The energy of the crowd

Brian Lehrer’s show on WNYC radio is releasing the results of its second effort to mobilize its audience to report. The last time, it was counting SUVs. This time it’s more useful: The show assigned its audience to go out and report back the price of three commodities where they shop: milk, beer, and iceberg lettuce. Jim Colgan, one of the show’s producers, just emailed me the results and they’ll be discussing them Monday morning. Jim writes:

We got over 350 contributions and we’ve mapped all the prices on our site. When the show page goes live in the morning, you’ll be able to click on the icons for any of the items and see the price, the name of the store, the address, and the listener’s comment. Here are the top line numbers based on what our listeners reported:

Most expensive milk: Crown Heights, Brooklyn (2.99 for a quart)
Least expensive place for milk: Gravesend, Brooklyn (99 cents for a quart)

Most expensive place to get beer (6 pack of Budweiser): Greenport, NY (14.99)
Least expensive place for beer: Redhook Fairway (4.49)

Most expensive place to get lettuce (iceberg): Tribeca (3.49)
Least expensive for lettuce: Wayne, NJ (0.79)

: UPDATE: Just got followup email from Jim saying that they pulled the segment before today because some of the numbers didn’t sound right. This is, indeed, an issue with crowdsourced reporting. I think one needs to get to a critical mass of data such that data confirm data and the outliers are either good stories or should be checked or sometimes ignored. Lessons to be learned.