Monday, November 19, 2007

wikinomics and why I should say less and ask more

Over at the Freakonomics blog, Steven Levitt explains why he prefers to tackle a small part of a question and answer well, rather than take on the whole thing and die trying.

It's a wonderfully simple point, but it struck a chord with me, because when I first started posting on this blog I would compose epic articles, unable - and perhaps unwilling - to leave a side-note unexplored.
The result would be (A) The article would still have holes because I had limited time and expertise to do a good job and (B) No one would join the conversation because I seemed to be having the conversation all by myself.

This is not the way the world should work.
Noah, on the other hand, is an ambassador for how it should work. He starts a conversation - and I suspect holds back from filling in gaps that he's more than capable of filling - in order to prompt group participation. The result is a rich and organic tapestry of input that, while fragmented, is a much more compelling read (and importantly, not only a 'read') than the ramblings of one person. Look out for phase two of his and Piers' Likemind, which will hopefully take this thinking to new heights.

This kind of mass collaboration could become an agency model of the future. I'm certain of it. Someone just needs to work out how to best organise such fragmented input into a valuable product. I presume that Wikinomics will explore this in much greater depth, but it's still on my bookshelf and I haven't started it yet. (Synopsis, anyone?)

So at the risk of highlighting that I am still a bit of an island, does anyone have anything to add to this? Any interesting examples of mass-collaboration being organised in a useful and interesting way? If this is the model for a future creative agency, how might it work? If a few people at the top still choose and re-organise the information, does that go against the very appeal of the approach? And how do we deal with the ego, which as long as we have air in our lungs and a cv/resume to fill, will remain a force that threatens to conflict with this very concept?

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Anonymous noah brier said...

first off thanks so much andy, it's incredibly flattering. i wish it were true that i held back on the posts, but in reality it's just that i don't know the answers to lots of stuff :)

i think a big opportunity in this area is finding ways to mine content people in a network are already creating for insights. that way you're not asking them to recreate/restate anything, but rather writing software that basically adds a layer of strategy.

5:53 pm  

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