Four Pillars: On expertise

I guess it behooves me to document the genealogy of this particular snowball. I’m privileged to belong to a mail list on internet economics moderated by Gordon Cook of the Cook Report. Gordon referred me to a piece by Peter Nicholson, President, Council of Canadian Academics. You can find the speech here. And Gordon in turn was referred to Nicholson’s speech by Bill St Arnaud. The Cluetrain gang, and more particularly Doc and RageBoy and David Weinberger, have been making similar points for some years now. And the work that Andrew McAfee has been doing at Harvard tracks this from an enterprise viewpoint.

It’s worth reading what Nicholson has to say. Even if I have seen some of it in other forms and media before, I found what he said and the way he said it useful.

The World Live Web, as Doc and David like to call it, has a lot of active information. We use a lot of tools to try and create the right filters on that information. PageRanks a la Google. Link weights a la technorati. Blogrolls of people we like and trust. References in blogs written by people we trust, that lead us to new areas. Collaboratively filtered signals a la StumbleUpon. Peer-review. Serendipity. Wisdom of Crowds a la Surowiecki. Emergence a la Steven Johnson. Google and Wikipedia themselves.What Larry Sanger is now doing. Even IMDB.
And then we mash it all up at high speed within our own brains. Matt Webb gave us his own take on all this at reboot, with a presentation on Making Senses.

In a strange kind of way, we are evolving attention sensors and antennae, new reference frames for analysing that which grabs our attention, new ways of learning which attention-grabbers are worth giving attention to.

Control of attention is disaggregating; this makes all centralised expertise models shiver and shake. Which is why, as Doc says, blogging must remain provisional.

Blog posts are but a small group of inputs to this process. The output, emergently and crowdedly peer-reviewed, is measured in snowballs. It is this exciting and alive peer-review process that prevents propaganda and dogma, that nips snowballs in the bud. Far more efficiently than any previous iteration.

Copernicus and Galileo and Newton and even Einstein would have had a far easier time if they were able to blog. Because good snowballs can’t be suppressed.

2 thoughts on “Four Pillars: On expertise”

  1. Didn’t Newton leave his calculus work unpublished for 20 years ? That’s how Stephenson explains that conflict with Leibniz in System of the World anwyay…

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