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A List Apart: Articles: The Wisdom of Community

It’s one of the most important concepts on the web today—perhaps the most important for social media—but it’s one of the least understood. When James Surowiecki wrote The Wisdom of Crowds in 2004, he explored the stock market and other classic social psychology examples, but “web 2.0” was still nascent. It’s time to connect his ideas to the social web, where they can reach their full potential. The Wisdom of Crowds (WOC) theory does not mean that people are smart in groups—they’re not. Anyone who’s seen an angry mob knows it. But crowds, presented with the right challenge and the right interface, can be wise. When it works, the crowd is wiser, in fact, than any single participant. The standard example is this: Imagine you have a jar of pennies. Ask a few hundred people how many there are inside. When you tally the results, chances are, all the guesses will be wrong. But if you average all the answers, the result will be almost perfect, almost all the time. The web, with its low barr
derek powazek