Saturday, May 05, 2007
Andrew Coyne is on the lineup of speakers at Mesh, Canada's Web 2.0 conference. The last time I met Mr. Coyne in person was ten plus years ago, at a social policy conference at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick. (This was before blogging, so it's not fair to share some of his impolitic barroom banter.) I was giving a theoretical talk on the role of societal input into the policy process. The right-leaning Mr. Coyne took the trouble to stand up and critique the paper, for which I thank him. Not having anything to do with him, by the time my research was done a couple years later I had developed serious reservations about aspects of my earlier positions. I discovered that expert research and opinion, as opposed to unreflective citizen participation, was the real orphan in contemporary governance trends -- generally under-represented at the table. Novice "democrats" were often undermining their own positions by attacking those with substance and insisting on open processes that invited chaos and excessive degrees of money influence into public decision-making. They didn't foresee, also, that the very shape of "forums" could be manipulated. They can be opened, closed, and reshaped. Or simply designed not to work. Contrary to some fashionable theories at the time, I concluded that the failures of some governments under study didn't have to do with a dearth of trendy internal democracy or a lack of (what we now call) crowd wisdom, but simply a lack of intelligent decision-making and a dearth of fresh policy of any recognizable sort at the end of the day, let alone any talent for implementation.
I don't know if Coyne or I have official positions on these matters now, but ten years later, the discourse has shifted to how online collaboration affects business and politics. It's been a long journey. I daresay longer for me than Coyne, but I'll wait to hear what he has to say.
Thanks to the evolution of forms of online collaboration, today's concepts of wikinomics and crowd wisdom are extremely important to economic development and sound decision-making when applied properly. But similar to naive interpretations of "participatory democracy," there is too much hype around them insofar as they don't solve problems requiring depth and persistence - they do provide far superior data inputs in a whole range of endeavors. So like democracy itself, wikinomics is an explosive force that is, by itself, nonetheless insufficient for excellent results, in whatever sphere you're operating. Crowd wisdom is a misnomer. Experts have wisdom. Crowds have more and potentially better data inputs. Ignore these, and inefficiency plummets. But tapping them willy-nilly is just annoying fashion, and attracts all sorts of yahoos and tinpot despots.
Can't wait for Mesh. :)
Labels: mesh conference, web 2.0
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Andrew's book, Winning Results With Google AdWords, (McGraw-Hill, 2nd ed.), is still helping tens of thousands of advertisers cut through the noise and set a solid course for campaign ROI.
And for a glowing review of the pioneering 1st ed. of the book, check out this review, by none other than Google's Matt Cutts.
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