Nordic Track Book Club Review: Here Comes Everybody

I knew I’d enjoy Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky and I wasn’t disappointed.  Shirky writes about the dynamics of groups and collaborative productivity in an environment where online communities can now so easily be created and maintained.  A lot of takeaways here that apply to Open Source development, and I will be reading this book again.  Many more excerpts where these came from. 5 out of 5 stars.

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p.16 Almost everyone belongs to multiple groups based on family, friends, work, etc.  The centrality of group effort to human life means that anything that changes the way groups function will have profound ramifications for everything, from commerce and government to media and religion.

p.18 Getting the free and ready participation of a large distributed group with a variety of skills has gone from impossible to simple.

p.39 Flicker escaped the problems of group organization not by increasing its managerial oversight over photographers, but by abandoning any hope of such oversight in the first place, instead putting in place tools for the self-synchronization of otherwise latent groups.

p.45 Think of these activities as valuable to someone but too expensive to be taken on in an institutional way because the basic and unsheddable cost of being an institution in the first place make those activities not worth pursuing.

Large decreases in transaction costs create activities that can’t be taken on by businesses.  Now that it is possible to achieve large-scale coordination at low cost, a third category has emerged: serious complex work taken on without institutional direction.  Loosely coordinated groups can now achieve things that were previously out of reach for any other organizational structure.

p.50 The litmus test for collaborative production is simple: no one person can take credit for what gets created and the project could not come into being without the participation of many.

p.64 From now on, news can break into public consciousness without the traditional press weighing-in.  The mass amateurization of publishing undoes the limitations inherent in having a small number of traditional press outlets.  What was once a service has become a bottleneck.

p.75 The success of iStockPhoto suggests that the old division of amateur and professional is only a gradient rather than a gap and that it can be calculated photo by photo.

p.86 Prior to the internet when we talked about media we were talking about two different things, broadcast media and communications media.

p.91 Fame is simply an imbalance between inbound and outbound attention, more arrows pointing in than out.

p.99 As Cory Doctorow puts it, “Conversation is king.  Content is just something to talk about.”

p.105 Communications tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.  The invention of a tool doesn’t create change.  It has to have been around long enough so that most of society is using it.

p.120 Because contributors aren’t employees, Wikipedia can take a staggering amount of input with a minimum of overhead.

p.136 Wikipedia and all wikis grow if enough people care about them and they die if they don’t. The LA Times Wikitorial had been up for less than 48 hours when, after being vandalized with off-topic content and porn, a Times Staffer was told to pull the plug.  The problem the Times suffered was simple.  No one cared enough about the contents of the Wikitorial enough to defend it, less alone correct it.

 

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A long time developer, I was an early adopter of Linux in the mid-90's for a few years until I entered corporate environments and worked with Microsoft technologies like ASP, then .NET. In 2008 I released Sueetie, an Online Community Platform built in .NET. In late 2012 I returned to my Linux roots and locked in on Java development. Much of my work is available on GitHub.