Sogeti innovation and inspiration



S o g e t i i n n o v a t i o n a n d i n s p i r a t i o n


From crowd to community
vision and inspiration
Patrick Savalle, Wim Hoand and Arnd Brugman





T e a m P a r k
p l a t f o r m a n d m e t h o d
P a t r i c k S a v a l l e , W i m H o a n d a n d A r n d B r u g m a n
22525_SOG_Omslag_Teampark-Crowd_E.indd 1 29-04-2010 16:36:08
from crowd to community
From Crowd
to Community
Vision and Inspiration

2nd (revised) edition
Patrick Savalle
Wim Hofand
Arnd Brugman
2010 Sogeti

Sogeti Nederland B.V.
DSE / Innovatie en Inspiratie
Hoofdweg 204
3067 GJ Rotterdam
production LINE UP boek en media bv, Groningen
ISBN/EAN 978-90-75414-28-8
NUR 982
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“The ant is a collectively intelligent and individually stupid animal; man is the
Karl von Frisch
7 Foreword
Information technology (it) has now become a full-grown industry.
Not bad for something that has only been around for about ffty years. What has
become apparent in recent decades us that it is not only aiming a radically innova-
tive technology at business but also at consumers. Te introduction of gadgets,
methods, technologies, tools and complete solutions have succeeded each other
sometimes at an increasingly accelerating rate in recent years. Some introductions
have been very successful and irreversibly altered the world of it. On the other
hand, there are many innovative technologies that have never realized their prom-
It is undeniable that it fascinates us. Mostly, it offers the business world innova-
tive progress and opens it to new opportunities of doing business. it is also en-
thralling because younger generations have grown up using it as a tool, just as
tv became an essential adjunct to the post-war generation. Generations X, Y
and Einstein view it as a natural part of their lives and embrace new applications
as their own without ever having to consult a user manual. It is an exciting world
in which big players such as Microsoft, ibm and Oracle infuence and perhaps
even dominates the playing feld. Young people are virtually now learning about
xbox game computers, for example, when they are still in the cradle.
Recent developments in business provide the potential of making the best pos-
sible use of all generations. This means that, in addition to the line organization
and processes, there is more and more need to cultivate the social potential that
an organization possesses. We have to use all the internet functions that are avail-
able to us in order to encourage and facilitate social networks and collaboration.
All Web 2.0 capacities can be used to support this activity and then “let it all
happen.” In this sense, support means allowing space and investing trust in peo-
ple. I am convinced that the majority of employees will then experience more
satisfaction, the greatest stimulation and, ultimately, obtain the best results for
the organization.
The TeamPark book explores these developments in complete detail. The writers
then began the book, it seemed to me, with a mixture of “hope and fear” about
their topic. Not knowing where they were heading, on the one hand, and allow-
8 from crowd to Community
ing for the possibility that a brilliant vision, on the other. Patrick, Arnd and Wim
have been able to inspire me about what was going on in organizations, as well
as resurrect the social side of organizations. In addition, there turns out to be a
number of recognizable phases that can be negotiated in order to unlock this
potential. In brief, a clear idea of a book was born. To avoid writing it too
strongly in the Sogeti tradition, we have produced a two-sided readable book
and worked on it for about one and a half years. I am more than proud about
the fnal result. I have been heartily encouraged by the recognition and enthusi-
asm of the frst readers, rewarding our perseverance. Fortunately, the period of
“fear” is long behind us and only the “hope” remains. I am absolutely certain
that every reader will therefore enjoy and proft from the reading of this book.
I also trust that it will also help you fnd a way to unlock the potential of your
social organization and derive added value from it.
