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July 9, 2010

I’m not sure how many view Fark.com on a regular basis, but as a news aggregator it provides a lot of interesting headlines for the linked articles.  On Tuesday, the Library Link of the day provided a link to a blog (The Hill) with a story about the creator of Fark.com Drew Curtis, titled, “Fark creator says wisdome of crowds is overrated.” This was especially interesting after we had just completed our own exercise on crowd sourcing and tag clouds.

Curtis is quoted as saying, “The ‘wisdom of the crowds’ is the most ridiculous statement I’ve heard in my life. Crowds are dumb,” Curtis said. “It takes people to move crowds in the right direction, crowds by themselves just stand around and mutter.” I agree and disagree with his statement.  There definitely needs to be people who can see the “bigger picture,” and those are the ones who can draw the conclusions from the crowds.  Without the ideas of the crowds, we may be left with a much smaller pool of innovative ideas. Curtis calls this process “editing.” He cites sources such as Wikipedia and Youtube, but with both of those sites he does suggest there is “heavy” editing and both sites have very strong leadership to guide the ship right if it does veer off course as do many of the comments sections do on a variety of sites.  The comments section on many websites are usually filled with a lot of opinions, and with text, the “tone,” of a statement can be interpreted in a variety of ways.  Granted profanity and capital letters obviously have a specific connotation, but sarcasm sometimes you ponder and realize some people are not joking around.

The story is very short, so take a look at it here.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 10, 2010 11:12 am

    Interesting article. I think I have a more optimistic view of crowds. I think there is a lot to be gained from crowds. I think during our assignment for the group_ungroup is a great example of how a “crowd” can work together to develop an answer and I don’t believe that our crowd was “dumb”. I do however agree that a crowd does need strong leadership for it to be effective and to keep the crowd going in the right direction. I think any group working together needs that and websites like youtube or wikipedia are no different.

  2. herrzrbo permalink
    July 10, 2010 2:38 pm

    My feelings towards crowd-sourcing depends on how I feel that day. Some days I think it’s the greatest concept since the invention of the book press, other days I feel completely skeptical. When I was enrolled in LIBR 210 (Intro to Reference) we were told how unreliable Wikipedia was and for that whole semester I tried really hard to stay away from it, thinking that it was unreliable. After the course was over I found myself, of course, returning to Wikipedia and using it all the time.

    I think Wikis work best for more focused subjects. Wikis for things like the TV show ‘Lost’ or Harry Potter are a great, and I think reliable, resource. Fans can be very knowledgeable and nitpicky, so I tend to trust these sites for getting the nitty gritty details right. But when it comes to larger Wikis, like Wikipedia, I still remain skeptical when reading an entry on Quantum Physics or some other highly technical subject.

    • clementmunns permalink
      July 12, 2010 6:57 pm

      I think the level of importance for a reference source is always situational and dynamic: Wikipedia is great for finding out that 3rd LP by that obscure band in the 60s you just found out about. Anything with the slightest hint of politics, science or deep expertise involved should be sought from authoritative sources. The Wikipedia entry on naked shorting is a great example; I have an MBA and had fuzzy notions about the practice but after schooling myself was shocked to noted I didn’t know the first thing about how it actually worked. The guy who was mainly responsible for the disinformation was himself a practitioner and sole editor on the article for many years.

  3. Shaunt Hamstra permalink
    July 10, 2010 5:19 pm

    “Crowds are dumb” is a bit of an over-generalization. The “crowd” that produced a winner for the Netflix prize was certainly not dumb. It should go without saying though that individuals need to steer the ship if anything of value is to be created – or at least select well. Curtis’ statement is silly.

  4. July 10, 2010 11:39 pm

    I agree with everyone’s comments that good/strong leadership is vital in order for crowds to work effectively. The Netflix prize example that Shaunt pointed out is a great one. I used Wikis for my LIBR 204 strategic plan group project and it was fantastic and made our end product much better than expected.

    Herr Laster–who did you have for LIBR 210? I had Melissa Wong and she actually said it’s OK for us to cite Wikipedia as a source for answers to reference questions as long as we ALSO cite a secondary source. Wong encourages multiple sources for reference answers and she’s fine with Wikipedia being one of them.

  5. kychiu54 permalink
    July 11, 2010 9:22 pm

    I think some of the things we would take from Wikipedia, would actually be the information that is cited at the bottom of the page which really does provide us with links from where that person who updated the entry got it from, so I think in those regards it makes sense. I’m not sure about all of Wikipedia, you definitely have to do some additional research in some ways.

  6. clementmunns permalink
    July 12, 2010 11:07 am

    Ka Yee,

    You probably know how I feel about this; but think on it this way: the crowd sourcing thing works because in any big group there is a wide array/variety of expertise. But summed up as an average you get dreck. For example, I used to read comments on articles and such, but not any more. My wife made an interesting comment just yesterday that comments are the “letters to the editor” of today but there is no editor present a balanced set of views. One could say the entire Internet is one giant unedited tome of solipsistic navel gazing. It’s why I place a premium on those places where I can find good content presented with a filter.

    derek

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