wisdom of crowds

The power of peer pressure …

An interesting article in today’s Financial Times about the politics of sellers and buyers rating transactions on eBay.

To summarise, eBay is shifting the balance of power to consumers on its auction site by removing the ability of sellers to leave feedback about buyers. Its reasoning is that if a buyer leaves negative feedback for a seller as a result of an unsatisfactory transaction, some unscrupulous sellers leave negative feedback against buyers as an act of revenge without any justification. This means that buyers are much more willing to leave positive feedback and often reluctant to leave negative feedback thus skewing the rating system and eroding its value … still with me! eBay has said that it will deal with poor performing buyers behind closed doors on behalf of unhappy sellers.

Two things struck me … firstly, what a shame – there’s always some jerk who has to ruin it for everyone else! But, more interestingly for me, is the sheer power of peer pressure as  demonstrated by comments in this article … it’s extraordinary how much value people put on preserving their on-line ‘reputations’ … for me, this is a really positive affirmation of the underlying principles of social media. When people care about how they are perceived on the web, crowd-sourced content can only be in rude health.

It also bodes very well for companies thinking of introducing user-generated content onto their intranets where anonymous participation is impossible. I have always maintained that, if you allow employees to publish freely on an intranet, they won’t go and publish defamatory, pointless, abusive content. Firstly, because they aren’t stupid and don’t want to get sacked gratuitously and secondly, because people genuinely care about what their colleagues think of them.

As ‘personal’ brands grow through individuals creating more content on the web, so individuals have more to lose … the direct result of which must be a decreased likelihood of people doing stupid things without thinking and potentially jeopardising their hard-earned reputations.

Five reasons not to let social media tools onto your intranet

In preparing for my presentations this week, I created a slide describing the Top 5 potential conundrums you might face in deploying social media tools on a corporate intranet. Here they are:

  1. What if …? This is the first question that invariably arises … ‘What if employees publish rude, defamatory, racist, abusive, etc information on our intranet, or waste time on social networks and blogs when they should be working?
  2. Information governance – how to you manage crowd-sourced content to comply with regulatory rules, information retention policies, etc?
  3. Wisdom of crowds with no crowds – does wisdom of crowds theory work when the ‘crowd’ is limited to the relatively small user base of a company’s employees – will the result be ‘unbalanced’ information and opinion?
  4. Loosing control of the message – how do you communicate with employees when they can communicate very well among themselves using these tools?
  5. Mixing business and personality – how do you strike the right balance between publishing ‘business’ information from ‘personal’ perspectives?

And … here are my answers … 🙂

  1. Manage expectations through robust, clear, simple policies – emphasise personal responsibility and encourage community policing … collaboration is NEVER a waste of time … it’s the future!
  2. See my earlier post called: Governing the ungovernable
  3. See my earlier post about Web 3.0
  4. See my article: The Future of Internal Communications
  5. Businesses are made up of people who have opinions. Like it or not, every human being sees the world from their own unique and personal perspective – letting people express themselves is the fast track to engagement. If you ‘dehumanise’ information you end up with ‘data’, which should be locked away in databases and only let out on special occasions to populate reports …

I read this recently somewhere … can’t remember where, but I think it describes nicely why letting people have their say is important and why worrying about what people might say, or trying to control what they say, is both futile and undesirable:

Man: ‘How do I become wise?’

Wise man: ‘By having sound judgement.’

Man: ‘How do I develop sound judgement?’

Wise man: ‘Through experience.’

Man: ‘How do I gain experience?’

Wise man: ‘Through bad judgement.’

The wisdom of football crowds …

I love this story today on the BBC website about back-seat or user-generated football management. It is an extraordinary example of how the wisdom of crowds concept that underpins social media technology is infiltrating everyday life.

I really hope it is successful … my only concern is that a large part of the enjoyment of football seems to be complaining about the manager’s selection decisions … if they ‘democratise’ refereeing too, there won’t be anything left to shout about!