Frank Langeveld, Director of Sogeti
Rotterdam, March 9, 2010
9 Content
Foreword 7
1 Starthere 13
The future is social 14
Technological “convergence” 15
Customer communications 16
A new way of working. 17
Globalization 17
The limits of the spider model 18
The limits of the machine model 19
Symptoms of maladjustment 20
The crowd in every organization 21
Crowd control 22
New ways of working together 23
Big bang or evolution? 24
The Intelligent Organization and TeamPark 25
Playing or working? 27
2 VivelaRevolution! 31
On March 14, 2004,
everything was fnally ready 31
The new web 33
Hanging out and living online 33
We are the media 35
The customer is part of the company 36
Producer and consumer at the same time 38
Social technology 39
The new worker 42
10 from crowd to Community
3 Web2.0 45
The Weblog 49
Forum 50
The Wiki 51
The marketplace 51
The media library 52
Social link dump or social bookmarking 53
News aggregation 54
The activity stream 55
4 The“Crowd” 57
The Ron Paul revolution 58
We are all ants 60
The collective has its own life 64
Collective Intelligence Quotient (cq) 71
Crowd-control: channeling talent 72
5 Socializingwiththecrowd 77
Offce warrior (fragment) 77
Nvidia 80
Nike 81
Response 1.0 versus response 2.0 82
Viral communications 84
Astroturfng 86
Community resistance 88
6 Thenewwayofworkingtogether 91
From chaos to perfection 92
Stigmergy as defned in Wikipedia,
the free encyclopedia 93
The human body 97
Madmen and fools write
their names on doors and windows 98
Mass-action and brute force tactics 100
Bundling of forces 101
Broadcast versus direct communication 101
Synchronous versus asynchronous 102
Self-scaling and anonymous 103
Performing complex tasks without a leader 103
11 Content
7 Varioustypesof
socialcollaborationplatforms 105
Mechanical versus organic 105
Types of social activity useful to
the organization 107
Social networks: implicit social activity 108
6-degrees of Kevin Bacon 109
Productive social activity:
an alternative to teamwork 112
Crowds: creative social activity 113
What does such a crowd then do
all day long? 114
Switching the crowd on and off 115
8 “2.0” 117
Enterprise “1.0” and “2.0” as Yin and Yang 119
Communities alongside Teams 120
Mintzberg and co. 121
The autonomy of Fairtlough 122
Thomas Malone and democracy
in your company 122
Self-organization 123
Interaction 124
9 2.0inbusiness 127
Old companies in a new world 128
Knowledge processing factories and
intensive personnel husbandry 130
The end of Taylorism 131
A new model for knowledge work 133
The future of your organization in 7 points 136
“Der mensch als industriepalast” 136
Finalword 143
12 from crowd to Community
13 Start here
Start here
Communities and social websites are all the rage at the moment. Wiki’s,
blogs, forums, you name it—if you don’t have them at your company, you’re just not
up to snuf. Web 2.0, “Enterprise 2.0”, you just can’t get away from this burgeoning
trend. Everything has become “2.0”. All of society is in fux.
Of course, social change has always existed, but the speed and scale of the cur-
rent transformations are unprecedented. As in the case of any hype cycle, the
exact degree of penetration and omnipresence at which “2.0” will settle is not
entirely clear, but the change will certainly be great and irrevocable when it does
fnally reach this stable state. What we suggest and will try to make acceptable
is that Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 are not empty slogans, not even memes
forces, concretely applicable concepts. Undoubtedly, the term “2.0” will be as
often as not incorrectly used, but it is, at the same time, hardly possible to un-
derestimate its pervasive effect at any level, be it social, cultural, political or, in
any case, commercial.
Despite the enormous infuence that Web 2.0 is now having on the manner in
which people use the internet, the concept remains rather vague and unclear to
many. Nevertheless, it is perfectly clear to us at the innovation and inspiration
department of Sogeti. When considering Web 2.0, most people think about in-
ternet communities and social websites making it possible for visitors to interact
14 from crowd to Community
with each other and inviting them to make contributions., Linked-, and are all websites that make use of such
visitor productivity and inspiration. In effect, we see the very same thing, but
only in a larger, more holistic context. The way we see it, the technical, concep-
tual and socio-cultural trends are not only revolutionizing the world of the in-
ternet (called the blogosphere) but also your business operations. In our view,
“2.0” resources not only facilitate and activate “visitors” but crowds in general.
