Innovative innovation myths

Here’s an old column I’ve meant to comment on for a while.¬† Dan Woods’s Jargon Spy is almost always a good read, and his take on The Myth of Crowdsourcing punctures some of the more cherished notions of social media and its power to create.¬†¬† He goes right for the granddaddy of them all:

Wikipedia seems like a good example of a crowd of people who have created a great resource. But at a conference last year I asked Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales about how articles were created. He said that the vast majority are the product of a motivated individual. After articles are created, they are curated–corrected, improved and extended–by many different people. Some articles are indeed group creations that evolved out of a sentence or two. But if you took away all of the articles that were individual creations, Wikipedia would have very little left. ¬†

Human innovation is the history of porting “applications” from one language, media, platform, or form factor to another.¬† In tech, we’ve moved app after app from pen and paper, to microcomputers,¬†to PCs, and now to mobile.¬†¬† Crowdsourcing “innovates” in much the same way, leveraging an existing paradigm but not really creating one.¬†

After all, Wikipedia is just another manifestation of an encyclopedia.¬† And who do we credit for that, the classic editions of the Encyclop√¶dia Britannica, which were inspired by¬†Diderot’s Encyclop√©die, which built on Chamber’s Cyclopedia, and so on, and so on..?


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