Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Birth of a Crowds Nation

In The Wisdom of Crowds, one of those formula books that populate our Zeitgeist, Surowiecki suggests that agents Mulder and Scully were actually right: the truth is, indeed, out there. Moreover, there's a way, although long and cumbersome, to get to that truth, using You! and You! and You! and You! and…You! In other words, the truth is out there, and the out there is no other than - the Crowds.

Through a series of examples, Surowiecki clarifies the concept of Crowds - a large number of uncoordinated individuals expressing their beliefs and/or performing their acts in a pressure-free context. Crowds are not to be mistaken with Groups: while the former conceptually preserves the independence of the individual, the latter destructs and erases any traces of individuality, in favor of a unified group synthesis. Therefore, the outcome of a Group cannot be predetermined; some groups yield excellent results, while many others bring catastrophes, as Surowiecki nicely demonstrates. Crowds, on the other hand, being an unbiased assemblage of independent individuals, will more often than not succeed in understanding reality and in producing successful outcomes - the absolute opposite of what the word crowd usually connotes.

In the Web2.0 era, the internet has become crowded, the Blogosphere being the place where the crowds are hanging around. Individual and uncoordinated blogs, images, videos and podcasts have emerged, seriously challenging the traditional mediums, the traditional media.

And their attitudes towards newspapers are especially alarming. Only 9 percent describe us as trustworthy, a scant 8 percent find us useful, and only 4 percent of respondents think we’re entertaining. Among major news sources, our beloved newspaper is the least likely to be the preferred choice for local, national or international news going forward. What is happening is, in short, a revolution”, Rupert Murdoch (before acquiring MySpace).

Wikipedia and Linux are two more flagrant examples of a fantastic uncoordinated achievement that have become a pain in the neck of their traditional counterpart (such as Britannica and proprietary O/Ses). And even the so far protected territories of the heavy lords, i.e. the banking industry, have seen the crowds adopting creative ways to circulate money from an individual to an individual without having the banks as go-betweens, Grameen Bank and Zopa being two examples for such Crowds Banking.
"Grameen Bank has reversed conventional banking practice by removing the need for collateral and created a banking system based on mutual trust, accountability, participation and creativity"
Trust, participation and creativity: the web2.0 equivalent for Liberty, equality, fraternity. Should the old monarchs rest in peace or do something about those Crowds?

(Click the play button twice)

Clearly, businesses can no longer pretend that all is well, and if you read the Cluetrain Manifesto (each revolution should have its manifesto), you'd see that at least from the Crowds' perspective it's the End of Business as Usual. The 95 thesis that open the Manifesto, communicate simple and unequivocal messages, such as:

1. People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors.

2. There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products.

3. In just a few more years, the current homogenized "voice" of business—the sound of mission statements and brochures—will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court [
I am loudly protesting here: "with all due respect", 18th century French court language is better than the "voice" of business in any possible aspect! this article should be rewritten in future editions]

4. Companies that assume online markets are the same markets that used to watch their ads on television are kidding themselves.

In simple words: it's the end of the marketing bullshit, and the end of FUD (Theoretically. In practice, both IBM and Oracle, for example, are still using insulting marketing brochures and even more insulting FUD campaigns. But let's not ruin the good spirit we were getting at...).
It's the beginning of a new era where we have succeeded to emerge as a wise crowd to which the vendors, the corporates, the government - all the controllers - must listen.

The following piece of audio shows how the language has changed to reflect this paradigm shift. It's an excerpt from a Q&A session between Dave Winer and the participants of the BloggerCon IV unconference (unconference is a deconstructed term made up by Winer [probably], indicating "a conference which is not a conference", like Alice's un-birthday. It is the minimal form / format / structure required in order to gather a bunch of uncoordinated, pressure-free individuals: there's no agenda, only a general topic, the agenda being set-up by volunteers on the day of the event. Vendor's reps (i.e. Group's representatives) are naturally banned out (unless, of course, they are willing to become pressure-free individuals again).

Attendee – it's too passive, hence participant, the active individual, daring to know, daring to take part in what had turned to be The Participation Age.

In the next post(s) I'll describe how the Crowds' bone has been removed from the Corporates' throat, to the great satisfaction of everybody involved.

This is the 1st post in the Crowds' series: The birth of a crowds nation, New Flatland, Participate (please!) and Share (please!), Smile! You've just been CrowdSourced


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