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Group action just got much easier


Joshua-Michele Ross interviewed Clay Shirky at last week’s Fastforward 09 conference in Las Vegas. The Interview covers a range of topics of which I’ve made some notes below:

  • Humans are inherently social, but historically there has been a significant hassle factor/transaction cost in grouping together. The Internet/Mobile technologies provides lots of new ways to lower this burden and efficiently coordinate group action
  • Web 2.0 applications and services make it easier for people to find each other, share, collaborate and take collective action
  • Stimuluswatch.org – a site which recently had 20,000 people on its site – costs $40 per month. The developments were completed for free by those enthusiastic about the project.
  • You can service the demand e.g. Government creating services for citizens, or you can make it easier for people to service themselves (i.e. by making information open and easy to consume). Examples include Apps for Democracy, Show us a better way, Fedspending.org.
  • Value comes from auxiliary services. Every time a huge technological change comes along, lots of old jobs are destroyed, but more new jobs are created. As long as the number of new jobs outpaces the destruction of the old jobs society will be better off.
  • Businesses often ask the wrong questions. How do we preserve our profession and the way it’s currently constituted? We’re moving towards business models B->Z. Thinking we can preserve the existing status quo e.g. in Publishing, is just silly. The transition will be achieved by those with the lowest cost of experimentation with the highest value e.g. theguardian.
  • Effect of failure for an organization = likelihood x cost. Classic response is to put systems in place to lower the cost of failure. Digital technology allows for this.
  • The winners and losers will be separated by who is learning and adapting the fastest through continuous experimentation.
  • The search/filter market is about linking people to opportunities they did not know about or could not otherwise find.
  • Information overload has been the normal case for literate citizens since the 1500s i.e. since there were more books than a person could read in a lifetime. Information has been expanding continuously for 500 years. Information overload is caused by the breaking of old filters. When someone says they’re experiencing Information overload (a normal life experience), what they really mean is I need a filter business to help me.
  • When Information outstrips the available filters – and we haven’t had time to filter out the bad stuff – that’s when people feel lost and quality has deteriorated.
  • These [Web2.0] tools provide a platform for global action, the likes of which have never existed before.
  • We can wire the social sphere to get collective action at a scale that feels like a barn-raising, but works like a multinational.

It’s an excellent synopsis of Shirky’s thoughts on group action and information overload/filter failure.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Joshua-Michéle RossNo Gravatar 17/02/2009, 9:37 pm

    Hi there,
    thanks for the excellent synopsis of the video – This is a really helpful way to help can the contents and understand the “punchlines”.

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