The Brittanica is doing something very daring: they are starting a discussion about web 2.0 (like what is the relation between Wikipedia and the Brittanica) on a web 2.0 platform (blogs). Sun Tzu whom is no doubt also in the Brittanica, would have taught never to fight on the enemy terrain. Like I said: daring.
The opening piece is from Michael Gorman where he more of less attacks the collective intelligence and defends the traditional way of finding and selecting information. The reactions by the blogging crowds are as you can expect.
However, I think there is one point overlooked by the people reacting (like Clay Shirky) to what Gorman says. Of course is unlimited information flow good. People can express themselves and lots of different opinions are available. However, filtering and rating information is important, in science as well as in everyday news. We have to know how far we can trust the information and the source. In the “old days” our filter were based in the production side. Production was costly through printing and distribution. To make these decisions we employed professionals hired by firms that printed the books and magazines. We as users could select with our feet by buying the magazine or not. Maybe not the best model overall but the best of all the inadequate models available at us at that time. The nice thing of this model is that the information that is presented to us by trusted sources is usually fairly good. We know that Nature (almost always) uses a rigorous process before publishing.
Comes the Internet and Web 2.0. With Web 2.0 our filters from the production side have been removed. It has been said often: unlimited copies, free distribution. So now we are flooded with information where it is hard to distinguish in objective quality. One of the scientific risks is that this leads to the use of information that fits a priori with your thinking, without the check on the validity of conclusion. A bit of web surfing always leads to articles that support you suspicion. For example, I very much like the writings of Clay Shirky. But most of the information I find is from his blogs. He is eloquent, he is convincing but also in many cases totally insubstantiated. Maybe it is based on facts but I have no way of knowing.
Science does need a thorough process of checks to determine quality. The work I do builds upon the works of others. If I can not trust my sources, how can I trust my results. And again, peer review is the best of all the inadequate models we have for this. I agree with Gorman that, in the end, science needs facts, not hearsay. I wonder how much of the facts in Wikipedia are based on (checked) information people found in one of those bulky paper encyclopedia’s.
We have to understand why and how our quality mechanisms work in the physical production and distribution in order to make the translation to how we deal with it in the digital world. The goals remain the same (quality and trustworthy information) but the mechanisms will be fundamentally different because the new possibilities web 2.0 gives us. Exciting new possibilities and maybe even better ones than we had in the physical domain. There is the possibility for more transparency in the peer review process. The use of scientific papers is seriously hampered by the fact that commercial organisations are running the publications. It would be better if this peer review process would be an open one (open science?) and that the scientific community is responsible for this process.
However, I think that also in that case we will need all kinds of governance structures. More open, more democratic and more transparent. It will not be “like the mind of god” nor will it be like the Hyves mind. Just work but a bit less inadequate than it is now. Small steps.
That’s how progress works.

Career moves

Maybe, given other choices, you could have been another Steven Spielberg. Maybe even better.
Steven Spielberg became Steven Spielberg because he made the choices early on that were fitting with his talent. And since in a short tailed world success breeds success he became one of the most successful directors since producers are inclined to play it safe in the choice of directors (everybody is going to look at the latest Spielberg). But no doubt there are many more people out there that have the talent of a spielberg but made different career choices and became mediocre architects.
On of the interesting aspects of the long tailed world introduced by youtube is that more people can try out their talent. With hard work, bit of luck and lots of recommendations you can get popular in the long tail and slowly but surely move up the tail to where it gets interesting for producers. A series on youtube I love is “mr. Deity”. On their websitethey explicitly state they are making this series on youtube because they wish to make a series on TV.

What is Mr. Deity?
Mr. Deity is a semi-monthly video series (every two weeks) that looks at God and the Universe with a smile (and sometimes, a wink).
What is your goal?
Our goal is to turn this into a half-hour series for television.

Below you can see one episode of the series on youtube:

This, I think, is a very interesting development. People who feel they have the talent now have a much better opportunity to show this for a worldwide audience. And of course they start out at the long end of the long tail. Their mother will watch it and than some friends. And friends of their friends and friends of their mothers and … well you understand. Before you know it I am watching it as well as a producer at a big network. If the talent is there it is now possible to move out of the long end of the tail and into mainstream where you can make a living out of the things you can do best (and love to do).
Of course there are also lots of examples of people trying to do things they do not have a talent for and there are many, many examples of this at sites like youtube. But as long as the recommendation mechanisms work and I am able to find the good ones I am happy. What do you want to become?

The future workspace of journalism

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. Many will recognize this as the opening of Dickens his book “A tale of two cities”. Dickens meant the time of the french revolution with all the positive and negative turmoil. Looking how fast the landscape of work is changing I sometimes get the same idea (though luckily the “blood” is now virtual!). An interesting example of the change and turmoil is a site called AssignmentZero, a cooperation between Newassignment and Wired.
The idea of AssigmentZero is an attempt to do “open source journalism”. The idea is that an open community communicates about what would be interesting subjects, whom to interview, what are important questions and all other aspects relating to journalism. There is some leadership but there is also a lot of confusion, searching, irritation and of course some flames. It is intriguing to see how these people embark on a journey together to redefine how journalism works in a networked world. This is how they define their quest:

The investigation takes place in the open, not behind newsroom walls. Participation is voluntary; contributors are welcome from across the Web. The people getting, telling and vetting the story are a mix of professional journalists and members of the public — also known as citizen journalists. This is a model I describe as “pro-am.”

This mixing of professionals and the general public in order to make use of professional expertise and the open view of the general public can be an example for much more workspaces, like the police (where are the dangerous places) and city planning (creative ideas of the citizens combined with the expertise of city architects). There are a lot of challenges ahead in order to make this succeed. I think it will be worthwhile to follow this experiment.

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?