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SoylentNews is people

posted by LaminatorX on Thursday February 20 2014, @07:20PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the madness-of-crowds dept.

captain normal writes:

An essay by Robert W.Lucky in IEEE Spectrum, 'Who is the Crowd?', discusses how the internet has provided the means for many people to contribute to knowledge.
From the essay:

I look at my computer screen and imagine all the murmuring voices behind it, clamoring for attention. There is almost a mystical presence out there, not from aliens but from something almost as thrilling and unexpected--a new presence that has been brought about as a consequence of the enveloping architecture of the Internet.
...
The crowd has wisdom, knowing things that may not be known to individuals. It has sentiments, beliefs, and feelings that can be abstracted and analyzed. Moreover, it has the power to affect the real physical world...Small armies of volunteers and paid contributors can be assembled on a moment's notice to work on projects.

I find this very much like this current project here on SoylentNews. This is a 'Crowd' thing. Not a top down organization like the old 19th ~ 20th century organization model."

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by fliptop on Thursday February 20 2014, @07:28PM

    by fliptop (1666) on Thursday February 20 2014, @07:28PM (#3649) Journal

    The crowd has wisdom, knowing things that may not be known to individuals

    "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it." - Agent K

    --
    To be oneself, and unafraid whether right or wrong, is more admirable than the easy cowardice of surrender to conformity
    • (Score: 1) by mcgrew on Thursday February 20 2014, @07:53PM

      by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Thursday February 20 2014, @07:53PM (#3662) Homepage Journal

      Damned W7, glad I retire next week. No "post" button, only "reply". So here is what I was going to post. Quoth TFS:

      I look at my computer screen and imagine all the murmuring voices behind it, clamoring for attention. There is almost a mystical presence out there, not from aliens but from something almost as thrilling and unexpected

      I see all sorts of aliens! Europeans, Canadians, Australians, even some other aliens from other alien cultures who speak English as a second language.

      I saw a two headed alien last week. It was a pregnant Mexican (the second head was in her womb).

      --
      Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by BsAtHome on Thursday February 20 2014, @08:25PM

      by BsAtHome (889) on Thursday February 20 2014, @08:25PM (#3673)

      Not to hop on the whoosh here, but there is actually something serious that can be said about the topic.

      I think you need to differentiate "people" a bit. A small crowd of very few (often 8 or fewer), which is "people", can be very smart and is able to self-organize pretty well, as long as there are no alpha fights. Once the crowd grows then suddenly swarm mechanics tend to take over and then "people" are indeed "dumb, panicky dangerous animals".

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by fliptop on Thursday February 20 2014, @09:19PM

        by fliptop (1666) on Thursday February 20 2014, @09:19PM (#3717) Journal

        A small crowd of very few (often 8 or fewer), which is "people", can be very smart and is able to self-organize pretty well, as long as there are no alpha fights

        I'm reminded of the scene in "Dead Poet's Society" where Robin Williams's character has a few boys "just walk." After a few seconds of ambling around aimlessly, they suddenly coordinate themselves until they're marching around in unison, much to the delight of the cheering and clapping onlookers.

        The crowd's tendency to do this is what you may refer to as "self-organizing" but to me it's the beginning of mob rules. There aren't enough non-conformists out there to question whether it's the right thing to do, imho.

        --
        To be oneself, and unafraid whether right or wrong, is more admirable than the easy cowardice of surrender to conformity
  • (Score: 2, Informative) by mtrycz on Thursday February 20 2014, @07:31PM

    by mtrycz (60) on Thursday February 20 2014, @07:31PM (#3651)

    Betteridge would nonchalantly respond to this simple question.

    --
    In capitalist America, ads view YOU!
    • (Score: 4, Funny) by mhajicek on Thursday February 20 2014, @07:42PM

      by mhajicek (51) on Thursday February 20 2014, @07:42PM (#3655)

      The crowd is "No"?

      --
      The spacelike surfaces of time foliations can have a cusp at the surface of discontinuity. - P. Hajicek
      • (Score: 3, Funny) by KritonK on Thursday February 20 2014, @07:45PM

        by KritonK (465) on Thursday February 20 2014, @07:45PM (#3657)

        No.

      • (Score: 1) by martyb on Thursday February 20 2014, @08:31PM

        by martyb (76) Subscriber Badge on Thursday February 20 2014, @08:31PM (#3678) Journal

        mtrycz (60) wrote:

        Betteridge would nonchalantly respond to this simple question.

        mhajicek (51) replied:

        The crowd is "No"?

