I had the pleasure of meeting Tom Malone shortly after he’d published The Future Of Work, at Supernova 2004 (thanks to JD Lasica for the coverage), where we were both speaking. [If you’re interested in what a 21st century firm will really look like, you must read Tom’s book, especially in conjunction with that of John Roberts, The Modern Firm.]
Last Friday, Tom, along with a few others, kicked off a large-scale experiment. Called We Are Smarter Than Me, it brings together MIT, Wharton, Pearson and Shared Insights, seeking to confront and confound a particular paradox. In their own words:
- A few books have recently been written on this topic, but they all fail to confront one central paradox. While they extol the power of communities, they were each written by only one person. We’re putting this paradox to the test by inviting hundreds of thousands of authors to contribute to this “network book” using today’s technologies.
We’ve had experiments where people have collaborated on books online before (Dan Gillmor’s We The Media comes to mind) but I’ve never seen anything of this scale. I understand that over 1.5 million invitations have been sent out; no I did not get one of them :-) but that did not deter me from signing up. Check it out for yourself, barriers to participation are remarkably low. Which is a good thing.
Currently I’m just lurking, taking a look at what’s happening, as the structure and content of the book morphs around me lazily. Insane, like a smoke-ring day when the wind blows. Soon I will figure out where and how I want to participate. Follow the links to We Are Smarter if you want to know more.
I’m also intrigued by something else about the cultures forming in this giant Petri dish. I’ve always believed in a simple rule-of-thumb about opensource communities:
- For every 1000 people who join a community:
- 920 are lurkers, passive observers
- 60 are watchers, active observers capable and willing to kibitz
- 15 are activists, actually doing something
- …and 5 are hyperactive, passionate about what they’re doing, almost to a point of obsession
I shall watch with interest as the numbers grow, to see how close my rule of thumb is to reality. Any views out there, or shall I start a prediction market on this?
One final thing. One of the trends the book is meant to pick out is that of microfinance. I wonder. I just wonder. Take the network book and attach it to network funding, make it available on-demand whenever, wherever, however. I wonder.