Wednesday, May 23, 2007


I've started to read Tapscott and Williams Wikinomics. It's a somewhat breathlessly enthusiastic account of Web 2.0. Their explanation of the difference between the "old web" and the "new web" is that the old web was like an online newspaper whereas the new web is like an online coffee shop. In other words (and this certainly isn't new with Tapscott and Williams), the new web is about user participation. The primary point of their book seems to be that user participation can [be used to] produce new value.

Perhaps they make this point later in the book, but if that's the real power of the new web, the critical skill will be distillation: how can one distill wisdom and vision from a mass of contributions? Open source software has developed one way. Companies that open their resources to user input are another. Google's page rand is another form of distillation as is eBay's reputation system. Perhaps that will be an important research area.

In many ways this is like the information fusion problem: how do you put a lot of information together to get a broader sense of what's going on? One can probably make use of public participation here also. This is all about applying collective intelligence to the task of sense making.

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