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  • Hello you. I'm a 38-year old MSc student, studying Advanced Computer Science at Sussex University. I'm especially interested in Internet and mobile software, sensors and pervasive computing, user interfaces, and the process of developing great software.

    Before that I spent 11 years running Future Platforms, a software company I co-founded which makes lovely things for mobile phones, and which I sold in 2011.

    I read a lot, write here, and practice Aikido and airsoft. I live in Brighton, a seaside town on the south coast of the UK, with two cats and a clown.


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« CogApp Up A Mountain | Main | Capitalising on Popular Culture »

October 18, 2009


Iain Holder

Nice write-up Tom.

I think he said that the attendance of lectured dropped *to* 20% rather than by. Can't say I'd be too impressed if my kids did that and I was paying their fees. ;-)

Was rather hoping for a few predictions of the future though, but I think the panellists had probably seen too many of those 1970s episodes of tomorrow's world where they said we'd have jet-packs by 1999.


Excellent. Thank you.

Pleased to see someone challenged the singularitarian stuff about the rate of change. If you really want a Singularity, then August 6 1945 is a pretty good candidate. I don't think the change we've seen (from rotary-dial telephones and 300 baud modems to iPhones and multi-megabit broadband) is as deeply radical as the Industrial Revolution in this country, or as much as a step-change as the shift from post-victorian nationalism to the trenches and Total War.

Now you've read the blog you can watch (part) of the movie at
Apologies for my proximity to the microphone and for the long shaky bits between tripods. I'm afraid it cuts abruptly at the end due to loss of storage.
Also the first half is in the hands of one of the speakers so hopefully it will include this bit later.

Cori Samuel

Ah, but then according to the New Scientist: "New psychological research suggests that university students who download a podcast lecture achieve substantially higher exam results than those who attend the lecture in person." (provided they take notes while listening and provided we extrapolate straight from this theoretical experiment to practical, motivated study.)

I was surprised at how rambly the discussion was, and at the difference in angles taken by the different panellists, and yes, their unwillingness to engage with the topic of The Future. Also, they didn't seem to be giving many examples of collaboration - that might be my personal wonk, but I like to know about success stories, and about useful failures, especially where they might be repeated in other countries/situations. I think it was Cory who pointed out that things were Changing, not Progressing, but none of the panellists seemed to have a Big Picture they wanted to share. The result of Observing vs. Influencing/Acting?

Loved this write up, thanks - I had a ticket but couldn't muster the energy that night.

One small act of hopefully useful pedantry. The Wikipedia study you cite actually goes on to - in my interpretation - reinforce Wikiedpia-as-poster-child for collaboration at scale.

The author writes:
"When you put it all together, the story become clear: an outsider makes one edit to add a chunk of information, then insiders make several edits tweaking and reformatting it. In addition, insiders rack up thousands of edits doing things like changing the name of a category across the entire site — the kind of thing only insiders deeply care about. As a result, insiders account for the vast majority of the edits. But it’s the outsiders who provide nearly all of the content."

In terms of contributing original and diverse content in its early forms, that content comes from a much broader 'outsider' base than the interior hardcore.

Tom Hume

Will - you're quite right. I googled around, found something which seemed to support my assertion, and stopped there. Whilst I think Jimmy Wales ought to be reasonably authoritative about the runnings of Wikipedia, the second part of that article does seem to show exactly the opposite. However there's some interesting critiques about the methodology in the comments; in particular one commenter (Lars on September 6 2006) points out that it's not the size of changes that matters as much as whether they were leading towards the final result achieved - a reasonable measure of how useful they were, perhaps.

However, I think my point stands: if (at the time of this report) 2% of the Wikipedia contributors equates to 1400 people (and there's no argument on these numbers in the article), then the total number of contributors is 70,000. That's an incredible effort, but not one that's orders of magnitude larger than pre-Internet collaborative efforts - and Wikipedia, like the Apollo space programme, is likely to be one of the larger examples of collaboration in its domain that we can find.

I did think of a possible larger one actually... the Number 10 petitions site, which according to has received signatures from 3.9 million email addresses. I'm not sure if this site would qualify as collaboration, and I'm sure there are larger examples outside the UK, but it does seem to be a coordinated effort out-of-scale with those that came before (discounting World Wars and the like I suppose).

Thanks for picking me up on the article tho - I definitely should be more diligent in reading sources I quote.

I agree with you actually, if 70k is indeed the correct number of Wikipedia contributors as it seems to be, given that MyStarbucksIdea reputedly had 70k submissions (but is that different ideas or votes? I have no idea) in its first 12 months, so yes, these achievements can still be tiny given the scale of the world we live in.

I also love the idea of Number 10 petitions as some kind of low-fi massive collaboration example.

PS. I am equally bad at properly reading articles beyond what I want to find. I only knew of this other excerpt because for my purposes I had already been using my paragraph in training and writing, so I am guilty of the same myopia - just that my extract cut the data the other way!

Mark Walsh

Understood parts of this...must spend less time on Twitter.

Thanks for your comments on my blog - Here's Holocracy:



Holocracy is a lot of fun. I've had a 1/2 day of 'facilitation training' and read the big manifesto.

Like a lot of coaching it seems like a lot of people are making money telling other people how to do the thing and no one is actually making money by just doing the thing. I'd love to see a case study (or even a testimonial) from a business that actually ran their business holocratically.

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