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Posts Tagged ‘mobsourcing

In my last post I started to examine the claim of the cluetrain manifesto that a more networked audience is more intelligent or at least a better detector than an individual. The #Mumbai victim list twitter distribution illustrated 4 ways which a network can apply truth filters and 2 ways in which the network affects might work against detecting falsehoods over the short term.

One recent tweet from Deb Lavoy questioned whether crowdsourcing will always generate good ideas, because after all a mob is also a crowd. Mobs are famous for poor and emotionally driven decisions and actions rather than intelligence and innovation. So how do we prevent crowdsourcing from becoming mobsourcing? Do connections between audience members, which a mob seems to have, mean better decision making?

Mobsourcing vs Crowdsourcing
Of course this is dealt with quite well in James Surowiecki’s Wisdom of the Crowds and I dont mean to say that these observations in any way change his conclusions. I am just using this blob as a scratchpad to prove it to myself by trying to understand the actual behavior in an audience which produce the effect.

First what is our working definition of intelligence? From the cluetrain theses, it seems they meant the ability to filter out inauthentic information. So basically, a networked audience is a lie detector in a way because it will filter out inauthentic sounding information which I talked about in the last post and came up with 4 elements which work in the networks favor of filtering out false information and 2 which can work against it in the short term. From a Surowieki analysis, we found 2 problems: Can you trust the aggregation mechanisms which are very informal in twitter? Are the contributors acting independently or does the emotions compel them to go along with the mob?

Of course the problem is as in the case of a lie detector, what if the originators of the lie, believe the lie to be true? If our audience is large and well networked, we hope it can confirm the factual nature through multiple sources and if there are differing views, we hope the network would prefer the one which is most aligned the individual members’ realty or partial knowledge as Surowiecki says. But the more emotionally relevant the information (as we saw in the case of the Mumbai list), the faster it spreads, even from a single source. So it seems the more emotionally compelling the information is to act on, the less likely it is to be verified by the network effects. The audience becomes a mob and acts as an amplifier for a single source which strikes a deep chord with the influencers in the network. So it seems a way to keep the crowdsourcing from becoming mobsourcing, is to slow it down and force deliberation while maintaining independence. I guess Surowiecki would say that the emotional element pushes people toward conformity or maybe as he quotes Arthur Schlessinger’s comment on the Bay of Pigs planning, it is urged to assume consensus. I wonder if the motivation to want to conform is because the need for belonging seems to rise in the face of many emotions such as fear.

Surowiecki also mentions the need for people to express their objective independently of others as a prerequisite for effective crowdsourcing as well as having a diversity of experience. So in the moment of an attack, the emotion felt by most in the audience would tend to give them a shared overwhelming experience which I would guess would seem to lesson the amount of diversity and independence in the audience though strengthen their common focus on the problem of finding out what is happening.

Of course the task of the Mumbai list of victim names seemed to completely authentic. Also the twitter seem to correct false information by outing a college student pretending to represent the indian government. So with these tenets of crowdsourcing working against, why did it seem to make the right decision?

The question before the audience was is the list authentic, and the shared emotion, need to conform etc actually seemed to heighten the need to pass truthful information about victims as well as not to be a source of inauthentic information. It also gave the normally busy audience motivation to spend time on the subject and try to be useful. So these normally problematic influences in crowdsourcing actually heightened the communities interest in verification in the list and is probably why the impersonator of the Indian government was investigated and quickly found out. Maybe the people needed to do something and couldn’t do anything else but work to discover more information. Is that why it worked.

OK so emotionally charged crowds are good ones to make decisions? Seems to depend on the question and the emotion. I wonder what the crowd in the moment would have thought an appropriate response would be? I think the answer to that is a strong case for inserting deliberation into decisions of actions in most cases.

So it seems to avoid mobsourcing, we need to increase the time it takes to make decisions on actions but in this case and may be others, the ability to spread the information quickly doesn’t seem to do harm when it comes to crowd based lie detection.

Side Note: I guess those guys who invented the US Senate had some insight into rules of callaboration, since they purposely made what at the time was considered almost lifelong terms in order to make the Senate a more deliberative body. (Watch for a future blog post on how the American Revolution was a social media product…Saw PBS Liberty recently and can’t shake the similarity to changes being brought about by modern social media experiences to those which made the revolution successful.)