Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Wisdom of Crowds

Cory Doctorow posted his notes today at Boing Boing from a presentation given by James Surowiecki at ETECH. That post is here for reference.

In it he asserts
"HUMAN BEINGS ARE NOT ANTS. We do not have the biological programming or tools to allow this kind of interaction to produce intelligence."
In general I agree.

When it comes to music fans as a "crowd" I must disagree. They can in fact be harnessed to produce intelligence - namely relevant recommendations - is a case in point.

Surowiecki's "recipe" for a wise crowd is that it meets 4 criteria, and I believe music fans meet all 4 of them. They are:
  1. Diversity of opinion - music fans, like the music they love, come from all ages, regions, professions etc - a truly diverse crowd
  2. Independence from one-another - most fans make up their own minds about what artists, albums and songs they like. True, there are plenty of influences that bear down on a fan (friends, radio, music TV, etc.) but no set of fans is swayed by a single opinion leader
  3. Decentralized - music fans live everywhere, and other than at concerts, rarely get together in one place
  4. Easily summarized - P2P software apps and the networks they run on provide a great tool for aggregating users and for the collection of data on how fans collect music.
The "wisdom" that can be produced from music fans, and their digital music collections, as a crowd, is pretty amazing.

For the music fan who is asking the question "what band should I listen to next?" the crowd can seem very wise indeed.

1 comment:


hey david! blog is looking great!