In The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki explains that crowds are only as “wise” as the diversity of thought within them. For example, if a crowd is filled with all similarly-minded individuals, then the decisions of that crowd will be inherently weak.
Marvin Minsky, often described as the father of artificial intelligence, uses a term called “The Investment Principle” to describe a phenomenon whereby our older ideas have unfair advantage over our newer ones. It’s sort of like trying to teach an old dog a new trick. Once the idea is set in our minds, it’s very hard to change — even in the midst of overwhelming evidence!
Therefore, if a group of like-minded individuals comes up with new ideas and then holds onto them for a while, we’d have a nice collection of weak ideas that group members would resist changing.
Welcome to the fishbowl…an ecosystem, consisting of New Media innovators, content creators, and technologists, who consume each other’s content, and then slap each other on the back telling ourselves how smart we are. A place where all new things are cool, and everyone agrees that these cool things will change the world. Oh, and full disclosure — I’m a card carrying member of this fishbowl!
The problem with being in the fishbowl is the fact that we are out of touch with “normal people” who don’t know anything about this New Media stuff. While fishbowlers are moving onto our third and fourth generation Web 2.0 technologies, normal people are still trying to grasp basic concepts of the first round.
Take the building block of New Media: The RSS Feed, for example. For the past year, I have held the title of “New Media Evangelist” at a Fortune 1000 high-tech company. In that year, I have learned one thing: normal people have neither heard of nor use RSS Feeds. It doesn’t mean that they won’t use them – many of my students have harnessed the value of RSS — but the fact is that they all need convincing. They all need to be taught. They all need to understand the relevance of incorporating New Media technologies into their day-to-day lives.
And lastly, of the small percentage of normal people who are actually subscribing to blogs, members of the fishbowl would agree that Google Reader is the tool of choice, right?
Not so fast!
While researching stats for my corporate bloggers, I uncovered that myYahoo subscribers outnumber Google Reader subscribers by a factor of 3.6 to one!
Why? I have a theory. Normal people use the tools that they are comfortable with. If “myYahoo” is where the majority of normal people get their information, why would they add yet another information channel to their arsenal?
Fishbowlers meet the normal people. Normal People meet the Fishbowlers.
Now let’s see if we can help one another.