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140 of 158 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five for Synthesis & Explanation
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...
Published on March 2, 2008 by Robert David STEELE Vivas

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264 of 300 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Do we really need another bit of tech-prognostication?
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...
Published on April 30, 2008 by Stephen R. Laniel


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264 of 300 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Do we really need another bit of tech-prognostication?, April 30, 2008
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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.

Shirky only gives the briefest treatment of these groups, and seems generally in favor of them for the same reason that people favor free speech: it protects the speech we hate as well as the speech we support. I would have liked deeper coverage here. In a lot of senses, the Internet is making us reconsider the foundations of democracy: now we're face to face with the consequences of truly free speech; what do we do about it, if anything? Do we still stand by the free-speech absolutism that we clung to when it was more or less hypothetical? Shirky doesn't really touch on this.

He's quite often a techno-idealist, which is a stance he assumes professionally. As a technologist, he's convinced that the spread of cheap communications technologies will allow protesters to connect and topple ruling elites; he uses protests within Belarus as an example. He doesn't really follow this up with counterexamples: Great Firewall Of China, anyone? More to the point: politics will exist even after text messages amongst flashmobs are a faint memory. I'd have liked this book better had Shirky cowritten it with a political scientist.

Had Shirky dug into this a little more, the whole tone of his book would have changed. Had he scaled out his historical perspective, he might not be as optimistic either. I've been reading about the revolutionary potential of technology at least since I started using PGP; it was supposed to have been used by freedom fighters in the jungles of Burma. This strain continued through O'Reilly's publication of its collection of essays on P2P. Within there were essays on, say, FreeNet, which was explicitly designed to create a censorship-proof peer-to-peer network. Only the occasional voice was brave enough to ask whether FreeNet would even be permitted within a repressive regime. If Shirky were interested in convincing me that technology might topple existing power structures, he'd go ask how those freedom-fighters are doing.

Shirky's is a valuable point of view, but it's a point of view that I've heard too many times. Nowadays, it's more courageous -- and ultimately, I think, more helpful to the world -- to write a book disagreeing with Shirky ("Google and the Myth of Universal Knowledge," say, or "The Cult of the Amateur") than it is to write Here Comes Everybody.
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140 of 158 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five for Synthesis & Explanation, March 2, 2008
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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.

Other books I recommend:
Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, & the Economic World
Tools for Thought: The History and Future of Mind-Expanding Technology
The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier
Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised : Democracy, the Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything
Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration
Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming
Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace

There is of course also a broad literature on complexity, collapse, resilience, diversity, integral consciousness and so on.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Primer for the newbie, Non-Geek and the Seasoned Social Media Pros, March 11, 2008
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.

Each example in his book includes three vital elements: a credible and clear promise, use of the right social media tool(s) and an attractive bargain for and with potential participants.

Writing in sharp contrast to Shirky's view of social media as a collective experience for "us", Lee Siegel, in Against the Machine, believes the Internet mainly serves "me" and often brings out the banal in "amateurs". He calls it, "the first social environment to serve the needs of the isolated, elevated, asocial individual."
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific introduction to social technology, February 29, 2008
Wikipedia shouldn't exist. I mean, think about it - it's a knowledge resource put together by volunteers, many of whom contribute once and then leave. And yet, Wikipedia is working, with its quality improving every day. How did this happen?

Clay Shirky is a leading thinker on social technologies, and this book is his introduction to why social technologies like Wikipedia work. Each chapter has a well-chosen story to illustrate the technologies he's discussing, from the Stolen Sidekick page to Flickr's coverage of Coney Island's Mermaid Parade, and how they are being used, including Egyptian activists using Twitter to keep each other updated of their activities and confrontations with authority, or Belarussian protestors using LiveJournal to organize flash mobs.

Shirky's book is a terrific introduction to social technology, with an overview of both the social and the technological and how they are feeding on each other to form new combinations. I highly recommend it to anybody who has any interest in how new tools are giving us more power by multiplying the number of ways in which we can interact with each other.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-written and informative, April 4, 2008
Clay Shirky does a very good job documenting and explaining how new technological tools (e-mail, weblogs, wikis etc.) have, after becoming widely accessible, revolutionized how social groups can form, interact and achieve their goals.

He cites the usual suspects like e.g. Linux and Wikipedia as exceptional feats in free collaboration. But there are a lot of other interesting stories about small and large groups with vastly different objectives in the book you have probably never heard of.

And more importantly, while he explains how these projects and the tools they use work (in a way geared toward non-techies), the book is really about why they work from a sociological point of view. It is delighting to notice all those communities and group projects that have come out of nowhere to, seemingly without organization, build something for themselves and others. But it is really enlightening to read Shirky's well-written explanation of the underlying principles.

