Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Crowd Knows - Good article on "A List Apart"

The Wisdom of Community


The web, with its low barrier to entry and permeable social boundaries, is the ultimate medium through which to explore the finer points of the wisdom of crowds.

You need a few things to enable online crowds to be wise.


Systems based on the Wisdom of Crowds can tackle surprisingly complicated projects, but each project must first be broken down to its simplest possible components.


One of the reasons discussions do not lead to wise results is that there’s no aggregation—the conversation just happens. But WOC systems are there to produce a result. This requires an aggregator (like you) and an algorithm.


A defining element of any WOC system is that the more participants it has, the better it gets. Discussion systems and chat rooms fall apart when too many voices get involved. If your community feature gets worse the more people use it, it’s not a WOC system.


It’s counter-intuitive, but the wisest crowds are the ones made up of individuals who are thinking about their own needs, not the needs of the group.


Leaderboards create a problem for Wisdom of Crowds systems. How you display the wisdom of your crowd can be as important as how you ask for it in the first place.

Explicit vs. implicit feedback

In working on your own WOC systems, pay attention to when you can glean implicit feedback without having to ask for it directly.

Wiser together than we would be alone

These aspects of the Wisdom of Crowds are just the start — there’s a lot more to learn. WOC systems must evolve: you’re never done. But done right, they can change the way we live online, and maybe make us all a little wiser.

About the Author

Derek Powazek Named one of the top 40 "Industry Influencers" of 2007 by Folio Magazine, Derek Powazek has worked the web since 1995 at pioneering sites like HotWired, Blogger, and Technorati. He is the author of Design for Community: The Art of Connecting Real People in Virtual Places (New Riders, 2001). Derek now splits his time between working as a consultant for HP Labs on MagCloud and editing Fray, the quarterly book of true stories and original art. Derek lives in San Francisco with his wife, two nutty Chihuahuas, a grumpy cat, and a house full of plants named Fred.

My Take

These natural principles hold for all types of crowds. Social media can become more effective at harnessing crowd wisdom by being adept at observing nature and being humble enough to mimic it.
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