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An Excellent Discussion of Changing Group Dynamics

  • May 7, 2009
  • by
I am not one to read books on technology, strange as it may seem. Especially ones that talk about current issues as they will become dated in a few months, or less. However, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations, by Clay Shirky, works for me on several levels. You could read this book a year from now and still gain valuable insight into the blogging, Twitter, and social media arenas.

Chapter 1: It Takes a Village to Find a Phone
Chapter 2: Sharing Anchors Community
Chapter 3: Everyone is a Media Outlet
Chapter 4: Publish, Then Filter
Chapter 5: Personal Motivation Meets Collaborative Production
Chapter 6: Collective Action and Institutional Challenges
Chapter 7: Faster and Faster
Chapter 8: Solving Social Dilemmas
Chapter 9: Fitting Our Tools to a Small World
Chapter 10: Failure for Free
Chapter 11: Promise, Tool, Bargain
About the Author

The premise of the book is laid out in Chapter 1, where Shirky relates a 2006 story of a stolen Sidekick, a smartphone lost in a New York City cab. The owner offered a reward for its return, sent to the phone itself, but it was not answered. From there, a friend of the owner started a blog, relating his adventures in recovering the phone. From the blog, and the attention that it received, the owner was able to recover the phone. It was done through e-mails, pressure on the New York City police, and the networking between people that cared enough to create an issue of recovering the phone. Blogs, wikis, social networking sites, IRC, and Twitter are enabling people to create communities and organizations without formally meeting or requiring a bricks-and-mortar locations. Examples Shirky uses includes political activists in Belarus and Leipzig, East Germany, Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), and activists in Egypt. These examples, and others, show that Shirky may be right in his assessment that what we are seeing now in "Web 2.0" is as important as the invention of moveable type (the printing press) in 1439. It may be years before you will be able to confirm this, but you can tell that there is a shift happening, using the internet, that was previously impossible to surmount (geography, primarily, but also the connections that we all enjoy due to blogs, wikis, Twitter, and others).

Here Comes Everybody is a very enjoyable book. For those people that need an introduction to the power of blogs, wikis, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other technologies, this book will serve you very well. While not an exhaustive expose on any of the technologies, Shirky explains the rise of them (including a little background on the founders) and how we have adapted them to our specific use. E-mail and text messaging allowed East Germans to help bring down the government in 1989. Twitter, seen as a micro-blogging platform, has been used by democracy advocates in Egypt to notify others of police actions and also to garner support for those jailed during protests. Wikis, especially, are given a high position in the book, as the standard of global collaborative thinking. Wikipedia's origins are shown, as well as why it works as well as it does. But those aren't the only items of interest. One of the more fascinating discussions concerns "fame" and participation. There is a marked imbalance in all of the tools he describes. Some people post more pictures to Flickr, write more blog posts, or use Twitter more extensively than others in the population. This leads to a measure of "fame" in the communities. This is called the "power-law distribution" and actually allows these technologies to flourish. It also allows the major contributors to enjoy a measure of "fame." Reading this, I finally understood why there are so many people that do not contribute to wikis, blogs, or on-line forums. But while those people may not contribute the majority of the work, they do contribute, and they care about the success of the wiki, blog, or forum (for example) as much as those that contribute the majority.

There are lessons within this book for everyone that blogs, contributes to wikis, or tweets. Further, if you are working for a large organization, there is a clear understanding of how these technologies can leverage internal and external experts. It may help your organization to find better ideas from your employees, from sources that you never considered. One of the highlights for me was reading "For any given piece of software, the question 'Do the people who like it take care of each other?' turns out to be a better prediction of success than 'What's the business model?'" As I look at the particular area of technology that I inhabit, I would have to answer with a resounding "Yes" to that question. Which also explains why I think that it is doing so well and will continue to do well.

Highly recommended.

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More Here Comes Everybody: The Powe... reviews
Quick Tip by . July 08, 2010
An excellent & intelligent book about some of the new tech tools and how everything comes together. Use it right & you will have power unimagined. Understanding the way humans react and communicate is the key to using some of the tools available on social media. The world is changing big time. A very readable book. I didn't buy the book, it's on the shelves of the libraries.
Quick Tip by . June 12, 2010
Good read for anyone trying to understand the modern age of coming together online
review by . September 06, 2008
Unless you've been living under a rock over the past few years, you would have noticed an explosion in ways that people interact, collaborate and exchange information online. We are probably undergoing the greatest technological shift since the advent of e-mail, and it'd probably hard to grasp all the ramifications that profound new change is heralding. Every year now, or sometimes every month, several new information terms and products enter our collective consciousness, terms like blog, Twitter, …
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About this book


Blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 accoutrements are revolutionizing the social order, a development that's cause for more excitement than alarm, argues interactive telecommunications professor Shirky. He contextualizes the digital networking age with philosophical, sociological, economic and statistical theories and points to its major successes and failures. Grassroots activism stands among the winners—Belarus's flash mobs, for example, blog their way to unprecedented antiauthoritarian demonstrations. Likewise, user/contributor-managed Wikipedia raises the bar for production efficiency by throwing traditional corporate hierarchy out the window. Print journalism falters as publishing methods are transformed through the Web. Shirky is at his best deconstructing Web failures like Wikitorial, theLos Angeles Times's attempt to facilitate group op-ed writing. Readers will appreciate the Gladwellesque lucidity of his assessments on what makes or breaks group efforts online: Every story in this book relies on the successful fusion of a plausible promise, an effective tool, and an acceptable bargain with the users. The sum of Shirky's incisive exploration, like the Web itself, is greater than its parts.(Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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ISBN-10: 1594201536
ISBN-13: 978-1594201530
Author: Clay Shirky
Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The

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