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Accepting The Wisdom Of Many Over The Wisdom Of One

Having just finished an article on so-called online "influentials" based on the notion that 10% of the population unduly influences the other 90% in what to buy, wear, eat, etc., I decided to finally read The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki, and found myself wholeheartedly buying into his premise that the consolidati
Having just finished an article on so-called online "influentials" based on the notion that 10% of the population unduly influences the other 90% in what to buy, wear, eat, etc., I decided to finally read The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki, and found myself wholeheartedly buying into his premise that the consolidation of information provided by groups results in better decisions than could have been made by any single person.Goodbye, bloggers with high Technorati ratings. Hello, Wikipedia.

The statistical evidence that Wikipedia, for example, stands up well against Encyclopedia Britannica, has been extensively reported. And then there's the steadily growing influence of community-rating sites where ordinary people contribute their opinions about everything from movies to local dry cleaners to hotels in Madagascar. Many people I know give the Rotten Tomatoes ranking a movie gets as least as much weight as what they read in the New York Times. And at a time when you're probably firming up your summer vacation plans, I can't recommend Trip Advisor enough. In the case of the latter, here's the plug: Forget about the five-star hotel ratings that you formerly had to depend on when booking accommodations in unknown locales. Just check out the Trip Advisor rankings and read the reviews. You'll be glad you did. I'm convinced that Trip Advisor has saved my family from what could have been a disastrous lodging choice in London this summer. I'll keep you posted on that.

Sure, there are cranks that contribute to these sites. Certainly there are people giving rave reviews and otherwise promoting products and services that they have a vested interest in. And yes, yes, group rankings can be manipulated in other ways. But this ability to accumulate and make available the wisdom of many individuals is one of the most exciting and powerful attributes of the Web--one, I am glad to see, that is being used to ever-greater effect.

What do you think? Are you influenced more by a few key people in your life than the prevailing wisdom of the crowds? How does that manifest itself in your online behavior? Let us know by dropping a line at the InformationWeek Blog.