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Is It Possible to Be Too Connected? (Live from O’Reilly E-Tech, Part 3)

Perhaps you shouldn’t be reading the TR blog. Or at least, not solely this blog. Why not? As James Surowiecki–New Yorker writer, Technology Review contributor, and author of the recent book The Wisdom of Crowds–pointed out today at the O’Reilly…
March 16, 2005

Perhaps you shouldn’t be reading the TR blog. Or at least, not solely this blog. Why not? As James Surowiecki–New Yorker writer, Technology Review contributor, and author of the recent book The Wisdom of Crowds–pointed out today at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego, it may be possible to be excessively hooked into the buzz, zeitgeist, or groupthink around a certain topic. To the extent that the TR blog attempts to capture the zeitgeist in the world of emerging technologies, therefore, you’re probably better off if you seek your information from a variety of sources.

The talk resonated with a number of themes circulating at the conference this week. Many of the talks have touched on the ability of groups of Internet users to collaborate, knowingly or unknowingly, to produce an intelligent result that transcends their individual knowledge. One example is tagging, an emerging practice at places like photo-sharing site Flickr and “social bookmarking” site del.icio.us. By tagging photos, web clippings, or other materials with common terms, a “folksonomy” can emerge that helps everyone find what they’re looking for, simply by watching what others are tagging under terms of interest to them.

Of course, Surowiecki’s argument is a bit self-defeating. The Wisdom of Crowds has so much buzz right now that it’s quickly becoming the conventional wisdom about wisdom. So wouldn’t Surowiecki’s own logic dictate that people stop reading the book? (Joke.)

For those who are interested, I took near-verbatim notes on Surowiecki’s talk. They’re too long to post here, so I’ve put them up on my personal website.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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