Digg and the wisdom of crowds June 29, 2006Posted by dr. gonzo in Technology.
Lorelle got me thinking about this. So let’s wax philosophical about the wisdom of crowds.
From Evolving Trends:
“Crowds are not wise. Crowds are great as part of a statistical process to determine the perceived numerical value of something that can be quantified. A crowd, in other words, is a decent calculator of subjective quantity, but still just a calculator. You can show a crowd of 200 people a jar filled with jelly beans and ask each how many jelly beans are in the jar. Then you can take the average and that would be the closest value to the actual number of jelly beans.”
Of course, the folks in these posts are talking about social bookmarking, specifically Digg (Read the Evolving Trends entry–great example near the end of the post).
While crowds may have a compromised sense of wisdom in some cases, historical examples abound–look no further than Nazi Germany–modern Western society is essentially based on the wisdom of crowds.
If crowds hold no wisdom why has democracy become so popular?
It seems to me that after 200+ years of democracy in the United States that if it had failed completely we would have returned to the autocratic state of allowing one “benevolent” leader to decide things for everyone based on his/her individual preferences.
In the article on Evolving Trends Fawzi points out that:
“It’s my suspicion that the staff at digg, not just the users (we’re not gullible), have ‘buried’ this story, i.e. censored it, along with all the other anti-digg stories.”
This is somewhat pardoxical. The Digg community censors anti-Digg opinions, no surprise there. But on the opposite end of the spectrum, for instance a news site run by one gatekeeper/editor the information will be censored to fit the views of that individual.
So what to do?
There are obvious flaws in both models. I suppose the question is do we prefer a group consensus or the opinions of one individual?