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Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything Hardcover – December 28, 2006
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"By 2000, when the music industry finally noticed it, the MP3 b-web had reached critical mass-tens of thousands of music files had become available for downloading over the Net-and Napster alone, record companies said, had cost them $300 million in lost sales."
You mean a "peer-to-peer music network?" As a management consultant by day, I even found myself rolling my eyes at some of Don's painful attempts to coin new jargon. I felt that Tapscott lost a lot of creditability by going down this path. The title alone, "Wikinomics", and the tagline, "How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything," should have given away that the consultantese was going to be thick.
Some sections of the book, like the "tagging" reference below, were just downright funny underlining that Tapscott doesn't have a very in-depth understanding of the technologies that are powering this collaboration phenomena. This suggests that Wikinomics was not edited by a broader audience:
"Tagging harnesses a technology called XML to allow users to affix descriptive labels or keyword to content (techies call it "metadata", or data about data). Wired cofounder Kevin Kelly aptly describes a tag as a public annotation-like a keyword or category name that you hang on a file, web page, or picture. When people tag content collaboratively, it creates a "folksonomy," essentially a bottom-up, organic taxonomy that organizes content on the web"
By definition, a tag does not harness XML. In fact, the two have nothing to do with each other. You could use XML to define a tag, but you could also use a database, file system metadata, or any other symbolic system to define a tag. Almost all web applications with tagging functionality store tagging data in a database system.
While this is a very small detail that Tapscott missed, this book is riddled with many of these small "misunderstandings" making me question the author's editorial process. Maybe if Tapscott had used a wiki to let others edit his transcript, a "techie" would have caught the error and corrected it ;)
Despite the nit-picky details, I would recommend the book to somebody who has never heard of a Wiki, blog, social network or of Web 2.0. It definitely gets the brain thinking about the exciting opportunities that lay ahead for both our professional and personal lives. Many interesting and innovative cases, including some new ways Proctor & Gamble is doing business outside of the traditional corporate hierarchy, are discussed in detail.
If you can stand the consultantese, have $25 laying around, and can find a couple hours to read, definitely pick up this book. If you don't have the time for the consultantese and want to understand what's really going on, pick up the Long Tail.
On page 3, the authors also present the bottom-line: "Billions of connected individuals cn now actively participate in innovation, wealth creation and social development in ways we once only dreamed of. And when these masses of people collaborate they effectively can advance the arts, culture, science, education, government and the economy in surprising but ultimately profitable ways." Step right up, ladies and gentlemen: it's the next big, new thing. Hitch your wagon to it and make billions!
There's page after page of success stories of companies using wikis, blogs and other forms of interactivity to achieve unparalleled successes. But there's a notable absence of tales of failure.
There's also the requisite introduction of new terms because English, the language of Shakespeare, is simply inadequate to describe Tapscott's concepts. "Ideagoras", anyone?
The endless boosterism in these pages is mind-numbing. By the way, if you need help in joining this revolution, Tapscott will consult. Hint. Hint. Hint.
Oh this mass collaboration idea is big. So big that it requires outlandish (and unprovable) comparisons: "With forty-two million items today the New York Public Library is larger than the Alexandria library, but there are still very few libraries that rival the collection of at Alexandria nearly two thousand years ago." Interesting enough, Wikipedia, which Tapscott hails as one of the stellar acheivements of mass collaboration describes the Alexandria library as mostly myth. No factual information exists to support claims about the Library of Alexandria, just as there is surprisingly little fact --- not hype --- to support any of Tapscott's claims. People may remember that it took some time before Ford admitted the Edsel was a bomb or for Coca-Cola to acknowledge that the "New Coke" had been rejected by the market. Thus, all of Tapscott's claims for the success of "mass collaborations", which originate for the most part with their implementors, must be taken with a grain of salt, as was the case with Tapscott's dot-com success stories in the 1990s.
As one might expect, there is little hard information in this book describing how to implement and operate mass collaboration schemes. Just one "success" story after another and endless, breathless proclamations that mass collaboration will change the world.
Is "Wikinomics" entirely useless? No. It is an effective compendium of some very interesting mass collaboration projects, although you have to work to get to the core facts through all the boosterism. It's easier than trying to gather the data through a Google search. Does "Wikinomics" truly point to a revolutionary new technique? No. It makes what people have been doing --- communicating in order to collaborate --- a lot easier, but doesn't really alter the fundamental concepts at work.
If you can deal with purple prose like "So get ready for the hyperempowered citizen. The new generation of digital citizens has the means of creation at their fingertips, so that anything that involves information and culture is grist for the mill of self-organized production". Yeah, we're all Shakespeares, Picassos, Fords and Edisons now.
Read this one for the core information, but ignore the endless hype. I would also suggest seeking other sources that are a bit less hyperbolic.