One of the most interesting developments of the moment is I think Crowd-sourcing. In Crowd-sourcing you outsource work to un undefined number of people in an open call. Amazon for example has created a function called “Amazon Mechanical Turk“. The idea here is that tasks that humans can do easily (is this a picture of a woman or man?) but that are extremely hard for computers are outsourced to the public (and you get paid doing it). Interesting variants are for example the google image labeler where, in the form of a game, people have to guess the keywords for a picture. When both players fill in the same keyword you get points.
This has of course very little to do with the intelligence of crowds but capitalizes on the mass of people willing spend some of their time. For either some money, for fun or for eternal fame by reaching the high score.
Question is if this model is feasible in the long run. People work on Wikipedia and open source software since these are environments where everybody works for free. In the case that crowd-sourcing is used by companies than money will play a role. Qustion is whether the “gift economy” will hold in that case. And how much spare time is still available? People’s attention is the most important scarcity so in the end that usually means one has to pay for it (Google clearly saw this with their advertising model).
Recently there was an interesting discussion about this issue of scarcity and pay between Nicholas Carr ( and Yochai Benkler (the wealth of networks). Carr’s statement you can find here and the answer of Benkler your can find here. I will certainly get back to this argument.

Games or Work

I came across a fascinating article today that describes how a famous economic historian is thaught a lesson about the history of World War II. Niall Ferguson has written some books about “what if” scenarios is history: what if Gorbachov would not have existed etc.

He recently played a bit with a computer game called “Making History” where the games are based on WWII scenarios. What was amazing was that the game showed him that he was wrong in one of his hypthesis that if England would have attacked Germany in 1938 after the invasion of Czechoslovakia WWII would not have happened. He kept playing it over and over but England kept losing because France defected.
The game is based on thorough research on the period. The mindbogling part is that his 13 year old son, an experienced player in strategy games, had no problem in showing him the answer by first investing in a better bond with France and than attacking Germany.
The interesting part here, I think, is that young people grow up with a completely different environment and have a different attitude towards the tools that surround us. Strategic thinking through games and multiple simultaneus communictation through MSN is a normal part of their life. Because of this they arrive at different processes to deal with their environment. Young people of today are the employees of tomorrow. We better be prepared by doing our research into the way we can build on these new tools and people!

Hello World!

This is my first entry in this blog. This is my first blog. Why am I joining the countless number of people that are blogging? Do you care? Should you?
For me this blog is a way of structuring my thinking about social software. I believe that social software (wiki’s, blogs, decision market) is changing our society in more ways than we can imagine. And I think that this change is a positive one where people can make a difference based on what they have to offer instead of the role they occupy. A world where all the intelligence available is used and where people are motivated to make their contribution because they are awarded for it.
In my work at the Telematica Instituut (a research institution between universities and business) I am involved in social software through a research project I am setting up called “The future workspace”. Also I am thinking about doing my thesis around this subject. Focus here is the use of social software in business environments. How can it be used and what conditions are needed to make it successful? Are the current organisations capable of implementing these flat structures or will the hierarchies win. That is why I call this thesis “From Pyramid to Pancake”.
iCrowds is the term that I use for crowds cooperating successfully together and thereby being more than just a bunch of individuals.
Well, do you care?