The Blog

Whither the Wisdom of Crowds? Of course not.

In brijit, editorial, publishing, social media on Wednesday, 30 January 2008 at 14:53

I never thought I’d write these words: Thank you, Commander Taco.

CmdrTaco is the screen name of Rob Malda, the 31-year-old founder of slashdot.org. Slashdot, for the uninitiated (i.e. most of us), is a pioneering technology news community, a self-styled “News for Nerds. Stuff that Matters.” site.

So why the shout out? Yesterday Brad Stone wrote in the New York Times’ Bits blog that Malda’s skeptical of the mainstream value of Digg and other wisdom-of-crowds aggregations sites. Malda’s rationale, is, well, rational:

“I try not to paint Digg as my arch-nemesis. The Digg method and Digg community are a wider audience than Slashdot,” he said. “But with sites like Digg, it’s the wisdom of the crowds or the tyranny of the mob. You never know what you’re going to get.”

Put aside the dig at Digg, and CmdrTaco is reminding us that no single form of aggregation holds all the answers. Hence the shout-out here.

There’s extraordinary power in user-generation. From Amazon recommendations to sharing a la Digg or Deli.cio.us, the wisdom of crowds can be an incredible tool.

Of course there’s value in the algorithm. Google uses straight-up algorithm to put relevant information at our fingertips, and its worked out pretty well for them, and generally, for us.

And traditional top-down editorial control is excellent, too. Check out the Sports Illustrated or the Wall Street Journal or The Daily Show, and the value of professional, editorial control becomes pretty clear.

So why, in a world where we have such terrific aggregation options, would anyone settle for just one kind?

Well, more and more, we’re not. A host of companies, including Brijit, are making some variation of a hybrid production model part of their core businesses. We think that’s good news for lovers of great content.

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