Thursday, November 23, 2006

Generating Collective Crap

Yes - I am taking a dig at O' Rielly's definition of Web 2.0. I think its wrong, mis-guided and wishful. Don't get me wrong, Web 2.0 is good and real - but collective intelligence it is not. What's actually good is all the cool and light interfaces, the emphasis on sharing and connecting with users, blogging and lower barriers to entry through open-source resources, be it software, human or web services. All of these elements have a real tangible benefit to the user or the business, and they are here to stay.

But its wrong to glorify collective intelligence, a.k.a. "user-generated content", as the primary offering of Web 2.0. Yes, there are millions of believers in this, which is not surprising if you are watching the number of social networking sites, group sharing sites, blogging and what not. If we have the same 24 hours every day and have at least much work to do as we did before, where do we get the extra time from to spend on myspace, linkedin, gusto and what not. And what's in it from me. The oens that actually spend time on it are the ones with the wrong intentions - they are not in there for content or sharing, they are their for money. When you have so many different sites coming up, where the only barrier to make it to techcrunch is an extra feature or two, you have a largely fragmented user base. You have a collection of random words and no group intelligence. To make wisdom off a crowd, you need a real crowd. Otherwise, you will only generate crap.

Make no mistake, i do think the collective intelligence is real and big if approached correctly. But I think people are foolishly optimistic about the "collection size" and "intelligence quality" they will collect. We should not be harnessing intelligence, we should be understanding it. And we are not looking for intelligence, we are just looking for needs. Lets call it "Understanding collective needs" and you have a winning model. Yes, Amazon's recommendations is a prime example, Google's page rank and Netflix's recommendations is another. Findory is an excellent service - so much better than the more popular, but completely useless, Digg. The only winning models I have seen so far along the lines of O' Reilly's definition are wikipedia and tripadvisor. May be youtube and Yahoo Answers to some extent, although i am still very skeptical of their sustainability. The former two are here to stay, but don't expect any of the copycats to succeed. Take your dime and go shopping on Black Friday. The returns will be higher.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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