The book is fun to read and, considering its topic's impact on society, should be of interest to just about everybody.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deep Thoughts on Social Media and The Internet, May 30, 2011
By 
Dan Wallace (Minneapolis, MN) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations (Paperback)
The subtitle of this book is "Revolution doesn't happen when society adopts new technology, it happens when society adopts new behaviors." Nice tag line, and a good entry point into this penetrating examination of how the Internet and Social Media are transforming the world we live in. Shirky covers complex content with humility, humanity and skill.

Here Comes Everybody is a remarkable book. Shirky states that the Internet is the biggest disruptive force since the telephone, television, transistor and the birth control pill combined. I've heard others say the printing press, and a blog I read recently compared the Internet to the invention of alphabet. In any event, it's a watershed event.

In this book's well-edited pages Shirky says, "Philosophers sometimes make a distinction between difference in degree (more of the same) and difference in kind (something new)." Social Media and the Internet represent something new. He adds, "When society is changing, we want to know whether the change is good or bad, but that kind of judgment becomes meaningless with transformations this large."

Central to this book is Coase's theorem. Coase won a Nobel Prize studying the economic factors of production inside of firms, a radical departure from traditional macroeconomic focus. Coase looked at transaction costs within and between firms (Contracting, Cooperating, Control) as a key unit of economic study. What he found is that three transaction activities have historically required significant cost and energy:

1. Sharing
2. Cooperation
3. Collective Action

The Internet makes these activities much less expensive. Shirky sees the cost of sharing plummeting to zero, creating bargains for shoppers, and new challenges and opportunities for business. The Internet is also reducing the cost of categorization, digital reproduction and distribution. All of this is creating significant disruption for newspapers, advertisers, the post office, encyclopedias, the music industry, etc.

Shirky also sees disruption for attorneys, doctors, journalists, consultants and management professionals because of the readily available knowledge on the Internet. He says, "Professional self-conception and self-defense, so valuable in ordinary times, become a disadvantage in revolutionary ones, because professionals are always concerned with threats to the profession." And further, "Novices make mistakes from a lack of experience. They overestimate user fads, see revolution everywhere, and they make this kind of error a thousand times before they learn better. In times of revolution, though, the experienced among us make the opposite mistake. When a real, once-in-a-lifetime change comes along, we are at risk of regarding it as a fad"

Shirky sees cooperation as more difficult than sharing because it requires behavior synchronization -- and collective action harder still because it requires the commitment to the group and group governance, "or, put another way, rules for losing." He states that as a group grows arithmetically the complexity grows logarithmically. More people, more potential problems.

One potential solution to cooperation is shared awareness. He states that shared awareness in collective action has three levels: 1) When everybody knows something; 2) When somebody knows what everybody knows; 3) When everybody knows that everybody knows. For example, he talked about how radios transformed German Panzer tanks from military hardware into a new form of coordinated weapon, while the French saw tanks as accessories to infantry units. And today Internet apps are more pervasive and powerful than Walkie Talkies.

On a human level, Shirky shows how Social Media and the Internet is changing the way we interact, and how reciprocity, altruism, and even love are central in this new world. He even says that the Internet is making the physical world and relationships more important than ever. For these values to succeed, however, he states the need for social density and continuity, factors present in social media and in big cities. Shirky also tips his hat to Gladwell's work in the Tipping Point, which points to the value of mavens, connectors and salespeople (a hypothesis recently contested, however, through a research by Duncan J Watts PhD that indicates good ideas are actually the keys to memes going viral).

Following along on the human trail, Shirky explains Dunbar research indicating that human beings can only have about 150 meaningful relationships, and that the way these dense interrelationships interact can enhance or slow progress. Dunbar sets the stage for Metcalfe's Law, which says, "The value of the network grows with the square of its users" so when you double the size of the network, you quadruple the number of potential connections. Metcalfe's Law is the topped by David Reed's Law, which says that the value of the group actually grows exponentially since groups can splinter into numerous subgroups. As a category these theories are related to Power Laws, which include Zipps Law and the 80/20 Rule. All of this is seriously academic stuff, but when you think about it these theories explain the growth of Google, The Huffington Post and Facebook -- and why big established companies are valuable but have a hard time innovating.

Given the theoretical fixed limit of 150 meaningful human relationships, one of Shirky's solutions for the problem of Collective Action is to use connectors as ambassadors to different small groups. This is what cross-functional leaders and managers traditionally do, so it would be good to hear more about the behavioral nuances he sees. If you know of such work, send it to me @ideafood on Twitter.

