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Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations [Paperback]

Clay Shirky
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 24, 2009
Read Clay Shirky's posts on the Penguin Blog.



A revelatory examination of how the wildfirelike spread of new forms of social interaction enabled by technology is changing the way humans form groups and exist within them, with profound long-term economic and social effects-for good and for ill
A handful of kite hobbyists scattered around the world find each other online and collaborate on the most radical improvement in kite design in decades. A midwestern professor of Middle Eastern history starts a blog after 9/11 that becomes essential reading for journalists covering the Iraq war. Activists use the Internet and e-mail to bring offensive comments made by Trent Lott and Don Imus to a wide public and hound them from their positions. A few people find that a world-class online encyclopedia created entirely by volunteers and open for editing by anyone, a wiki, is not an impractical idea. Jihadi groups trade inspiration and instruction and showcase terrorist atrocities to the world, entirely online. A wide group of unrelated people swarms to a Web site about the theft of a cell phone and ultimately goads the New York City police to take action, leading to the culprit's arrest.

With accelerating velocity, our age's new technologies of social networking are evolving, and evolving us, into new groups doing new things in new ways, and old and new groups alike doing the old things better and more easily. You don't have to have a MySpace page to know that the times they are a changin'. Hierarchical structures that exist to manage the work of groups are seeing their raisons d'tre swiftly eroded by the rising technological tide. Business models are being destroyed, transformed, born at dizzying speeds, and the larger social impact is profound.

One of the culture's wisest observers of the transformational power of the new forms of tech-enabled social interaction is Clay Shirky, and Here Comes Everybody is his marvelous reckoning with the ramifications of all this on what we do and who we are. Like Lawrence Lessig on the effect of new technology on regimes of cultural creation, Shirky's assessment of the impact of new technology on the nature and use of groups is marvelously broad minded, lucid, and penetrating; it integrates the views of a number of other thinkers across a broad range of disciplines with his own pioneering work to provide a holistic framework for understanding the opportunities and the threats to the existing order that these new, spontaneous networks of social interaction represent. Wikinomics, yes, but also wikigovernment, wikiculture, wikievery imaginable interest group, including the far from savory. A revolution in social organization has commenced, and Clay Shirky is its brilliant chronicler.


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 accoutrements are revolutionizing the social order, a development that's cause for more excitement than alarm, argues interactive telecommunications professor Shirky. He contextualizes the digital networking age with philosophical, sociological, economic and statistical theories and points to its major successes and failures. Grassroots activism stands among the winners—Belarus's flash mobs, for example, blog their way to unprecedented antiauthoritarian demonstrations. Likewise, user/contributor-managed Wikipedia raises the bar for production efficiency by throwing traditional corporate hierarchy out the window. Print journalism falters as publishing methods are transformed through the Web. Shirky is at his best deconstructing Web failures like Wikitorial, the Los Angeles Times's attempt to facilitate group op-ed writing. Readers will appreciate the Gladwellesque lucidity of his assessments on what makes or breaks group efforts online: Every story in this book relies on the successful fusion of a plausible promise, an effective tool, and an acceptable bargain with the users. The sum of Shirky's incisive exploration, like the Web itself, is greater than its parts. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Clear thinking and good writing about big changes." -Stewart Brand "Clay Shirky may be the finest thinker we have on the Internet revolution, but Here Comes Everybody is more than just a technology book; it's an absorbing guide to the future of society itself. Anyone interested in the vitality and influence of groups of human beings -from knitting circles, to political movements, to multinational corporations-needs to read this book." -Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad Is Good for You and Emergence "How do trends emerge and opinions form? The answer used to be something vague about word of mouth, but now it's a highly measurable science, and nobody understands it better than Clay Shirky. In this delightfully readable book, practically every page has an insight that will change the way you think about the new era of social media. Highly recommended." -Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine and author of The Long Tail "In story after story, Clay masterfully makes the connections as to why business, society and our lives continue to be transformed by a world of net- enabled social tools. His pattern-matching skills are second to none." -Ray Ozzie, Microsoft Chief Software Architect "Clay has long been one of my favorite thinkers on all things Internet-- not only is he smart and articulate, but he's one of those people who is able to crystallize the half-formed ideas that I've been trying to piece together into glittering, brilliant insights that make me think, yes, of course, that's how it all works." --Cory Doctorow, co-editor of Boing Boing and author of Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (February 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143114948
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143114949
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Clay Shirky teaches at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University, where he researches the interrelated effects of our social and technological networks. He has consulted with a variety of groups working on network design, including Nokia, the BBC, Newscorp, Microsoft, BP, Global Business Network, the Library of Congress, the U.S. Navy, the Libyan government, and Lego(r). His writings have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Times (of London), Harvard Business Review, Business 2.0, and Wired.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
260 of 296 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
If you read enough, you just have to be wary of "Here Comes Everybody" and its ilk. If you're the sort of person thinking of reading Shirky's book, you've probably also read Larry Lessig (Code), Yochai Benkler (The Wealth of Networks, not to mention essays like "Coase's Penguin"), Shapiro and Varian (Information Rules), maybe Weinberger (Everything is Miscellaneous), and on and on. You've used the Wikipedia. You may well use Linux. You've learned about "the wisdom of the crowds" (Surowiecki). You've got "the long tail" in there somewhere too.

