Here is a recent post I did on the Wikinomics group on Facebook. I thought I'd share it here for those readers that are not on that discussion group. This post was part of a discussion around good & bad experiences with social networking. Regular readers of this blog will see the first point a recount of the Mesh07 session on Digital Blinders.
Aug 6, 2007
Here are a couple of my thoughts related to the the conversation. Let me start by saying, I am convinced about the positive power of mass collaboration but so much is written on this, that I didn't think I would add to it here. Instead I picked a couple of thoughts that hopefully are a bit different.
1. In theory, could social networks of self-organizing individuals actually pull people further apart? The concept is that people often band with those that have similar thoughts and ideas rather than thoughts that have ideas that go counter to theirs. For example, if I was active in politics I might join a community that caters to and reinforces my political beliefs further driving in my beliefs and "dismissing" others beliefs. I saw a news show that talked about some disturbing organizations that held beliefs that were downright scary (and illegal) but apparently members banned together to reinforce that their beliefs were "justified" and everyone else is "wrong". I spoke to an editor of Wikipedia at a recent conference around some apparent concerns that Wikipedia, was "slanted to the scientific" beliefs and not accurately providing "creationism" a fair chance, so a separate encyclopedia for "creationism" perspectives has been created. What is good though, is that at least one of the ingredients is there to improve upon understanding and that is availability. An individual can choose to open their minds to alternate concepts or not. If however they choose not, they can likely find ways to reinforce their beliefs and dismiss others. I was introduced to this concept at a recent Mesh conference. Here is my blog on it if you're interested:
2. The "whisper" and "smear" topics made me think about the reality of speed and the potential negative impact if we're wrong. Recently in Ontario, a government official made a derogatory remark referring to a citizen as a "ghetto dude". They didn't realize that they had sent the e-mail back to the citizen and when news broke, groups started popping up in several spots (including facebook), many of which publicly showed the picture of the person and demanded their resignation. The concern here was that some of these sites actually put the wrong picture up! Same name, wrong person. I listened to the mother of the falsely accused girl on the radio tell her story,(I suppose the girl herself was too distraught to tell her story directly) about how people accepted these pop-up groups as truth and immediately started harassing the girl and her family. Yes, they got the picture removed eventually but it seems much damage had already been inflicted. Here's the Toronto Star article on this:
I guess a common thread here is that each individual has the opportunity to seek multiple perspectives and sources of information through the Internet and social networks. But do they? Do they REALLY seek to understand those different beliefs? Are we sometimes victim to the zero-sum game concept? That there can only be 1 right answer? I don't know the answers but would recommend enterprise 2.0 practioners consider these concepts when building their overall strategy.