This book has also made me curious about what new interpersonal behaviors this technology is creating and requiring on an individual level. How will the Internet, Social Media and Games lead to new behaviors at home work and school? What new behaviors are needed? He hints at this with his most recent book, Cognitive Surplus, which envisions could happen if people stopped watching mind-numbing TV and started doing things like write Wikipedia pages or Amazon book reviews.

And Here Comes Everybody does have interesting thoughts about business operations. Shirky says, "All businesses are media businesses, because whatever else they do, all businesses rely on managing information for two audiences -- employees and the world." He adds further, " In economic terms, capital is a store of wealth and assets; social capital is that store of behaviors and norms in any large group that lets its members support one another." Once old costs are shed, time and money can be applied to different things.

He also talks about innovation, with the value of networks as a foundation: "It's not how many people you know, it's how many kinds," and then he extols the advantages of cognitive diversity for innovation. At the same time, organizations have a difficult time innovating, because creative people are harder to manage, disruptive, and difficult to compensate, and they often don't scale well. And then there is the natural human tendency to destroy things, which Shirky believes is because destruction is easier than construction. As he says, "Anything that increases the cost of doing something reduces what gets done," and doing nothing is always easiest. The cherry on top is the personal interests and rivalries at play with regard to new ideas. Little wonder that Machiavelli advised against doing new things! Yet the world requires it more than ever.

One buried solution for innovation is simplicity. He says, "Communication tools don't become socially interesting until they become technologically boring." I love this line.

What Here Comes Everybody did not predict is that Twitter and Facebook would be used as tools to overthrow despots in Arab lands. Although Shirky did lay-out the theoretical groundwork for the multi-billion dollar valuations of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Groupon and Zenga. Now Flipboard and Zite are putting further pressure on traditional media. A lot has happened since this book came out three years ago in 2009.

It makes me wonder, "Where things will be three years from now in 2014?"

Maybe Clay Shirky will tell us on another book. In the meantime, here are some other books on the Internet worth reading:

Collective Intelligence: Mankind's Emerging World in Cyberspace (Helix Books)
Neuromancer
The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly, 2nd Edition
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Beginning, Good Middle and Weak End, February 10, 2009
In Here Comes Everybody (Penguin, 2009), Clay Shirky's overall argues that the number of groups active in society is increasing as new communication technologies lower transaction costs. Further, the new groups' successes stem from their freedom from the overhead burdening in conventional companies and institutions. He elaborates this not too controversial thesis well, recounting numerous episodes of socio-communicative technologies in action, starting with and how the Web and public reaction pressured New York City's police into retrieving a lost cell phone. He moves on to the greatest hits of the early Web 2.0 era, covering Flickr, Wikipedia, MeetUp, MoveOn and the like.

I suspect well-backgrounded readers will have heard these tales before, but Shirky does service capturing each in well written snapshots while also identifying the social issues they raise, such as: do we really want police wasting time cell phones? Particularly pleasing me, Shirky's discussions introduce important scholarly ideas, like Coase's theorem, the Power Law, Prisoner's Dilemma and the Small World. His summaries of these nuggets are reasonable, and by and large their inclusion underscores important points. Those looking for a readable preface to mapping the social ramifications of this communication revolution will be satisfied.

The work's main weakness is that the discussions do not build to anything coherent. While nearly all have value and more or less insight, the large number of ideas (and anecdotes) means that the treatments are necessarily thin, verging on superficial. He also runs through them like slides from a travelogue. Toward the end, he does offer a potentially useful way to think about new group success, giving three prerequisites--reasonable promise, the right tool and an attractive bargain, but this thought feels tacked on and sketchy. I think he would have done better to integrate it from the beginning and change the focus accordingly.

I saw two mistakes. He confuses the supply/demand concept, several times stating that as price goes down, demand increases. In classical economics, demand is not a direct function a price, and it may be inelastic. Thus, if the price of something falls, I may not buy more. For example, I read roughly the same amount each day no matter how much the material costs. This gaffe could lead to inaccurate predictions as to the aggregate effects of social tools. Less significantly, Susanne Lohmann and Robert Putnam, respectively identified as a historian and a sociologist, would probably associate themselves with political science.

