I believe Stephen Downes has spotted the next big discussion from pundits who want to criticize the emerging social network as outlined in a new Inc. magazine article entitled the Idiocy of Crowds. I believe it is a must read for progressive administrators who advocate these technologies so that you can formulate your response IN ADVANCE.
“This article is getting some traction, but it would have been nice had the author taken the time to comprehend the theory he is criticizing.”
The author in this article says:
“As for the Internet and our newfound ability to tap into the masses, a more subtle form of havoc arises. Simply put, when you make it easy for everyone to put in his two cents, with little filtering or accountability, the scum tends to rise to the top…For all the excitement generated by social networking sites like Facebook, how many people are actually making valuable contacts on these sites, compared with the amount of time wasted browsing through the sea of goofy material out there?”
My opinion of his rationale
Balance is vital. A crowd or mob in the traditional sense is a cacophonous chaotic mass of people. However, the crowds as gathering on the internet are a far cry from the “mass” that I believe is alluded to in the article.
Although one cannot rely solely on the crowd to determine what is important (after all the first post has to come from somewhere doesn't it), it serves as an effective road map or pulse of the leaders in fields. It is an effective tool and to ignore what blogs say is to ignore research itself, for indeed best practices research as done in education is truly the aggregation of the results from a multitude of respondents.
I would argue that what we have is by far the greatest potential research tool that has as yet been created! (We need to revisit and work on the proposed Standards for educators from the K12 wiki project — if you'd like to join, request to join the space and add your thoughts.) As for me, I have created amazing relationships and learned so much from others.
But Accountability is a good point!
Additionally, he does bring up a valuable point… accountability. I do not subscribe to anonymous blogs for that reason. Every person should be accountable. I have several people at my school and in my home town that I have asked to read all of my blogs. It makes me a better blogger and “saves me from myself.” If I misstate something (they know me and are good at catching it), then I can quickly rectify it. I think some bloggers should be held accountable and are saying things they will regret when the rest of their peers come on board in several years and catch up on “friend Johnny's blog” only to realize that they've been the butt of his frustration for years.
How would you respond to this argument if someone slapped the article down on your desk?
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