Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Hive Mind

Over at today's Long Tail, Chris makes a case for total transparency. His premise is not unreasonable: you can either have your own words represent you or have other's words represent you. Either way, you're inevitably going to have someone saying something about you on the Internet.

Another key reason he lists is the benefit of the Internet's collective intelligence. Specifically, "They'll have more and better ideas that [sic] you could have on your own, more and better information than you could gather on your own, wiser and sager perspective than you could gather in 1,000 years of living -- and they'll share it with you."

Right. Sorry, Chris. I think you're being way too optimistic about the Internet's collective intelligence.

The Internet generally suffers from a bad case of group-think with each niche suffering from their own themes. Marketing interests well repeat "The Long Tail", "The Chasm", and "The Hype Curve" in unison. Technical interests will repeat "Microsoft is evil", "FOSS is good", "Management sucks", etc. Even gear heads have group-think -- visit a Jeep discussion group sometime and say "it was a good thing we had the Hummer to get us out of the jam". The reaction will be not unlike driving a Chevy to a Ford event in the South.

To be fair, group-think isn't always wrong. The group got to thinking that way because it worked for enough people that others started trying to replicate the success. However, the smart ones know when the group is wrong and quietly do it their way. I believe it was Adam Corolla (a guy that doesn't hesitate to stray from group-think) that said "Extremists run the country because the moderates have sh*t to do." When someone is confident enough in their skills to do it their own way, they have better things to do than to go online and argue their points. They'll let their success speak for itself and wait for the group to adopt it.

Is transparency good? Sometimes. But if you're going to do something come high water or hell, there's little benefit from sharing it "in total transparency" until a success needs to be advertised. But please... that's just marketing yourself.


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