        Close.

        I see is as: The crowd is "know."

        ;^)

        --
        Wit is intellect, dancing.
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by akinliat on Thursday February 20 2014, @08:05PM

    by akinliat (1898) <akinliatNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday February 20 2014, @08:05PM (#3667)

    I find this very much like this current project here on SoylentNews. This is a 'Crowd' thing. Not a top down organization like the old 19th ~ 20th century organization model.

    You once could have said the same thing about /., though, and that changed virtually overnight. The problem is that while a crowd can be very successful in putting something together, they're almost always vulnerable if one of those top-down organizations decides they want to take over. A successful long-term crowd project requires a lot of consistent effort from a lot of diverse people, and it's not pretty.

    Ultimately, I think that was what prompted the Beta changes to /. They wanted to "simplify" away all the features that made the community so contentious, because having people actually expressing opinions and arguing was just so ... messy.

    • (Score: 1) by dbot on Thursday February 20 2014, @08:29PM

      by dbot (1811) on Thursday February 20 2014, @08:29PM (#3676) Journal

      ...I think that was what prompted the Beta changes to /. They wanted to "simplify" away all the features that made the community so contentious, because having people actually expressing opinions and arguing was just so ... messy.

      I disagree. I don't think the intention was malicious at all. More likely someone new (to the organization) had to leave their fingerprint on it.

      Thoughts about discussion on the site, I'm sure, were absent.

      • (Score: 1) by akinliat on Thursday February 20 2014, @08:48PM

        by akinliat (1898) <akinliatNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday February 20 2014, @08:48PM (#3685)

        Oh no, I'm not saying there was any malice in it whatsoever. I don't doubt for a minute that they honestly believed it to be an improvement. It's just a that there are a large number of people who view any public argument as objectionable. By making the site as bland and boring as possible, I'm sure they believed they were making it "more accessible to a wider audience."

        Personally, I find such an attitude purely moronic, but I imagine that they'd find me a disruptive and undesirable influence, and are perfectly happy to see me gone.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by regift_of_the_gods on Friday February 21 2014, @03:12AM

      by regift_of_the_gods (138) on Friday February 21 2014, @03:12AM (#4031)

      I suspect that the motivation behind Slashdot beta is to be able to visually integrate ads and sponsored material with the regular content, just as many trad news sites are doing. And the new owners have undoubtedly noticed that nearly all of the top circulation technology sites have adopted a magazine look and feel: techcrunch, geekwire, recode, arstechnica, wired, engadget, etc. That's why it hasn't died yet, although I suspect the they temporarily reduced the frequency of the beta redirects after Soylentnews and Perens went on line to try to prevent a mass exodus.

      • (Score: 1) by Kell on Friday February 21 2014, @08:29AM

        by Kell (292) on Friday February 21 2014, @08:29AM (#4166)

        +1 insightful, +1 agree

        --
        Scientists ask questions. Engineers solve problems.
  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by lubricus on Thursday February 20 2014, @09:11PM

    by lubricus (232) on Thursday February 20 2014, @09:11PM (#3707)

    The crowd has wisdom, knowing things that may not be known to individuals.

    I like the article's "many to one" analogy. The crowd is wise because the collective wisdom of a bunch of specialists is generally much better than any generalist (see this as the basis of a game show with a silly premise [wikipedia.org]

    Of course, this can work the other way also, with many generalists overpowering the specialist with the correct information.

    This is why moderation is so important, and why soylent exists!!!

    Fuck Beta, Long live soylent.

    --
    ... sorry about the typos
  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by martyb on Thursday February 20 2014, @10:12PM

    by martyb (76) Subscriber Badge on Thursday February 20 2014, @10:12PM (#3778) Journal

    I think one of the things that sets this site apart is the sense of ownership.

    People tend to fear losing what they've put effort into obtaining. That's not an absolute, by any means. But in general, I've observed that to be true for most people.

    So it seems to me, that one of the ways to keep this site's momentum going is to keep contributors "invested". It's a pretty silly thing, in some respects, but I mind what I do and am rewarded by watching my Karma increase. That's a nice little feedback loop.

    For an example, consider World of Warcraft. They nailed it with "Levels". A reward for putting in work, that the user does not want to lose. There is a risk that they may "die" in battle, but there are countervailing resources available. The "reward" is to be able to advance to the next level.