What does Shirky add to this cacaphony? He adds one important special case of all of the above: the Internet lets us form groups effortlessly. Now we can work together on projects that we wouldn't have known about otherwise. We can find other people for fun in the real (non-Internet) world. We can find people with remarkably obscure interests matching our own. Previously these would have taken far too much time and effort. And the payoff is far too low for any company to be interested in connecting, say, lovers of ancient Chinese art. What the Internet has given us is a set of tools that allow us to create and find these groups.

This comes with its downsides. For instance, at the same time that it becomes easier for me to find blogs devoted to 18th-century ship-in-a-bottle designs, it becomes easier for you to find backwoods militias. The example Shirky gives here is a web bulletin board devoted to encouraging anorexia among its teen members. (This was the only part of the book that actually horrified me.) In the real world, these sorts of groups succumb to social pressure and go into hiding. The web makes it possible for them to find one another; they are no longer alone.
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139 of 157 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five for Synthesis & Explanation March 2, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was modestly disappointed to see so few references to pioneers I recognize, including Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly, Joe Trippi, and so on. Howard Rheingold and Yochai Benkler get single references. Seeing Stewart Brand's recommendation persuaded me I don't know the author well enough, and should err on the side of his being a genuine original.

Certainly the book reads well, and for someone like me who reads a great deal, I found myself recognizing thoughts explored by others, but also impressed by the synthesis and the clarity.

A few of my fly-leaf notes:

+ New technologies enable new kinds of groups to form.

+ "Message" is key, what Eric Raymond calls "plausible promise."

+ Can now harness "free and ready participation in a large distributed group with a variety of skills."

+ Cost-benefit of large "unsupervised" endeavors is off the charts.

+ From sharing to cooperation to collective action

+ Collective action requires shared vision

+ Literacy led to mass amatuerism, and I have note to myself, the cell phone can lead to mass on demand education "one cell call at a time"

+ Transactions costs dramatically lowered.

+ Revolution happens when it cannot be contained by status quo institutions

+ Good account of Wikipedia

+ Light discussion of social capital, Yochai Bnekler does it much better

+ Value of mass diversity

+ Implications of Linux for capitalism

+ Excellent account of how Perl beat out C++

Bottom line in this book: "Open Source teaches us that the communal can be at least as durable as the commercial.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
In this book, Shirky describes three levels of group activities, made possible by social media:

1. Sharing with others, using del.icio.us, Flickr, Slideshare and other social tools. After September 11th, a professor of Middle Eastern history starts writing a blog that became a resource for reporters covering the battles in Afghanistan and Iraq.