These crowds are to be found everywhere, including in particular every organi-
“2.0” makes it possible for companies to discover and activate an enormous pool
of mostly untapped talent, one that is present in every company, without excep-
tion. This talent reservoir is a sleeping giant ready to be awakened. It is flled
with crowds that have enormous potential for innovation, creativity and pro-
ductivity. The methods of tapping into this resource were then labeled Enter-
prise 2.0, but what is it exactly? It is not only a company that works with Web 2.0
resources such as wikis, blogs and forums—the terms that you always hear in
this regard. If only it were just that easy! Owning a telescope does not make you
an astronomer. You remain exactly the same person, except that you have a
telescope. Similarly, completely flling a company’s intranet with wikis, blogs and
other social software will have little effect. Perhaps there will be increased fool-
ing around and tinkering, here and there a lonely initiative, but not the more
effcient organization that we hope for. More is needed for this transformation:
there must be knowledge and understanding, resources and correct application
and an intensive launch phase. What is necessary is a structured approach. And
TeamPark provides it.
Senior executives are still hesitant about setting up a social collabora-
tion platform in their organization. Te building of social platforms, the use and
the (re)design of the organization is still just getting of the ground and will fully
take fight in the near future. A logical development, after the social revolution in
our private sphere, is the social revolution of the organization. We have all been
able to experience the emergence of Web. 2.0, but the truly great change, the trans-
formation of our business community, the advent of Enterprise 2.0 is near at hand.
Tere are currently no training programs for “social collaboration,” but they will
15 Start here
come. Tere are still no engineers or business experts who have been schooled in
Enterprise 2.0, but they will appear. Tere are no experienced specialists, they are
in the process of gaining experience. And these people will change our world. So-
cial practices based on stigmergic collaboration is here and will only disappear if
there are no more ants running around in this world (we will explain this in detail
later). Not just because social activity further helps companies to optimize their
processes in a way not possible with traditional tools. Tere are already techno-
logical and social trends that channel the evolution and implementation of the new
collaboration. Even in your organization.
The Gartner hype curve for social media
Technological “convergence”
Smart mobile devices are conquering the market. Think of the iPhone that oper-
ates on Unix, or the G1 operating on a special version of Linux, or Tablet pcs,
Netbooks, book readers, new generation multi-touch smart-phones and laptops
with built-in networking. But even more is about to come out. A trend that is
16 from crowd to Community
being identifed as “convergence”
will mean that an entirely new generation of
“collaboration” tools will be created. Photo cameras, camcorders, navigation
equipment, medical equipment, various types of handhelds and mobile devices—
all will be derived from the same basics platform: the smart phone and all will
run on a generic operating system, such as Android. They will all have the same
connectivity and interactivity and all be able to take part in online social proc-
esses. The internet, but especially your intranet, will become a web for still smart-
er and, in particular, more mobile and social devices. With the appropriate mech-
anism, this can become a smart grid that collects, weighs and evaluates
information. The result will enable your employees to work and collaborate in
almost any manner. It would be catastrophic to waste this talent and these op-
portunities, and a good social platform makes such wastefulness entirely un-
Customer communications
Fear of missing the boat is the primary reason that so many companies are now
trying to win over the external crowd, which is to say their customers, suppliers
and other people from outside the company. These companies hope that, by us-
ing communities and crowdsourcing, they can increase customer loyalty, encour-
age practical innovation and achieve everything that “2.0” originally promised
them. Everyone now wants to have their own community. But it is unclear how
such proliferate spawning of groups will ultimately be possible. Where will all
the customers go when everyone will soon be running after them? They can
hardly belong to dozens of communities. Nevertheless, the trend and desire to
join in clearly exists at present and, at least for the time being, they are bearing
fruit for companies. It is however impossible for customers to be fully included
in a company’s functional processes due to the impossibility of forcing customers
to provide a certain performance or degree of commitment. Your employees are
motivated by the employment contract, while customers have another relation
with a company. Employees can be told what to do, as well as when and how.
