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Books & Articles I wrote.

Sunday, August 07, 2005


Wisdom of Crowds

When i read the reviews for this book, there was a mixture of excellent and provoking to confusing and lack of substance. My view is that it is somewhere between the two, perhaps deliberately.

I actually see this book from two angles. The first is as the framework or basis of an idea that can be currently understood and which you may even start to take advantage of in your products, services and everyday politics and so on. The second is as a basis for research into the area of collective intelligence as laid out in the book.

If you want answers, then this book may well prove to be confusing as sometimes i got the idea he had some concept of what could be true, had some ideas on where the answers could emerge from, but ultimately decended into some confusing and contradictory stories that sometimes could be a little confusing. However, from a research point of view, which to be honest is half what i expected from it, it makes YOU start to think about the implications of some of his discussions.

However, some of the basic ideas are excellent and i felt the first half of the book was excellent reading and the second half had some useful ideas and stories that often helped solidify the ideas of how crowds work. Some of it is really hard to believe at times, but the back up of research, experiments and even thoughts on past events make it much more believable. In fact the fact you DO find it hard to believe is possibly part of the point of the book - sometimes our individual biases contribute to negative individual decisions, which can be balanced out across a crowd of independent thinkers!

Also, he puts significant emphasis on aggregation which is something I am in complete agreement on. You can have as many independent thinkers in a crowd, but if there net views cannot be aggregates, then no real answer an be given. He does cite Google as a positive example which is where i have a slight difference in opinion - i don't believe Google aggregates distributed independent thinking. Half the time you get spam link, or the information you want is 25 pages from the start. However, I believe what something like Google will become, whereby true aggregation of real independent views is done, could be very successful. Wikis are maybe a starting point in this sense!

If i had a single negative thing to say it would be that the book doesn't finish very strongly or really offer "take away" conclusions - instead you get a chapter on US democracy which for me in the UK wasn't particularly interesting - even putting myself in the shoes of someone who lived in the States, i feel it would be a very small minority who read that chapter who may find it useful (rather than a little confusing and haphazard).

All in all, i'd say make sure you read this one. Don't look for answers, look for ideas. It has got me thinking and i expect it will change how some of my product ideas and the things that go on around me are perceived.

Now onto Blink.

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