Question the Wisdom of Crowds

Author: Gab Goldenberg

Ever see that classic gag of a couple of people standing around staring upwards at nothing and pointing in the same direction? A crowd grows around them, and gets gradually bigger. The point is just to see how many people they can attract into their crowd of starers and how long they can keep them there. It’s a good reason to be dubious of the wisdom of crowds.

I was flamed recently by someone taking my words out of context. Between the time the post went up and my response in the comments, about a dozen people commented, all of them joining the author in attacking me. None of them were bright enough to return to see the followup, naturally, and a few obviously responded without having read the post.

“John has 3 apples and Steve has four apples. Steve gives John four apples. How many apples does Steve have?” The answer, obsviously, is 0 – Steve gave them all away. Yet when this problem was assigned for math homework in grade 4, everyone else but another kid and I answered 7. Moderately more intelligent than the above commenters, however, those kids at least came around.

See everyone applauding a technique for disguising your text link ads? Question it. Great point Malte! Note: There’s a difference between questioning and fair criticism and flaming/taking people out of context for the purpose of sensationalism. Malte’s on the right side of that line.

Consider what the crowds are saying, but don’t take it for the final truth. There’s a reason that followers are called sheep, and a reason for the expression, “like sheep to the slaughter.”

Naturally, if you liked me challenging the wisdom of crowds, add the Wikipedia nofollow plugin. Err, I mean, subscribe.

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  1. Right on wrong, stirring up controversy isn't necessarily a bad thing. Creating a buzz is how you get all those sheep to flock to you. :)

    Comment by MIke - March 26, 2008 @ 11:58am
  2. Stirring up controversy isn't a bad thing, you're right. But controversy for its own sake gets dull really quickly and people tune you out. How many SEOs pay any attention to Jason Calacanis, for instance?

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - March 26, 2008 @ 11:07pm
  3. Yep, like most things good in moderation.

    Comment by MIke - March 27, 2008 @ 12:04am

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