In a sense, what Worldchanging does very well is detect and amplify those weak signals of positive change that are quietly spiking around the world, obscured by the noise of everyday news. Despite all our technology and collaboration, though, this work is still primarily done by individuals; like Athena, posts here spring full-grown from the heads of the contributors.
But what if this was different? Two relatively new software technologies are trying to automate the process of weak signal detection, creating collaboration tools specifically designed to help groups aggregate their insights about world events into a shared mental map.
DIANE, developed by the futurist Arlington Institute, is a software tool designed for intelligence analysts to detect trends, share information, and test hypotheses about world events. It cobbles together a number of intelligent search tools, mixes in collaboration capability, and adds an element of data visualization to take analysts from monitoring the environment to modeling the implications of event outcomes.
Strategy Signals, from Finnish consultancy Fountain Park, is a business-oriented software tool that aggregates individual opinions on world events into a shared dashboard interface that makes it easy to see commonalities, pick out anomalies, and track these collective opinions over time.
While these two technologies are currently being developed exclusively for constituencies who can pay for them the intelligence and business communities that doesn't mean that they have found their end market or largest base of users, it just means those groups are subsidizing the development of collaborative technologies that an expanded second superpower can eventually co-opt, either conceptually or literally. I suspect it won't be long before these weak signal detection tools are ripped from their initial applications, mixed with the interests of other sectors, and burned into the usage patterns of interested groups everywhere.
good catches, Chris.
Perhaps we actually are seeing ultra-weak signal catchers already in the mainstream Internet--with del.icio.us in particular, and flickr. The downside to both is that they're all about taxonomies for pre-loaded content, so to speak, and only on the web.