"There is no recipe for the successful use of social tools" p 260
"Tools don't completely determine behaviour; different mailing lists have different cultures " p 261
And as we were reminded in a recent blog - social media can't do everything - it's not a magic bullet - you need the fundamentals in place so you can exploit the amplifying power of social media.
"Small groups are ... better conversational environments than large ones and find it easier to engage in convergent thinking, where everyone comes to agree on a single point of view" p 267
Large "groups are better able to produce what James Surowieki has called 'the wisdom of the crowds' ... distributed groups who aren't connected can often generate better answers, by pooling their knowledge or intuition without having to come to an agreement" p 267
I find it interesting that Shirky says "can often" not "will always" - sometimes it seems that 'the wisdom of the crowds' has become a prevailing mantra - eliminating the need for subject matter experts.
"With social tools, the group is the user, so you need to convince individuals not just that they will find the group satisfying and effective, but others will find it so as well, no matter how appealing the promise, there's no point in being the only user of a social tool" p 263
Shirky postulates one approach of "creating personal value for the individual users, allowing the social value to only manifest later ... Joshua Schacter's service for bookmarking and tagging web pages called del.icio.us, serves as a personal archive of web pages;
the value that accrues from aggregating the group's view of the Web is optional for any given user, but enough people have taken advantage of that value to cause the service to grow dramatically" p 263-264
Initially I used the del.icio.us social bookmarking service on an individual basis, however I soon discovered the value of being able to review the pre-filtered bookmarks of other users, as an alternative to web-surfing. It is now part of my weekly PKM (Personal Knowledge Management) routine to check out newly added bookmarks of those whom I follow. I have found invaluable web sources there. Similarly with "LibraryThing"
And then there is Flickr - as I discovered when my niece & nephew headed off to Europe for an extended period. Their Nan just loved checking out their photos on Flickr after dinner at our place on Sunday nights so she could keep up with their travels - far better than letters and postcards. (Later they made greater use of Facebook than Flickr - so Nan now has a Facebook account to keep up with their travels)
"Part of the promise of Flickr ... was that the public could see your photos" p 264.
Interestingly Shirky notes that "the most profound effects of social tools lag their invention by years, because it isn't until they have a critical mass of adopters ... that their real effects begin to appear" p 270
"Tools are similarly complex ... most groups are sustained through the efforts of a small group embedded within the large one" p 278
Thus the bargain as Shirky describes it, or the value, differs for the range of participants - from those who only consume to those who create or modify. He describes the failed attempt by Microsoft to engage users of its Encarta product to contribute as was happening with Wikipedia.
However with Encarta, "users had to grant Microsoft permission to 'use, copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, modify, translate and reformat your Submission" for a product Microsoft was going to charge money for. This was hardly a bargain at all, as all the power lay with Microsoft... " p 289 and thus it was doomed.
"Starting with the invention of e-mail... our social tools have increasingly been giving groups the power to coalesce and act in political arenas. We are seeing these tools progress from coordination into governance, as groups gain enough power and support to be able to demand that they be deferred to." p292