps looking toward places like OK Cupid or other independent dating services for existing models of digital matching.
  • Collaboration models – residencies, labs, internships, great project teams, etc. Build educational resources to help members know what works/doesn’t and what to expect from a good collaboration partnership.


  • Commitment – a few people on the day added stickers to ‘vote’ this as one of the final four projects. Are you there? Do you (or anyone) want to commit to working on this? I sure can’t do this on my own!