Tuesday 6 February 2007

Web 2.0, the pace of change and the speed of thought

A bit like Wired's wiki experiment, you may have heard about Penguin Book's A Million Penguins - A wikinovel experiment:

"The buzz these days is all about the network, the small pieces loosely joined. About how the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. About how working together and joining the dots serves the greater good and benefits our collective endeavors.

This is undoubtedly true in many fields. Software is rarely written in a vacuum and indeed the “open source” movement is built on the premise that collaboration is the only way to get bugs spotted and move forward. Scientific research, too, is more often than not a collaborative activity - and peer review is key to checking and honing the development of scientific ideas.

However, is the same true in artistic fields?"

I've only had a quick look at the book itself, which if ever completed satisfactorily still looks like it has a long way to go. However far more interesting to me the commentary about the experience going on in the A Million Penguin's blog - in a recent post they explain some of the problems they face:

"Well, this is all quite overwhelming, isn’t it? What a response so far - contributions from all over the world flooding in at a vast rate, almost 100 edits an hour! But this inevitably leads to some problems - keeping up with what is happening on the wikinovel is a challenge too far and, looking at the discussions, it seems that some of you are frustrated with this aspect of the experiment.
We’ve also had periodic bouts of vandalism which are valiantly being tackled by you and also by the students at De Montfort who are circling the wagons and attempting to repel all attacks as fast as they come in.

Jon too is struggling as by the time he has read the novel and written his report, something completely different has appeared on the screen."

It really brings into perspective the ideas about the evolution of Web-powered collective intelligence, presented in books like Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software by Steven Johnson - I have to say, I don't think the vision was that every human on the planet was supposed to be editing the same page all at the same time! :-) Still, A Million Penguins, is an interesting experiment.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:09 am

    There is an interesting example of this issue in real time at http://www.wannaspell.com/?l=1. Many people are simultaneously moving the letters on the screen. You can see those that are trying to accomplish a purpose (spell a word or make a pile of letters) and those that are trying to find somwbody else doing something and frustrate them. you experience interesting feelings as you participate in the moving of the letters.


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