Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Spectacularly missing the point of the crowd

Interesting article on The Hill today about the comments of Drew Curtis founder of Basically he calls the 'crowd' idiots:

"The 'wisdom of the crowds' is the most ridiculous statement I've heard in my life. Crowds are dumb," Curtis said. "It takes people to move crowds in the right direction, crowds by themselves just stand around and mutter."

Curtis pointed to his own experience moderating comments on Fark, which allows users to give their often humorous take on the news of the day. He said only one percent of Web comments have any value and called the rest "garbage."
Now, reading this carefully, he's basically saying that the problem with crowds is that you're composed of individuals.

He's also complaining that a people dont take the internet seriously
As an example Curtis pointed to the America Speaking Out website recently launched by House Republicans to allow the public to weigh in on the issues and vote for policy positions they support. Curtis called the site an "absolute train wreck."

"It's an absolute disaster. It's impossible to tell who was kidding and who wasn't," Curtis said.

I'm not quite sure if Curtis is using the same internet as me, but in my experience if you give people the internet they don't create Picasso, they create lolcats, a lot of lolcats, seriously, take a look some time.

The reason we call it the wisdom of crowds is because individuals are idiots, we're all idiots about most things. We live and work in very narrow channels and as such if you want a good answer on a particular topic you have to throw it open to the mass.

Complaining that people are using tools on the internet for fun is a bit like turning back the tide. The majority of people wonky enough to find a website asking people to 'weigh in' on political decisions are going to want to enjoy the experience, stir up a bit of debate, and see what happens.

By exposing something to the crowd you don't get William Shakespeare instantly, you can sometimes get slowly iterative improvement.

He cites Youtube as a crowd which has got it right, but at the end of the day the second most watched video of all time is about one kid biting another kids finger, most of the rest are music videos, number seven is a baby laughing. Hardly the stuff of legends, although you should all go and watch the laughing baby, it'll cheer you up immensely.

Whining that when you expose yourself to the internet you don't get the Congressional Congress turning up is a little bit silly in my opinion.

What you can get, if you do it right, is iterative improvement. I'm reading We-Think at the moment, a book which was written with a significant amount of input from the people of the internet. The author doesnt complain that the majority of people submitting comments on his manuscript were crazy, although I'm sure they were, he focusses on the positive aspects, the minority of useful contributions.

All in all its a little bit strange, a guy who runs a website which bills itself as satirical is complaining that people on the interwebs are having too much fun and not being serious.

Is he serious?


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