The Comedy of Crowds

I can’t believe this has been going since July and I have only heard about it now. I always was slow in catching viruses.

Where are the Joneses is a Web 2.0 comedy series comprising a blog, a wiki and a Youtube comedy series featuring Dawn, who has just discovered that she is the product of artificial insemination, and has 27 siblings scattered across Europe. She sets off in search of them, dragging the odd sibling along with her.

The drama evolves as the viewing community contributes ideas and suggestions, making decisions about where Dawn goes next. It’s Forum Theatre Web 2.0 style, with a professional cast and crew to build it into a great – and disturbingly addictive – show. Oh, and it’s funded by Ford, who presumably supplied the spanking new car that Dawn crosses Europe in. Advertising 3.0, evidently.

It’s also a great example of one of the productive applications of the wisdom of crowds idea. Crowds are great for generating ideas and diversity as with the Joneses, distributing tasks to be completed in parallel, and if fuelled by a rush of extreme sentiment, are also capable of revolutions (wisdom does not always come into play here). It’s important to know about what makes crowd wisdom tick, because not all crowds are really crowds, and crowds can also be dumb as over-ethusiasts have discovered to their chagrin.

But as Andrew McAfee recently reminded us in recounting a bizarre experiment, while crowds may be able to coordinate sufficiently well to fly a plane together, they are not very good at landing it. McAfee quotes from Kevin Kelly: “”But group mind seems to be a liability in the decisive moments of touchdown, where there is no room for averages.”

Wisdom of crowds is important to us because in our consulting work we use emergent methods (largely developed by Dave Snowden and his Cognitive Edge network) to pull out the perceptions, ideas and patterns from the “crowd” of the organisation. But at some point this has to be harnessed and focused toward decision and action. This is where the need for a strong professional crew comes in, and the real lesson of Where are the Joneses for me. Thanks to Sebastian Mary for this link.

1 Comment so far

Thanks Patrick - now I will be addicted until I have watched it all 8-) even my 20 yr old liked this one!

Posted on September 27, 2007 at 08:27 PM | Comment permalink

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