But customers cannot be ordered around. A new type of collaboration is therefore
required in order to gain the cooperation of the external crowed, and this is made
possible, as you have already guessed, by the right “2.0” platform.
17 Start here
A new way of working.
And there is also a social trend christened by Microsoft as “the New Way of
Working.”The name given to the associated technology is Unifed Communica-
tion and Collaboration (abbreviated ucc). The New Way of Working does not
involve any prescription of the times and locations where and when work must
be performed. The balance between work and private life is shifted. More and
more, knowledge workers are paid in terms of performance and no longer in
terms of attendance. For organizations that are fully committed to bureaucratic
structures and teamwork, the New Way of Working represents a great challenge.
In such cases, the New Way of Working may only appear to have limited ap-
plications. It would cause the organizational machine to grind to a halt because
fxed workfows and direct, synchronous communications—the basis of the ex-
isting organization—will not work if half of the team are busy training in the
gym or out playing with their children, while the other half are sitting at their
desks in the offce waiting for the latest updates to documents or answers to their
e-mails. The New Way of Working, working independently of time and place, is
impossible without a new form of collaboration.
Ultimately, the phenomenon of (technological) globalization is just “plain and
simple.” Modern communications technology is making the world increasingly
smaller, and it is now possible to collaborate with people from all around the
world as if they were colleagues in the next room. The world will however con-
tinue to turn on its axis, and many people will still prefer to work in the daytime
rather than at night. Time zones are a reality and will present an obstacle to
intensive functional collaboration among team members living all around the
world. To function well, these teams will have to remain geographically limited
in terms of location or, in any event, involve individuals whose work days at least
partially overlap. Than mechanical means of collaboration inherent to bureauc-
racy and teamwork are interlinked and make collaboration “any time, any place”
By redefning the entrenched practices of functional collaboration (shifting the
focus from e-mail to wiki), a “2.0” platform will break down this barrier.
18 from crowd to Community
In a bureaucratic organization, a manager reorganizes and delegates by
commanding and adjusting “from top-down.” Like a spider in its web, he pulls on
the various strands. Instructions are developed at the top of the command structure
and then issued to and refned by those at lower levels, until they are implemented
at the lowest level. Tis is known as centralized control. Knowledge and skills are
standardized and described in terms of procedures and functions. Te standard
manner of thinking and acting that belongs to the structure can be characterized
using the key terms “standardization,” “top-down” and “central.” Since noise and
distortion inevitably occur during propagation, top-down is an inefcient manner
to manage large groups. In a signifcant number of cases, use of centralized manage-
ment techniques is even impossible. Imagine a situation when a school of sardines
has to dodge a hungry barracuda and the head sardine has to wait until: (1) all the
information being collected by the guard sardines has been received, (2) it can form
a good idea of the current positions of all the sardines in danger, (3) it can come up
with a course of action for each individual sardine in a school of thousands, (4) it
can distribute a series of instructions over a network of manager sardines and team-
leaders in order to have each member of the school move to the right position at
the right time. Te larger the group gets, the greater the proportional requirement
of control and communications and, correspondingly, the greater the inertia of the
system. Te result is that it is less likely that the system will work
The situation is not much different for organizations. Since the larger the or-
ganization, the greater the distortion in both time (delay) and in content (misin-
terpretation), companies are divided into departments with a certain degree of
autonomy and independent management. Although larger groups—the company
as a whole without considering the organizational structure—have special qual-
ities that we would like to use (as we will see in this book), we will have to leave
these qualities unused unless we at least defne a good method of aggregating
their talent without again compartmentalizing the constituent group and unwit-
tingly re-instituting segregation.
Central management (“management 1.0”), such as it exists in a hierarchical or-
ganization, is also very limiting in the ways that it deals with inspired individuals.
The same holds true for creative individuals or other types of exceptional persons.
This limitation exists because an anomalous individual displays behavior or talent
that is diffcult to control centrally and can never be included in a job description.
