Sunday, February 13, 2005

BlogThink/GroupThink (or the Ignorance of Crowds) -- Part II

[Note: we've posted a shorter version of this article on AlwaysOn].

Several days ago, we posted a short item comparing and contrasting two recent books by staff writers at The New Yorker. We wondered what we can learn from these two very different looks at human intelligence and behavior. Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" presents evidence that individuals, under the right circumstances, can rapidly and correctly outhink the group. James Surowiecki's "The Wisdom of Crowds" gives countless examples of people working collaboratively, and consistently besting the most gifted individuals. The New Yorker appears to have cornered the market for what must be a very healthy demand for popular studies on the counterintuitive -- the literary antidote to middle-class complacency. But what's more remarkable: two ideas that are counterintuitive -- and each arguably correct -- are also contradictory. Together, the two books appear to trump both sides of the individual-versus-group intelligence debate.

But alas, the two ideas can be reconciled (as the two authors attempted to do in a series of emails featured on Slate). Without too much effort, one can see how, in the right circumstances, accurate and rapid individual cognition -- the phenomenon recorded in Gladwell's book -- can make good sense in Surowiecki's world where the group is almost always greater than the sum of its parts. But that would in fact be an ideal world, for it would involve a well-coordinated, high-performing group that could also pay ultimate tribute to the sanctity of individual contribution.

I can think of no better example of such a group than our ideal conception of the blogger network -- an ideal that recent experience shows is far easier to imagine than it is to achieve.

Take for example a recent and fairly well-publicized event in my world -- public relations -- that currently is testing the proper relationship between individual and group blogger behavior.
The cover story in today's New York Times business section chronicles most of the saga: a recent investigation uncovered that the U.S. Department of Education -- with the help of the Ketchum public relations agency -- paid a prominent and outspoken conservative PR man/broadcast commentator to espouse the DOE's position on "No Child Left Behind."

But that's not all. PR bloggers were ensnared in a subsequent, less well-publicized "scandal," an affair that quickly was dubbed with the unfortunate name flakgate. Jay Rosen, an NYU professor and prominent blogger, castigated the community of PR bloggers for failing to take up arms against Ketchum and make this their own "Dan Rather." It all sounded right and good, and the ploy was somewhat successful -- scores of PR bloggers (I was one of them) were herded to Rosen's blog to weigh in on the Ketchum story or to explain why they hadn't commented before. But there were two problems. First, it turns out that a fair number of PR bloggers -- some of them very well known in the PR blogging world -- had in fact written about the scandal (Rosen's online search for blogger posts was faulty). Second, Rosen's attack assumed uniformity in mission and purpose for the PR blogger community. Some, in fact, were rightly caught by surprise -- or insulted. In his initial comments to Rosen, PR blogger Mike Manuel asked, "[w]hen did I sign up to become a PR industry watchdog? I didn’t get that memo." Tom Murphy, a blogger who had in fact posted early on the Ketchum story, quipped: "PR Bloggers Stand in a Corner."

Several weeks have passed and Rosen's attack has abated. But the PR blogger community is still feeling the effects. Several bloggers have organized online forums to discuss the beleaguered reputation of the PR industry (the latest of those forums begins today). And many have written tough and probing analyses on what went wrong in the first and second episodes. From this blogger's perspective, it's as though Rosen's attack had the accidental and salutary effect of bringing the PR blogger community together for the first time, and instigating something far more valuable than another "Dan Rather." PR bloggers today appear to be collaborating in a more thoughtful investigation into their profession. Give them time, and they may come up with something.

And credit Rosen's attack on blogger-class complacency if they do. It was a presumptuous attack -- true -- on an imaginary group. But now there appears to be a real and increasingly vocal group, and it's a group of individuals working out their own contributions to reform on the edges of the network (recall "World of Ends," the Doc Searls/David Weinberger mini-manifesto on how intelligence is gained on a "dumb" Internet). And, of course, every PR professional has the duty to contribute only as he sees fit. As Mike Manuel recently explained his own position on the matter, the "standards and values that guide the way I work with my clients, my co-workers and the media can kick this issue straight in the ass – far better than any blog post I might write." If each and every PR pro were to work as authentically and independently, and we were to continue the discussion, we would have a very smart group indeed.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just came across your blog about jobs and wanted to let you know that I am impressed with the information here. I also have a website with an added resource that pertains to jobs so I know that your blog is fantastic. Continue with the great resource that you are providing to everyone on the Net!jobs

10:52 AM  
Blogger cash advance minneapolis said...

