... comes courtesyÂ of theÂ brilliant interactive public radio show Open Source, which is focusing today on a subject it knows all too well: The Limits of Crowds. The hook for the show is an essayÂ by all-around guru Jaron Lanier that's been making the rounds among the digerati (yeesh, whatÂ a silly word); it critiques and to a large degree criticizes comprehensive wiki-ish projects like, er, Wikipedia, MySpace, and (for some reason) the New York Times. To try and summarize it would do it a great disservice, but here's a kernel:
It's safer to be the aggregator of the collective. You get to include all sorts of material without committing to anything. You can be superficially interesting without having to worry about the possibility of being wrong.
In the spirit of being superficially interesting, I'm going to stop here and let you read the actual piece -- but I do want to point out thatÂ Lanier (who you know as the coiner of theÂ term "virtual reality")Â starts the piece by complaining that Wikipedia misidentifies him as a film director. Then he ends the piece with a short bio: "Jaron Lanier is a film director." Holy intentional irony! His Wikipedia entry doesn't say that anymore -- but how long do we give it before someone fails to read the essay and "corrects" the entry based on that bio?