Here Comes Everybody: Chapter 9-10

Posted by tom | May 1, 2010

Cover of Carl Shirky. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing
Without Organizations. NY, NY: Penguin Press, 2008. Clay Shirky's* exploration of the Six Degrees of Separation provided helpful clues on homophily (i.e., the grouping of like with like), developing dense and sparse connections at the same time, and how "bonding capital tends to be more exclusive and bridging capital more inclusive" (p.224).  "In Small World networks bonding tends to happen within the clusters, while bridging happens between clusters. ... Perhaps the most significant effect of our new tools, though, lies in the increased leverage they give the most connected people.  The tightness of a large social network comes less from increasing the number of connections that the average member of the network can support than from increasing the number of connections that the most connected people can support" (p.224).

The material at the end of chapter, drawn from Ronald Burt's "The Social Origins of Good Ideas" resonated with me.

"First, most good ideas came from people who were bridging 'structural holes,' which is to say people whose immediate social network included employees outside their department. Second, bridging these structural holes was valuable even when other variables, such as rank and age (both of which correlate for higher degrees of social connection), were controlled for. ... In Burt's analysis, a dense social network of people in the same department (and who were therefore likely to be personally connect to one another) seemed to create an echo-chamber effect. ... Burt found that bridging capital puts people at greater risk of having good ideas (his phrase) than do any individual traits. ... Even when the judicious use of social connections increases the proportion of good ideas, most ideas are still bad. It's not enough to find some way to increase the successful ideas. Some way needs to found to tolerate the failures too" (p.229-232).

Chapter 10:  Failure for Free seeks to address how social tools enable the volume produced by the publish-then-filter of websites such as Meetup which are successful because of the failures.  Linux and Wikipedia both illustrate the desire to work alongside a bigger project instead of doing something on one's own.  Meetup, like Flickr and Facebook, is an enabling platform.  "What the open source movement teaches us is that the communal can be at least as durable as the commercial.  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 the rest of the world gets access to the tools once reserved for the techies, that pattern is appearing everywhere, and it is changing society as it does" (p.238-9).

Does Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organization leave the reader with a formula for success?  Turning to Chapter 11 to find out.

*Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organization (Clay Shirky. NY, NY: Penguin Press, 2008).

Here Comes Everybody: Chapter 1
Here Comes Everybody: Chapter 2
Here Comes Everybody: Chapter 3
Here Comes Everybody: Chapter 4
Here Comes Everybody: Chapter 5
Here Comes Everybody: Chapter 6
Here Comes Everybody: Chapter 7-8

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