Monday, May 12, 2008

Wisdom of Crowds Reliability

Something that's been bugging me lately is why we distrust the so called Wisdom of Crowds effect. To recap the wisdom of crowds effect (coined by James Surowiecki the author of the book with the same name), is that the crowd in aggregate is smarter than any one individual. He tells anecdotes of guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar and the fact that the average will be closer to the actual number than any one guess. Another example is from the popular game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Ask the audience is the wisdom of the crowd, while Phone a friend (which fails more time than not) is the individual. We can also point to the success of Wikipedia which is self policed. Are people spammers? Not when it takes them a while to build their reputation. eBay members, Amazon members, and other such members value their reputations more than anything. Is it a few bad apples that ruin it for everyone else?
Can the Wikipedia model work for everything?

The self correcting nature of the wiki allows for people to police and to ban certain IPs and usernames. Further, the general consensus of the crowd is to create something that is useful for everyone. It is the few bad apples that do ruin it for all. The spammers, the Nigerian princes, the Viagra hawkers. Will the crowd out the spammers, I think so, comments anyone?

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