Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Most Grateful Dead Songs Named in 30 Seconds

When I was a kid, The Guinness Book of Records (now Guinness World Records) was something we poured over. Some of the records were incredible, some outrageous, and some were, well, unbelievable. The reason we did believe them was, of course, because the Guinness organization seemed to have a rigorous set of rules with high standards of proof for each record set or broken.

Fast forward a few decades and enter the world as shaped by Wikipedia – the global encyclopaedia that is self-generating, self-monitoring, and self-healing. The result is crowd wisdom on an unprecedented scale and a fantastic example of how power has shifted to the people with a vengeance. Now thanks to one of Saatchi & Saatchi’s creatives, I have discovered The Universal Record Database. Not exactly a catchy name and not a place you’d expect to find Kevin Roberts, until you understand that this is the Guinness Book of Records meets Jackass meets Wikipedia. The site is still in BETA but its aspirations are enormous. It aspires to be nothing less than the definitive site for human achievement based on its belief that every person on earth has the potential to be the world’s best ‘something’. What your ‘something’ is depends on the limits of your imagination – and judging from the site so far, most people are not limited in that department. From the most mouse clicks in nine seconds to the most Grateful Dead songs named in 30 seconds, the records keep coming. Last time I looked, the top rated record was the Longest Sword Swallowed in Shark Infested Water. For your reference, it was 24 inches (61 centimetres).

Before you dismiss this as just a bunch of kids fooling around, let me say three things. First up, the site is sharp, all hyperlinks work, it’s easy to get around, you understand instantly what’s going on and how to participate. Try getting that on most brand websites. Second, the uptake has been huge. People want to come here and play. Why is the response so strong? Because URDB combines a fun experience with a chance to compete and throws in some old school aspiration. Try finding that in most brand offerings. Third, the principles of The Universal Record Database are simply brilliant. 1. Honesty and accuracy are pretty much everything, 2. Don't hurt yourself. Don't hurt others. Don't hurt the planet. 3. Waste sucks.

If I were running Guinness World Records, I’d be watching. Hard.