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Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything Hardcover – December 28, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
The word "wiki" means "quick" in Hawaiian, and here author and think tank CEO Tapscott (The Naked Corporation), along with research director Williams, paint in vibrant colors the quickly changing world of Internet togetherness, also known as mass or global collaboration, and what those changes mean for business and technology. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia written, compiled, edited and re-edited by "ordinary people" is the most ubiquitous example, and its history makes remarkable reading. But also considered are lesser-known success stories of global collaboration that star Procter & Gamble, BMW, Lego and a host of software and niche companies. Problems arise when the authors indulge an outsized sense of scope-"this may be the birth of a new era, perhaps even a golden one, on par with the Italian renaissance, or the rise of Athenian democracy"-while acknowledging only reluctantly the caveats of weighty sources like Microsoft's Bill Gates. Methods for exploiting the power of collaborative production are outlined throughout, an alluring compendium of ways to throw open previously guarded intellectual property and to invite in previously unavailable ideas that hide within the populace at large. This clear and meticulously researched primer gives business leaders big leg up on mass collaboration possibilities; as such, it makes a fine next-step companion piece to James Surowiecki's 2004 bestseller The Wisdom of Crowds.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Anyone who has done even a modest amount of browsing on the Internet has probably run across Wikipedia, the user-edited online encyclopedia that now dwarfs the online version of Encyclopedia Britannica. This is the prime example of what is called the new Web, or Web 2.0, where sites such as MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, and even the Human Genome Project allow mass collaboration from participants in the online community. These open systems can produce faster and more powerful results than the traditional closed proprietary systems that have been the norm for private industry and educational institutions. Detractors claim that authentic voices are being overrun by "an anonymous tide of mass mediocrity," and private industry laments that competition from the free goods and services created by the masses compete with proprietary marketplace offerings. The most obvious example of this is Linux, the open-source operating system that has killed Microsoft in the server environment. But is this a bad thing? Tapscott thinks not; and as a proponent of peering, sharing, and open-source thinking, he has presented a clear and exciting preview of how peer innovation will change everything. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Here are the pluses and minuses.
First, the book is too long. A good technical editor could easily pare 1/3 out, and the authors would still make the same point.
Second, somewhere along the line Penguin abandoned most uses of the comma. You can see it in most of their recent books, and this is a problem. It makes sentence mechanics less precise and sentences much harder to read. Again, a technical editor could go through this book and make it more readable.
Third, some sections are unnecessarily dense. Some of the nomanilized verbs (ex. verbs turned into nouns using "tion") are priceless. I have no doubt they will end up in the Hall of Fame at the Society for Technical Communication.
Fourth, some sections repeat earlier material ad nauseum.
Fifth, the authors bury each chapter thesis at the end of the chapter. If you are writing technical text, please do not do this. Tell me your thesis up front. Then, I may decide whether or not I want to wade through your following arguments. Imagine how much easier would our reading lives be if everybody built written arguments like this.
The authors present important thinking on the present transformation of business through interactive communication. People working without global barriers may lead to positive economies of scale, with high levels of creativity never seen before.
The Bottom Line:
Read this book. Despite its density, the points are important. You can knock out the book in a few weeks of casual reading. Yes it is dense, and some sections simply restate earlier material to death, but this may be because we now live in uncharted waters. Maybe some points bear repeating.
My biggest concern is this book does not present a balanced picture. It talks only in glowing, positive terms about the reality of webs of collaboration. It never addresses the negative externalities that result. And as the late neo-Luddite Neil Postman wrote, every new technology solves old problems while creating new problems. What new problems will result from all this technology based collaboration?
For example, were all module suppliers for the Boeing 787 able to deliver on their contracts, especially in the wake of our current global economic recession-depression?
Who bears the costs of negative externalities? For example, how much pollution do Boeing's suppliers create when shipping modules from Australia or Japan to Washington state? Who pays these costs? How much fuel is burned up moving modules from one place to another? Wouldn't it be less polluting and more efficient for these companies to build plants in Washington state?
What are the negative effects of such profound economies of scale (EOS) during economic downturns, like now? We saw similar EOS almost wipe out whole industries. Herbert Spencer, the early sociologist, would tell us to ignore it, that it's a cycle of nature that leads to stronger human institutions. Maybe so. But, it also can and does lead to real human suffering. I don't know about others, but I do not feel consoled by being able to Facebook or Twitter about environmental and human devastation wrought by global EOS.
Finally, what is the potential for one supplier in a chain of modules to hold out for ransom before delivery? With such a duck soup of global contractual law, I think a very real potential exists for this. It's not like you can run down to the Home Depot or the next competitor to replace the module. Remember, as Tapscott and Williams write that suppliers continually re-engineer the modules. A sponsoring company like Boeing may hold no proprietary rights, or may not have the core information that lets it re-create the module.
This is all dicey to say the lest; yet, none of it is remotely approached in the first edition of the book. If not in the second edition, the third edition must also contain critiques or, minimally, questions about the potential negatives.
- Generate revenue from support, training, and consulting on a limited set of dimensions of value that matter most to customers
- Determine how participants will capture value (monetary or non-monetary value) for their contribution
--> Non monetary sources include prestige & social belonging
--> Allow others to extend and add services
- Assume everything digital is free and replicable
- Outsource everything non-strategic
- Interoperate with other open systems (in both directions)
- Successful communities require:
--> A core group to guide, integrate, and manage exceptions to processes
--> Mechanisms for quality control
--> Self selecting and self replenishing
--> Constant communication
--> Systems that are modular, reconfigurable, and editable
Though I summarize the books I read, I always recommend that folks buy the book for themselves to get the full benefit and to support the author's endeavors. As other reviewers have noted, this is slow and sometimes repetitive read. However, when you step back from it, you observe a nice framework for applying mass collaboration to your existing or future business. The authors do this deftly through examples that span gold mining to healthcare to social media.
While it has mixed reviews ("made me feel alternately like Christopher Columbus and Grandpa Simpson"), it's an important addition to your organization's resource library.
Tapscot and Williams deliver fascinating case studies of companies that have opened up their internal secrets/data to the world so "mass collaboration" can help them solve big problems. Procter & Gamble did it and so did a failing Toronto-based gold-mining firm. In 2000, Goldcorp, Inc. ran a contest, the "Goldcorp Challenge," with $575,000 in prize money--and posted all of the mine's proprietary data on the web. The request: help us find more gold. The result: "More than 1,000 virtual prospectors from 50 countries got busy crunching the data."
Mass collaboration from the most unlikely sources and disciplines targeted new mother lodes on their 55,000-acre property. It worked: $100 invested in the company in 1993 was worth more than $3,000 in 2006.
There's a core value here (a biblical one) for faith-based organizations and churches: it's all kingdom work. It's time to open up and work together versus holding your ministry close to the vest. (It's not your ministry anyway!)
Read this book and then ask your team these questions: 1) What's our biggest challenge in the next 12 months? 2) Would mass collaboration help us solve it? 3) Do we operate as if the smartest people are INSIDE our organization or OUTSIDE our organization? Why?