This was the other book that I managed to plow most of the way through and then finish off on arriving home. It was an interesting read all about the changing way of the world, given the decreasing cost of working together and increased communication. The book looks at how people are using the web and using it well to do things that were previous to the web and social tools on the web impossible.

I feel like the central theme was this idea that we've made it easier and easier for people to contribute to various projects on line and as a function of that there are a) a lot of neat things that catch on and then acquire enough participants to do something useful, with most of the particpants putting in a little bit of effort and a few dedicated folks who are really giving it. Clay walks through a few examples of this that are pretty well known, digg, wikipedia, flickr where people can contribute a very little bit to the project given the appropriate tools and together make something that is really pretty awesome.

As a participant in a few of these systems it is pretty interesting to have someone do a deconstructive work on the social and technological systems that are at play in these new systems and start to personally get a better understanding.

A FEW of the topics that Clay picks up and runs with.

  • It is way easier to find and form groups then it used to be. Wierd little groups can and (now) will for around any topic that you can think of largely because the interested people can find each other!
  • The power law seems to rule the online world. There is always a few people who are very committed and contribute a LOT to any project and then a LOT of other people who drop by and contribute a little. Obviously the tools need to make this possible and in the end often it is the collection of small contributions that end up making the bulk of the work.
  • In order to avoid the "tragedy of the commons" the tools need to make it far easier for the active members of any community to protect the good stuff that is being built then it is to destroy/vandalise it
  • Transactional Costs are so much lower on the internet with many people contributing a little often for free that the cost of organizing or even trying to organize things are hardly possibe/worth it (developing a system of organization and then trying to communicate that system to all the particpants) so the tools need to make it very easy for people to organize things and then... it's best to just go for it!

I left this book feeling like it was time for an ordained mission that I should start working on, using where appropriate all the tools that the book had highlighted. So I guess that means that book was educational enough to be inspirational. Not sure the author was going to inspirational... but there you go. Now to find the time and energy to get out there and get involved :) Ah the constant challenge.

The book hosts a good mix of anecdotal and applied theory for helping describe these social phenomenon that are getting to be the new norm. For anyone who is going to be working or developing a site online I would recommend reading this book.