19 Start here
Especially in strongly hierarchical organizations, people are almost never employed
at their full potential. Often, use is only made of the standard, predictable portion
of the behavior of every individual. Of course, this is partly a deliberate choice in
order to ensure that no one is made irreplaceable.
Centrally managed organizations are furthermore limited by the capabilities and
capacities of management; after all, the weakest link determines the strength of
the entire chain. Centrally managed organizations are vulnerable as well; if a
level in the hierarchy breaks down, the underlying levels are also put out of ac-
tion and will remain inoperable until measures are taken at the center(?).
In a bureaucratic organization, everything is formalized as much as
possible. Te organization runs as a well-oiled machine and, although that may
sound ideal, it represents substantial obstacle to several types of increased ef-
ciency and efectiveness. In a machine, everything is synchronous, running in a
predetermined rhythm. Components are directly linked with each other. As the
pistons of the engine go up and down, the crankshaft turns around at a correspond-
ing rate. And the rhythm of the valves has to be correspondingly adjusted. All the
parts are connected to each other by rods and cables. If just one part of the machine
decides to go its own way, the entire group performance is put in danger. Te ma-
chine is certainly predictable and its performance is repeatable. But the machine is
also infexible and vulnerable. Your organization is such a machine. What might
happen if the components now begin to work independently of each other? What
would occur if half of the employees would rather go train in the gym every morn-
ing while the other half was hard at work? What if team members were spread
around the world? What if large groups of people had to work together? And what
would happen if customers had to work together with your employees? How useful
would “collaboration 1.0” continue to be? Te machine would then break down.
Direct person-to-person communications would then become useless. Tis machine
model is inapplicable to more circumstances than you might likely suspect, or at
least it performs below par under such conditions.
20 from crowd to Community
Te world is changing and, to an increasing degree, our current or-
ganizational models are “out of sync” with this new world. Te standard bureauc-
racy-based model for organizations appears to have arrived at the end of its tenabil-
ity. Symptoms of aging are clearly visible in nearly every larger organization.
The freely and unlimitedly scalable collaboration that is so matter-of-course •
in Web 2.0 is nearly impossible to implement in organizations.
Adjusting and even promptly reacting to external factors becomes more dif- •
fcult the larger and/or more “effcient “ that a company becomes. Large com-
panies are certainly proverbial supertankers.
The New Way of Working turns out not to work; performing work in any •
location is certainly well within the control of modern technology; but doing
it at any time remains impossible because the synchronicity of workfows
makes workers sequentially dependent on each other.
It is impossible to optimize all the processes in a company; there are always •
misplaced and under-performing areas, and increased control and bpi is only
counter-productive in such cases.
It has proven impossible to use all the available employee talent, simply because •
the company is based on a series of standardized functions and processes (i.e.
based on averages).
This is certainly a diffculty, and appears more like a deep failure than a repair-
able defciency. How can a model that has been so successful over the last 100-
150 years all of a sudden reach the end of its line? And still more important, do
such large and, at frst sight, varied problems have a fundamental solution? To
answer the frst question, we must go back to the source of the machine bureau-
cratic model. In 1911, Frederick Taylor published his book The Principles of
Scientifc Management, which describes how industrial processes can be made
more effective and effcient by standardization and application of scientifc prin-
ciples. Later, Henry Ford adopted these principles for a still more effcient mod-
el of mass production or industry. His methods were universally imitated.
The world has since changed enormously, but the inheritance from Taylor and
Ford still has a dominant presence in our modern society. For modern knowledge
work, the industrial model is far from being the ideal. Where workers previ-
ously had to go to factories at agreed times in order to physically work together
21 Start here
to produce physical products that moved along a production line, knowledge
can be based on entirely different models, simply because it is now easier to send
the information to the workers than to transport workers to the information.
The internet has made bureaucracy obsolete for knowledge work. The above-
mentioned symptoms are the result of the industrial model applied to knowledge
work in a transformed society. The machine model is out-dated; a new model is
required. And it is also certainly possible! Take the example of the collaboration
among ants, bees or termites, or else the example of Web 2.0. All are totally dif-
ferent kinds of cooperation compared to our bureaucratic ways.