    This site is, in some ways, a humongous "game" where the context is fluid (news of the day) and the reward is karma. I can only get karma if I register, but that act allows me to set up the appearance of the site the way I like it. The karma, in turn, has value in that it will allow me to post at +2, if I so desire. What other benefits does karma give me? Does anyone know?

    Then there were the achievements that got added on, later. I think that was an attempt at something more, with a range of easy, simple stuff to get folks started, and more challenging tasks down the line. The problem, as I saw it, was that the achievements were mostly hidden from others. If there were a way to include these as part of people's posts (much like a military officer's "badges"), then I think they might have gained wider interest.

    Are these sufficient for the long haul to keep the community interested and invested? I honestly don't know. There needs to be some scarcity to make it valuable, but if things only *accumulate* over time, then there's the risk that everything eventually gets maxed out, and these "tokens" are no longer scarce, and thus not of value.

    Maybe it needs some time-based factor that automatically drops off? As an example, off the top of my head: "Received an Insightful Mod in the last month."

    So, what do you think? Am I headed down the right path with this? What's good? What's missing?

    --
    Wit is intellect, dancing.
    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by monster on Friday February 21 2014, @08:01AM

      by monster (1260) on Friday February 21 2014, @08:01AM (#4157) Journal

      I think the real motivation for karma is not so much to get the +2 status as the feeling of crowd approvation to our opinions and knowledge, and with it getting a feeling of integration in the group (we are social animals, after all). Take some kind of knowledge about some obscure topic, for example: You may be pretty sure about its validity, but since your opinion may be biased (even if you don't know it) and based on a special subset of cases, contrasting it with other opinions in an informed crowd may achieve two results:

      - Other people agree with it. You get one or several positive karma moderations (interesting, insightful, informative) and the positive feedback reinforces your feelings about it.
      - Other people disagree with you. You may get some negative karma moderations (even if there isn't a "-1 I disagree" moderation, it is sometimes used that way) but most probably you will get contrasting opinions and facts which you can now use to make your knowledge wider and deeper, discard the wrong bits and better inform you.

      But all of it depends in one key aspect of the crowd: It must be not only informed but diverse and tolerant enough to allow discrepance and debate. If it is not the case, all you get is an echo chamber where your preconceptions get reinforced time after time, no matter how wrong they are, because of 'groupthink'.

      • (Score: 1) by hubie on Friday February 21 2014, @04:50PM

        by hubie (1068) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 21 2014, @04:50PM (#4413) Journal

        My view is more jaded than yours. I don't see karma points much differently than any other mark that a good deal of people use as a yardstick for status. Go to the thousands of bulletin board web sites running Simple Machines or other software and most of them make sure to list the post count under each account name, and there are howls of protests if anyone suggests that post counts not be listed. I wonder how many people set up accounts over here as quickly as they could just so that they could get the lowest UID possible? Maybe that wasn't their sole motivation, but you can't tell me it wasn't figured in, especially since low UID has always been held in high esteem over on Slashdot. Besides the usual tolling remarks, many people also post unpopular opinions under an AC account so that they don't "hurt" their karma status and thus reduce their perceived standing in the community. I've seen some people who are proud of their bad karma because, to them, it validates their opinion of themselves as being one who doesn't bow to conformity and they aren't afraid to tell the truth and be "keepin' it real."

        In general, whenever you give someone some way of ranking themselves withing a group, it will be used that way.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by TheloniousToady on Friday February 21 2014, @01:50AM

    by TheloniousToady (820) on Friday February 21 2014, @01:50AM (#3967)

    The crowd has wisdom, knowing things that may not be known to individuals.

    It's interesting to see this in action at Wikipedia. Although they encourage the use of citations, the fact is that much of the material there doesn't have them. For example, here's something from the top of the page on Ella Fitzgerald [wikipedia.org]:

    She was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing and intonation, and a "horn-like" improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing.

    That isn't supported by a reference and obviously contains quite a bit of opinion, yet it seemingly was written by and accepted by "The Crowd". Wikipedia is loaded with that kind of stuff - tidbits of knowledge that are assumed to be accurate because they've been vetted by The Crowd. If all such things were scrubbed, Wikipedia would be poorer for it. I tend to accept them as true when I come across them, and I've even added unsourced tidbits of knowledge myself. And, of course, we do it here (and used to at The Other Place) all the time. Where else would these things come from but The Crowd?