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Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything Paperback – September 28, 2010
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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?
Top international reviews
Some of the examples of mass collaboration cited as fundamental paradigm shifts strike me as incremental shifts at best - chief amongst these, the example of GoldCorp who opened up their geological data to everyone and as a result netted a huge windfall of information that led to the identification of new, rich seams of gold in a mine that was about to be closed. It's interesting, yes, but I feel nothing revolutionary. The GoldCorp situation says more 'competition' than 'collaboration' to me - effectively GoldCorp ran a competition in which they said 'Find us some gold, win a prize!'. None of the mechanisms that lead to mass collaboration as a genuinely new phenomenon are present in a number of the examples given.
The book is sparesely sourced, but contains interviews (or at least, soundbites) with a number of very prominent figures in the computing industry and other areas. Some of these people are pioneers in some of the emergent ideas that, in my opinion, indicate collaboration as a paradigm shift.
Some of the examples are great such as the gold mining and the role of IBM in open source development but some cases are less clear cut. The reverse engineering of Japanese motorcycles by the newly rising Chinese industry perhaps should give us a warning about how the knowledge economy is ultimately at the mercy of the manufacturing economy that for now are collaborators. Collaboration is fine so long as altruism flourishes and everyone benefits but eventually someone wants more then their fare share of the pie.
The test will be to see how many of the businesses described in the book outlive the current economic downturn. Those that do will have proved the point but I do not think it is a one fit solution for all.
As a general introduction to "Web2.0" for the uninitiated, I'm sure this book would be a great introduction without ever getting too technical or spending too much time in one area. So maybe I just wasn't the right audience for this book.
To me, this book feels like something written by someone who really understands the topic through-and-through, sits down, and starts writing off the top of their head, and that's it. No bold new insights or mind-blowing connections others have over-looked, it is just a topical survey of some of the big players that were on the scene at the time this book was written.
The book explains in simple terms how "crowdsourcing" creates new ideas, new products and new wealth. Its enthusiasm is sometimes contagious.
But when you look under the hood, you might detect some serious flaws Who benefits most from this revolution ? The capitalistic companies that see their market value soar. Collaboration often means insecurity and meager earnings for the collaborators. The author omits to mention that crowdsourcing is a double-edged sword.
1. To explore further how collaborative technologies could be optimised and used more effectively.
2. Continue to evaluate and keep an overview of the open source movement and software development, in general.
Since reading this book I've been trying to find ways for my organisation to better collaborate internally, as well as with our customers & suppliers. Some have been executed & some are ready to be executed & the rewards (better/closer engagement) are tangible.
En bref, lisez le résumé, qui synthétise bien le contenu du bouquin. Ne perdez pas votre temps et votre argent en allant plus loin.