In all, this cuisine left me hungry. Despite his boosterish tone, Shirky ultimately cops out on the question of this new communication environment's value, maintaining that because the before qualitatively differs from the after any revolution cannot be judged. Instead, he retreats behind the façade of inevitably, effectively saying change has come, now deal. I find both points disagreeable---comparison is vital, if difficult, and revolutions (especially in their particulars) are not predestined.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Everybody should read it, September 6, 2008
Unless you've been living under a rock over the past few years, you would have noticed an explosion in ways that people interact, collaborate and exchange information online. We are probably undergoing the greatest technological shift since the advent of e-mail, and it'd probably hard to grasp all the ramifications that profound new change is heralding. Every year now, or sometimes every month, several new information terms and products enter our collective consciousness, terms like blog, Twitter, Digg, Facebook, MySpace, collaborative filtering, crowdsourcing, online social networking, and many, many others. It becomes harder and harder to keep track of what each one of them means, little less of how to use it or whether to use it at all. Many of them may just be passing fads, but it is hard to deny that put together they are part of some larger trend. However, it may not be so obvious what this trend is all about and one often can't see the forest from all the trees. From that point, Clay Shirky's book "Here Comes Everybody" can be best understood as a field guide that will take you on a guided tour of this new forest and explain its immediate implications for how we live our lives, work or play. It is a very well written book, written in an easy-going journalistic style. It brings forth many real-life stories and case analyses that help with explaining these recent trends. The book is informative without being bogged down in technical jargon. It is also a very gripping read, and once one starts reading it is hard to put down. I would recommend it to everyone who is interested in getting a big picture of where we are headed in terms of collaborative technologies.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clay Shirky has got it right, February 19, 2009
I found this book a particular treat, although reading it was hard work. In the time before usenet and later the internet, I immersed myself in futurology, and even earned a bit of money from it.

What a delight to be brought up to date by Clay Shirky. Living in the UK, many of the issues with which he deals have occurred across on his side of the Atlantic and he has added so much more detail, solved so many more parts of the puzzle.

He cleared up many things which I knew about earlier. How, and why the RC church, for example, had tried to stifle its parishioners, how NW Airlines had been bested in a tarmac war, and Santa Cruz! (SCO) versus IBM, Groklaw and the ROW - great stuff.

An MIT professor might say: We know all this, been there! done that! But most of us haven't, although if we'd been in the right place, the right time, we might well have been. I would defend Shirky from attacks about what he reports. What goes on in the real world is independent of any individual, but there is a tendency for others to attack Mr Shirky for the actuality he reports. I reckon that's a professional foul.

I was just looking at Clay's book before writing this, and I thought, if only he had focused on more general readers - those foot soldiers who occasionally contribute to Wikipedia for example, and had he chosen simpler more approachable language, he would more readily have attained the attention and respect his work deserves - he would join the likes of Berne, Carnegie, Peale, Maslow and Thomas A Harris who really did talk to the intelligent majority.

Clay Shirky is well placed to keep us informed on what's going on. He doesn't have to dumb down, but I hope in his next book he will make his message easier to read. Still - top marks.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye-opening and entertaining, July 12, 2008
By 
Kenneth Simon (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
What is behind the explosion of Internet-based social networking in all its forms, from shared book reviews on Amazon, to e-mail, listservs, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter? And more important: what does this new wave of truly participatory media bode for the future?

Clay Shirky takes on these big questions in "Here Comes Everybody," and the result is an engaging, eye-opening book that draws upon social change theory, economics, and psychology. Shirky contends that the Internet, cell phones and other two-way communications technologies have lowered the barriers to group formation, such that people are organizing to great effect in ways that would have been impossible just a few years ago. This is taking place in all sorts of ways: social groups, political action groups, photo sharing, news and information sharing, lifestyle support groups, the list goes on and on.

Shirky believes that the power of these new tools at our disposal will be harnessed collectively in a positive direction. He acknowledges that many individuals seek to disrupt cooperative efforts (look at spammers, or "trolls" on mailing lists, for instance). Tools that are overrun by those seeking to disrupt them, though, were flawed in some way, and will fall away in favor of tools such as Wikipedia that correct for such vandalism.

What of corporate and governmental entities trying to screen/censor Internet content? Shirky believes that such efforts are doomed to failure: due to the nature of the technology itself, people will find a way around those attempted impositions. So far, world events bear out his perspective.

Shirky doesn't deal much with inequities in access to these communications tools. But that may be peripheral to his point: after all, not everyone had access to a printing press, yet its relatively widespread availability led to great change all over the world. And anyway, Shirky isn't crazy enough to say that the new ease of organizing will eradicate inequality throughout the world.

"Here Comes Everybody" is an important counterpoint to those who think that social networking is just a popularity contest for kids, or who bemoan the "narcissism" of people who put their information into MySpace. There's a whole lot more going on there, and people of all generations are beginning to figure that out.
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Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations
Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky (Paperback - February 24, 2009)
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