Increasingly more companies recognize the above-mentioned symp-
toms and have therefore the desire—if (although?) perhaps still not so clearly
formulated—to view their company not just as an organizational structure and to
govern it top-down, but also as a crowd, almost an organism. Crowd-based or-
ganizations are now being conceived as a large group of independently thinking,
self-willed and creative people. But how do you control such a crowd? When the
school of sardines begins to evade the barracuda, which of the sardines is respon-
sible for coordinating this action? None of them, of course! Crowds are not di-
rectly controlled. Crowds behave entirely diferently from hierarchies: enter “man-
agement 2.0”! Millions of years of trial and error have led nature to adopt a
decentralized approach for the coordination of large groups (crowds). It is easy to
imagine that Mother Nature originally tried to control all her creations but, at a
given moment, 10 billion biting mosquitoes and 30 million thieving thrushes began
to think diferently: they began to be motivated desires to “take a look,” “fnd out
for oneself.” And with one mighty gesture, Mother Nature created “Nature 2.0”.
Now, people are certainly no sardines, by which we mean to say that individual
people are not sardines. But when a large group of organizations are brought to-
gether, a collection of people suspiciously displays many similarities to a group of
sardines. In fact, there are many points of comparison between a crowd of sardines
and a crowd of people.
22 from crowd to Community
1hesis Sans n/¡¡
1hesis 5ans 8oId ç/¡¡
functionaI 5ociaI
is like a MACHINE is like an ORGANISM
Functional in comparison to social
To get the most out of large companies requires not just centralized management
and administration but also a decentralized mechanism. Every company has, in
addition to its “hierarchical” structure, employees in their “organic” relationship:
the crowd. What is necessary is a series of pointers to guide the crowd’s direction
of movement and to ensure that this organic side of the organization supports
its business objectives and complements the hierarchical structure of the or-
ganization. The characteristics of the crowd, the instruments of controlling the
crowd and the associated social-cultural phenomena, this is what we identify as
“2.0.” Key Values: “facilitating” (passive), “organic” and “decentralized”.
Who might have previously thought that you could entice consumers
to buy things they didn’t need? All sorts of new gadgets, new car models that are
not fundamentally diferent or better than previous ones, expensive clothing and
meaningless playthings. How gullible must such a consumer actually be? Before
Edward Bernays began trying out “crowd psychology” (a specialism developed by
such notables as his uncle Sigmund Freud) by testing it on “the masses,” people
only bought the products that they needed. Tey only replaced things that were
worn out. Buying was purely functional, a view that is hardly conceivable to us
nowadays. Modern consumerism only began, however, to develop around 1910–1920.
It grew out of the desire of large corporations to sell more by encouraging people
to make more frequent purchases of newer and increasingly less expensive items.
23 Start here
Prior to this period, we lived in a diferent world. In the present, we are living in
what we might label “the century of the self
.” Although we might think that we
buy something on our own accord, nothing is further from the truth. Te mechanism
responsible for compelling us to buy, called public relations or marketing, has now
been refned to such an omnipresent extent that many psychologists are now won-
dering out loud if free choice truly exists any longer. We buy new stuf that we
actually don’t need and replace old things before they are worn out. Preferably, we
acquire brands that attract attention to us and give us a certain desired social stand-
ing. Rationality and utility no longer have hardly any role in this process. Social /
peer pressure has become the most dominant motivation behind our purchases.
Tis change has not occurred by accident; it has been deliberately engineered based
on a clearly formulated theory and represents a pure form of crowd control, as it
only really works when applied to crowds.
Indirectly manipulating crowds, crowd control, is extreme: extremely powerful.
