Here in Boston, where I'm speaking at the Whipple Hill User Conference, keynote speaker Clay Shirky made a splash Tuesday with his opening remarks. In a wide-ranging talk that incorporated many of his past threads, the internet observer made a few points worth thinking about.
Some will seem obvious, but Shirky's talent is for pointing out things that we should have realized or understood on our own – but, for whatever reason, did not realize or understand until we heard him explain them.
"Every url is now a latent community" says Shirky, "with additional potential value from organizing people to take action."
Old model ("one to many"): You bought a TV and there was one more consumer, but the same number of producers. Making and transmitting television shows is expensive.
New model: You buy a computer and there is one more consumer. But there is also one more producer. The numbers of producers and consumers are in virtual equilibrium and are relatively equal. Almost anyone can publish commentary, video, photography, music...
Old model: "Filter, then publish." A media outlet chose, sought, wrote, edited and published a story they thought people would find interesting.
New model: "Publish, then filter." A teenager in Thailand publishes something she thinks is interesting, and lets the public filter it out; if they don't like it, they can stop reading her blog. Unlike old media, she doesn't need anyone to read it for it to stay in business.
"When any organization reaches a large group of people who don't work for it, the logic switches from controlling those people to convening them."
"Find the person who has the vision – who knows the big change you need to make – then lock them out and bring them back when they have 100 small ideas...The effect of failure equals the likelihood of failing times the cost of failing. So we operate as if we have to avoid failing."
"Dump a bookstore into the street and try to find the Auden. You won't find Auden, you'll find Chicken Soup for the Hoosier Soul. You can avoid that in the store because it's organized. Filters will become more social and will catch up with our need for organizing information."