Astonshing blog. I relished in the site and you
know I will be going to it again! Surfing the internet
hepls me to find blogs that arfe just as good.
Want to see top notch work, peep my fast cash advance blog site for the bomb work!

12:03 AM  
Blogger ninest123 Ninest said...

ninest123 09.23
ugg boots, nike air max, louis vuitton outlet, chanel handbags, polo ralph lauren outlet, burberry, replica watches, replica watches, prada handbags, michael kors outlet, louis vuitton, burberry outlet online, gucci outlet, michael kors outlet, longchamp outlet, michael kors outlet, ray ban sunglasses, polo ralph lauren outlet, louboutin outlet, kate spade outlet, cheap oakley sunglasses, michael kors outlet, tiffany and co, ray ban sunglasses, louis vuitton, ugg boots, michael kors, ugg boots, louis vuitton outlet, nike outlet, tiffany jewelry, nike air max, longchamp, ugg boots, louis vuitton, nike free, michael kors outlet, louboutin, jordan shoes, uggs on sale, ray ban sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, tory burch outlet, christian louboutin outlet, louboutin shoes, longchamp outlet, prada outlet

7:34 PM  
Blogger ninest123 Ninest said...

vanessa bruno, new balance pas cher, michael kors, hogan, air max, hollister pas cher, nike air max, nike free, mulberry, true religion jeans, hollister, vans pas cher, coach factory outlet, nike air max, air force, hermes, kate spade handbags, michael kors, lululemon, true religion jeans, north face, converse pas cher, north face, oakley pas cher, nike roshe run, michael kors, ray ban pas cher, burberry, nike free run uk, sac longchamp, coach outlet, true religion outlet, ralph lauren pas cher, timberland, longchamp pas cher, air jordan pas cher, coach outlet, nike roshe, michael kors, nike air max, louboutin pas cher, ray ban uk, tn pas cher, sac guess, nike blazer, lacoste pas cher, abercrombie and fitch, ralph lauren uk, coach purses, true religion jeans

7:37 PM  
Blogger ninest123 Ninest said...

gucci, beats by dre, north face outlet, reebok shoes, mcm handbags, north face outlet, ferragamo shoes, babyliss, p90x workout, nike roshe, new balance, baseball bats, nike air max, longchamp, converse, iphone 6 cases, birkin bag, vans, timberland boots, valentino shoes, herve leger, lululemon, nike air max, soccer jerseys, wedding dresses, bottega veneta, mont blanc, ralph lauren, nike huarache, asics running shoes, jimmy choo shoes, ray ban, hollister, vans shoes, giuseppe zanotti, converse outlet, insanity workout, nfl jerseys, abercrombie and fitch, ghd, celine handbags, oakley, nike trainers, instyler, soccer shoes, mac cosmetics, hollister, louboutin, chi flat iron, hollister

7:38 PM  
Blogger ninest123 Ninest said...

hollister, replica watches, pandora charms, michael kors outlet online, toms shoes, moncler, thomas sabo, moncler, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, canada goose, swarovski, juicy couture outlet, links of london, canada goose, marc jacobs, moncler, canada goose outlet, moncler, louis vuitton, lancel, coach outlet, supra shoes, moncler, canada goose, pandora jewelry, moncler, canada goose uk, barbour, louis vuitton, canada goose outlet, doke gabbana outlet, wedding dresses, karen millen, doudoune canada goose, moncler outlet, michael kors handbags, sac louis vuitton pas cher, swarovski crystal, louis vuitton, montre pas cher, barbour jackets, canada goose, ugg boots uk, juicy couture outlet, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, pandora charms, pandora jewelry, bottes ugg, louis vuitton, moncler, michael kors outlet, ugg pas cher
09.23

7:40 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home