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Author Topic: FARK creator doesn't believe in the wisdom of crowds  (Read 2833 times)
Lashiec
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« on: June 30, 2010, 05:20:01 PM »

It's pretty telling when the founder of one of the pioneers of news aggregation says the model doesn't work at all. Perhaps that's why FARK has an editorial team that promotes links to the frontpage, while the rest remain in the back.


Of course, the statement has to be taken with a grain of salt, as he's talking about comments, which are personal opinions on a matter, not a combined effort of a group of people in order to reach a single answer. Plus, this is FARK we're talking about.
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40hz
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« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2010, 07:11:24 AM »

I'm curious, has anybody ever done a hard scientific study to determine if there's any truth to the claims being made for the "wisdom of crowds?" Most of what I've heard advanced as 'evidence' supporting this idea amounts to little more than parables, assertions, and anecdotes.

I can understand how it could work for something like an open software development project where "many eyes make for quick debugging." But in this case, the many eyes are programmers (most with formal training) who are focusing on something very specific and well within their area of expertise.

I wonder how well that same crowd would perform if you turned them loose on a problem that was outside their scope of knowledge and experience?

Increasing the number of something applied to something else doesn't automatically accomplish a goal. Very often, simply increasing the amount of input (money, ideas, time, voices, nuclear warheads) exacerbates the original problem and further clouds the issue.  Our government's tendency to go out and "throw big money at the problem" repeatedly demonstrates just how ineffective applying 'more' can be.

And not everything benefits from a group approach. Some issues are far better handled by small, tightly focused and highly trained individuals or small teams. Especially in critical areas where consistency, speed, and accountability are important.

From my perspective, I can't really see how a group one hundred idiots automatically becomes smarter than a group of ten idiots. I'd expect you'd more likely see an increase in erroneous thinking and logical error as the crowd got bigger.

When you consider that all distributions tend towards the mean, increasing the number in the group should have the effect of dragging the overall level of the group towards the middle rather than boosting it on the high end. We've seen this happen in committee meetings where the dumbest members tend to drag the overall performance of the group down to their level far more often than the brighter members succeed in pulling it up to theirs.

I'm not saying there's no truth to the 'wisdom of crowds.' All I'm saying is that there's a big difference between asserting something is true and proving it is.

So I think we need to be careful about too easily accepting something as valid before we find out if it actually is. Especially when dealing with something that "sounds so right" as this notion.

While group wisdom may have the capability of bringing about major social and information breakthroughs, it also has a dark side. Ideas such as ethnic cleansing, master race, apartheid, burn the witch, and thought crime all came out of crowd thinking.

And sometimes, there's very little real difference between a crowd - and a mob.




« Last Edit: July 01, 2010, 07:16:23 AM by 40hz » Logged

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JavaJones
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« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2010, 12:54:23 PM »

I think, like most things, it's a matter of applying it properly. Crowds are apparently (according to research I've read - can't find good links at the moment though) good at predicting outcomes, especially when they are representative of the opinions that will influence the outcome (e.g. movie box office results). There are other things they're good at too. What they're not good at is true *intelligence*, and I don't think any intelligent person is really making that assertion. There are certain problems that can *benefit* from that averaging effect you describe - think about those times you're trying to *find* the average, for example. But when you're talking about intelligently designing something, or coming up with a clever solution to a common or age-old problem, the crowd is much less useful, and really only of value in that it may connect you with that 1 individual who can actually answer.

I think the problem is people see crowd sourcing as a panacea, a fix-all. Or at least some people do. And that's just ridiculous. Even Wikipiedia, while it acts on a massive scale as a "crowd" in overall concept, is actually more like tons of much smaller micro-groups, in some cases highly intelligent and specific subject matter experts. So really there's a spectrum of "crowd sourcing" that needs to be understood to really evaluate efficacy and existing and future system design with that concept properly.

- Oshyan
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mouser
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« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2010, 01:05:23 PM »

Apparently, neither does the FARR creator.
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Deozaan
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« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2010, 01:42:18 PM »

I thought it was common knowledge that crowds are stupid and irrational. People do things in crowds they wouldn't do by themselves or with just a couple more people.
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40hz
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« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2010, 01:50:36 PM »


I knew that guy was very bright.  Grin  Thmbsup

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Shades
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« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2010, 04:30:27 PM »

I was always told that the IQ of a crowd can be calculated as follows...you take the IQ of the dumbest person in it and divide that with the amount of people in it.
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Paul Keith
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« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2010, 05:13:22 PM »

IMO wisdom of the crowds works in the same way wisdom of the editors work.

