Weapons of Mass Collaboration
Chapter 1 of “Wikinomics – How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything” begins with a case study of the “Goldcorp Challenge”, where a failing mining company publicised 50 years worth of geological data in an internet based competition, offering $575,000 worth of prizes to whoever could offer the best methods and estimates for extraction of gold deposits from the company’s 55,000 acre property.
“Within weeks, submissions from around the world came flooding in to Goldcorp headquarters. As expected, geologists got involved. But entries came from surprising sources, including graduate students, consultants, mathematicians, and military officers, all seeking a piece of the action.”
I always thought that collaboration involved people working together on a problem or project. I don’t see that here, I see a competition model where the solutions are suggested by a field of entrants (individuals working concurrently but independently) and evaluated by Goldcorp. All parties are self-interested. It seems to me that this is a large scale version of competitions such as Wellington Zoo’s name the BolivianSquirrel Monkey competition, or Bluebird’s competition to find a new chip flavour. Yes, these competitions give organisations access to a much greater creative pool, but they are not examples of mass collaboration, nor are they proof of the Internet changing the world.
So let’s see if we can find some better examples of web-enabled collaborative projects. What about Wikipedia? Or Linux? These are both the result of interested parties putting their own time and expertise into developing products…that pretty much already existed, didn’t they? My computer came with an operating system, so unless I was pretty far up the geek spectrum why would I want another one? I don’t know about you, but I have never sat and leafed through an encyclopaedia. So why is it necessary to have the conglomeration of knowledge that is already on the web brought together in one site called Wikipedia? I hope I’m kicking a hornet’s nest here. I want to believe that we can harness the Internet to make a better world; I just haven’t seen it yet. What do you think?