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Crowds have different effects on the task. For one thing, they average
error, not just in the case of jelly beans, but also as a software
project estimation technique (its a bit sad that a technical mailing
list would have picked the jellybean example). In this case, a crowd
is an expert.
Depending on the social structure, a crowd can enforce simple
ideologies, the Wikipedia NPOV (and its associated assumption that
neutrality is possible) is a good example of this, and in that context
they also enforce filtering (see the discussion pages associated with
the Wikipedia article on the Holocaust - there is a great deal of
argument about who is an expert and who is not). The experts in that
case are assumed to have looked at primary sources and in some sense
have vasluable opinions. The participants in that discussion tend to be
talking about limited ranges of secondary sources and they look to me
more liked editors with opinions, than experts themselves. Perhaps this
is another instance of the crowd averaging error? Certainly the
discussion of Irving and the other revisionsists reads that way.
In the case of technical topics the quality of the content is variable
and dependent on the editors and editing process, the XML article is far
more comprehensive than the Mainframe entry for example, which has a few
eccentric statements in it (Speed and Performance), but there is not
much debate about the technical facts, so the averaging process is
easier. The mainframe article probably looks the way it does because
the crowd is smaller.
What I hope to get from an expert is fast coherence and quotable
opinions. The question about the choice of a self-selected group or the
individual expert seems to be whether you want your expert to be an
editor/filter or a creator. Crowds seem not to create, but can filter
very well within the limits of their social belief systems (the
Wikipedia NPOV for example constrains what can be said). An individual
expert has a clearer response time.
An interesting question is, what happens as the crowd gets smaller -
what is the threshold size for effective debate and filtering?
Elliotte Harold wrote:
> Klaus Backert wrote:
>> Let's assume: I have to go to a hospital to get a surgical treatment.
>> Then I'm inside the operational theater. On the one side there is a
>> "well educated and credential" surgeon. On the other side there ist a
>> "self-selected group of people interested enough in surgical tools to
>> participate in a discussion of surgical tools". Whom will I count on,
>> when it comes to the selection of the proper surgical tool for
>> treating ME?
> I don't know who you'd pick, but I'd put more faith in the
> self-selected group. This is the stunning revelation of Wikipedia,
> open source, and the Net: the wisdom of the self-selected crowd is
> usually better than the wisdom of the single expert.
> There are all sorts of caveats you can put on that. For instance, I'd
> be quite concerned if the self-selected crowd were only employees of a
> single manufacturer of surgical tools. I'd also be concerned if the
> single expert had been extensively winded and dined by that same
> manufacturer. I don't happen to know if surgical tools vendors do this
> or not. Drug companies, however, certainly do this with a documented
> negative effect on patient treatment. Frankly it's harder to bias a
> group acting together than individuals acting singly.
> I don't think I would have believed this a few years ago myself, but
> I've seen too much evidence lately of the effectiveness of this
> approach to deny it.
> Perhaps this is just another variation of the invisible hand of the
> market Adam Smith write about two centuries ago. More likely, but the
> the invisible hand of the market, the superior wisdom of Wikipedia,
> and the ability to count jelly beans by averaging guesses are specific
> instances of a more general principle about the wisdom of crowds. A
> thermodynamics of sociology perhaps?