The Ignorance of Crowds

Some fair points by Nicholas Carr, observing the importance of a balance between the top down and the bottom up, framed as a critique of The Cathedral and the Bazaar. I think he is misleading though, in a couple of important respects:
Firstly, he suggests that the crowd is only good at debugging, not creating. While it is true that someone needs to start the whole thing rolling, clustering, chunking and other forms of parcellation can enable a crowd-based system to evolve in small pieces. Carr mentions Linux as an example, but a huge amount of the success of Linux has to be attributed to the wider GNU (and other open source) applications that surround it. It is about building small pieces that can be assembled and reassembled.
Secondly, he has a naive view of the crowd. Terry Anderson and I have been talking a lot lately about different ways that crowd behaviour can be mediated and the different kinds of groups, networks and collectives that occur. No particular approach is right for all circumstances and there are many ways that crowds can be wise.The recommendations of Google are a good example: not always perfect, but often good enough to help us find the needle in the haystack.This is not debugging behaviour. This is generative: stigmergic but blended with collective wisdom and individual intelligence.Crowds can be subtle and complex beasts.
Created:Sat, 02 Jun 2007 19:44:49 GMT

Posted: June 2, 2007, 1:44 pm

I am a professional learner, employed as a Full Professor and Associate Dean, Learning & Assessment, at Athabasca University, where I research lots of things broadly in the area of learning and technology, and I teach mainly in the School of Computing & Information Systems. I am a proud Canadian, though I was born in the UK. I am married, with two grown-up children, and three growing-up grandchildren. We all live in beautiful Vancouver.

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