2. Collaboration, perhaps using Linux or Wikipedia. Kite makers find each other online and collaborate on the most radical improvement in kite design in decades. So are architects.

3. Collective action, where groups form to pursue a larger purpose and use social tools, ranging from google or Yahoo! groups to free online social networks such as Ning to share news and tips, recruit others, support each other and remain unified.

Writes Shirky, "... one of the things I most hope readers get out of it, is an excitement about how much experimentation is still possible, and how many new uses of our social tools are waiting to be invented." Similarly the Internet changed how outraged Catholics could rally for changes when pedophile priests went on trial. The organizing clout of the Internet did not come in time for one of my heroes, Gary Webb.

In a controversial move, Shirky describes why he thinks MoveOn has not succeeded in three ways that Obama has, using social media, beginning with his "wide pockets versus deep pockets" approach to securing many little donations rather than a few big donations. Another example, fighting against the airline industry's resistence setting standards for passengers stuck on the tarmac, some angry passengers recruited, "tens of thousands of people in a few weeks" to join the Coalition for an Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
got it in time for class
Published 17 hours ago by Kristin Stewart
5.0 out of 5 stars MENICHANISTICALLY EXCELLENT FOR EDUCATIUON
The world is getting closer to your fingertips. The long-awaited mechanism for addressing content and mathematical connections has arrived.. REMARKABLE!
Published 8 months ago by KARARA MUHORO
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Thought-Provoking Book
The last decade has brought on a revolution in terms of information technology; tools such as email and instant messengers have succeeded the now ancient communication technologies... Read more
Published 12 months ago by kellyp1
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it in 2 days!
I really enjoyed reading this book. I didn't know Wikipedia's history and am amazed. Shirky has a wonderful style that is very readable and yet not over simplified for the subject... Read more
Published 14 months ago by HDRA
5.0 out of 5 stars How Our World Is Changing
This book really captures one of the main elements about how the Internet is changing our society and our world. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Charlotte A. Hu
5.0 out of 5 stars Here Comes Everybody
Book I needed for college assignment. Good book. Had all the info I needed for working on my assignment too.
Published 17 months ago by HLH
1.0 out of 5 stars Kindle version is a shame
The Kindle version is terrible. Issues:

- no paragraphs: the hole chapter is a single big paragraph
- no table of contents

The worst part is that the... Read more
Published 22 months ago by T. Gomes
3.0 out of 5 stars Best in class analysis of the ramifications of social technology
I have read a number of books about the impacts social technologies like Facebook, Twitter and instant messaging, and this is by far the one which does the deepest thinking. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Erik A. Saltwell
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking book!
Author presents a very compelling case for the future possibilities of the internet revolution. We are all aware that the internet has lowered the 'barrier of entry' for... Read more
Published on December 27, 2011 by Becklett
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
In this book, Shirky describes three levels of group activities, made possible by social media:

1. Sharing with others, using del.icio. Read more
Published on October 5, 2011 by Biloxi
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Is Web 2.0 really the 'elder killer?'
Very interesting post by Barbara Sher.

There are a great deal of misconceptions about older adults and how they use the Web. Web 2.0 applications are widely used by many older adults as well as younger adults. Social networking is one primarily example. Facebook has become a social hub for... Read More
Feb 13, 2010 by K. B. Emmerling |  See all 3 posts
Here Comes Everybody (Kindle Edition) Too Expensive
I find it odd that the paperback version is $10.88 (with super saver shipping/prime) and the kindle edition is $12.99. Kindle prices need to drop over time, as for older books it's almost always cheaper to buy paperback or used.
Jul 28, 2010 by Brian A. Lee |  See all 3 posts
Rather strange that there's no Kindle edition
I e-mailed Mr. Shirky, and he responded back that it was an issue with the publisher.
I totally agree that the Kindle audience would love to read this book. It's unfortunate the publisher is a bit of a luddite.
May 28, 2008 by The Faj |  See all 2 posts
Ironic. Be the first to reply
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