If you accept that a small group can provide for the big group then the big group can provide for the small group and it works in a looping "what can be done" manner.

If you don't accept a small group can provide for a big group then you'll see the flaws in a big group providing for a small group and it only works "as formal reality" if it exists.

Personally, why can't we all accept that regardless whether we are in a crowd or not, we are irrational and we need someone to move each other?

If we can accept that "this is Fark", I think it shouldn't be that far of a stretch to accept "this is humanity".
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J-Mac
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« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2010, 10:29:33 PM »

mouser, I was about to post about the Digg phenomenon when I clicked your link and saw that you already had it covered. Unfortunately this is how "crowd wisdom" often works. The wisdom of small groups that are able to dominate the opinions/stories/"facts" being considered are whose wisdom is usually mistaken for that of the "crowd". It isn't often that crowds are able to show any wisdom because there always seem to be "special" subsets of the crowd that manage to substitute their own version of "wisdom" for that of the crowd. That has been my experience anyway.

Thanks!

Jim
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rxantos
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« Reply #9 on: July 05, 2010, 11:31:24 AM »

The vote of the fools and of the wise count the same. Since there are more fools than wise, the result of a democracy is almost always foolishness. This explain the world we live in, where appearance of value is worth more than value.

I mean in the whole sense. From political ,we elect crooks every year based on propaganda, to economical : In capitalism the value of a product is based on how much people think is worth, instead of how much it took to manufacture it and how useful is.

However the problems remains, who and how determines what is wise from what is not.
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Paul Keith
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« Reply #10 on: July 05, 2010, 01:08:59 PM »

I think it's not as complicated as that rxsantos.

See if this were to happen:

Quote
instead of how much it took to manufacture it and how useful is.

Then the issue becomes a similar problem of how do you define useful and what if the manufacturers added all kinds of ads to it which counts in how much it costs?

Thus

Quote
In capitalism the value of a product is based on how much people think is worth

Is one of the simpler philosophies to beat out such propaganda because the free market while imperfect is better at determining value than the slower more disconnected arms of the government or of those with the riches to manipulate such powers.

In the political context, this won't happen because:

Quote
From political ,we elect crooks every year based on propaganda

Propaganda can't keep third party issues from joining the debates because the people are more empowered to make sure their issues get in.

Only by keeping the fools from participating can the media and political propaganda machine be able to maintain a two party system because then they can pad up the "wise".

One may even argue that there are more wise people than foolish people.

For the fools often can know that they are fools but the wise are often not invested in assisting the fools.

Again, it goes back to what someone said from Quora about a hairpin bend:

Quote
    Libertarians, in my perception, are stuck in what I term a "hairpin bend". That is, the people who are less wise than them are frequently indistinguishable from the people who are more wise than them.

    There's a large class of people who disagree with libertarianism because they're clueless about economics, misunderstand the basic tenets and make stupid arguments. There's another, smaller group of people who understand perfectly well how libertarianism works and choose to reject it for intelligent, well thought out reasons. From the outside, both will have roughly the same range of political beliefs.

    So what happens is some people from the first group will have an epiphany, they will finally get libertarianism and they will become a loyal convert. For some fraction of the group who become libertarians, they will have a second epiphany, realize the various fundamental flaws that make it a fundamentally unworkable system and leave libertarianism for a more mainstream political philosophy.

    As you get a boiling off of the most enlightened members, the hairpin bend becomes a concentration of a certain type of person. This, in a large part, IMHO, explains the uniformity of personality of libertarians compared to many other social groups.

    Every time you have a hairpin bend, you tend to see this similar phenomena and it can often be used as a diagnosis for where hairpin bends exist.

    Note: There may well exist further hairpin bends further up the wisdom chain and it does seem some people have an epiphany back into libertarianism. This is mainly a critique of the "naive libertarianism" viewpoint.

http://www.quora.com/Why-...they-know-all-the-answers

I blogged about it but I just can't help sharing this word. It's just so good at pointing out issues like this in a simple metaphor.

Some fools try to swerve towards the other end but the wise try to keep those fools swerving (with the hopes of forming a loop) from reaching the other end because they just want to stay as it is and keep the status quo intact and the wise men are so much more plentier that when things do change, it is only because the wisest men became even wiser but nonetheless the hairpin bend is never fully formed into a loop where the wisest can have access to the most foolish. (Even the internet with it's ease of publishing has trolls and elitists who are secretly satisfied that everything is nearly the same and only complain when their needs are the ones being trampled.)

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