And people in groups turn out to be equally extreme: extremely weak. Freud,
the thinker behind the theoretical formulation, died an unhappy man with a great
deal of contempt for humanity. Web designers cannot yet incorporate such an
extensive degree of control in their social websites. In this respect, they are per-
haps still living in the age of the 1910s and 20s. The architects of the new gen-
eration of super malls will, however, provide this capacity in the sales platforms
that they are developing for their clients. These will also be specially designed
and constructed social platforms.
Te key to getting large groups of independent individuals to cooper-
ate, the trick that Mother Nature has come up with, is a special way of working
together that was not available to us humans until the arrival of Web 2.0 and is
almost never used in our companies. At least, it has not been consciously used. A
certain supportive platform is required for this special way of working together.
Actually, we don’t want to say anything more at this point, as the relevant stories
in the book are much too entertaining to have the ending given away here. Still,
this new way of working together is so simple and, at the same time, so powerful
that the absence of its large scale application in business is, in fact, very strange. It
24 from crowd to Community
will be an eye-opener for many, as it was for us as well. It is also extremely compat-
ible with existing bureaucratic methods of working. We are, in fact, assuming that
your organization makes use of the “traditional” way of managing and collaborating.
For the time being, it will sufce to state that there are still many opportunities to
arrange for employees to work together in a smarter, more efcient but also more
pleasurable manner. Such approaches would provide them with more variety and
options in their work, as well as give them more freedom of choice regarding their
working hours and workplaces.
This new way is what we identify as “social,” and an organization making use
of the social sphere engulfng it is what we call “an intelligent organization.”
“The organization formerly known as Enterprise 2.0.”
1hesis Sans n/¡¡
1hesis 5ans 8oId ç/¡¡
functionaI 5ociaI
The Mintzberg hierarchy made explicit using TeamPark
It is a misconception to think that “social” immediately and always
represents an enormous change in an organization. Even at the present moment,
there are many social elements in your organization that we only need to make
evident in order to bring them to their full maturity. Fortunately, most communica-
tions in your company do not occur by means of the organizational structure but
through indirect and more informal channels. If you were to record who people
were emailing, calling, smsing or sending im messages, and if you were to plot all
this connections on a graph, you would produce a diagram that we shall label the
25 Start here
social graph of your organization. Te xobni tool is a fne example of a technology
that performs such analysis. xobni records the email sent and received in an ms-
Outlook environment. It provides a ranking of a user’s favorite colleagues or
At present, the backbone of your organization is formed by a social structure
that you have probably never diagrammed or analyzed. Let alone that you should
have designed or even conceived of it. It is an organic structure that has grown
by itself and continuously refreshes and improves itself. How social can it be?
To put it even more strongly, if you were to seek out the people who form the
“heavy” nodes in the network, then you would fnd “new workers.” And these
are people who are already accustomed to operating in the different way of
working together.
WisJcm c[ the
Web z.o
Social dimensions made evident
Between social networks to the wisdom of the crowd, there are many degrees of
social to which we should all devote some refection. There is a great deal of
room to grow, but such growth can begin simply, starting on the basis of the
existing organization.
Te employees of your organization can provide even greater perform-
ances if they are organized into communities instead of teams and if they learn to
26 from crowd to Community
cooperate in an entirely diferent manner. What this shift in organizational focus
requires is, above all, a special platform. In this respect, you might think in terms
of software such as MySpace, Facebook or Ning. Tis type of social software is very
efective in forming communities and making use of crowd power. It can be used
in what we are calling the “intelligent organization.”
Reforming an organization into an intelligent organization is not just a question
of making a social platform available to it. It has to go through a necessary proc-
ess in order to have the changes accepted and embraced. Sogeti has developed
TeamPark in order to provide the organization with a thriving social side. Team-
Park is a method for navigating the transition process to the social organiza-
Crucial in this regard is the use made of a social platform. Software does not just
become “social” but requires certain ingredients, which must also be available
in the right proportions. Every social platform has its own “social” character. It
may, for example, be content dominant and stimulate the crowd to make con-
tributions in the form of written articles, photos, videos and forum discussions,
to name just a few. Or a social platform may be relationship dominant, stimulat-
ing people to contact each other and network.
kepuIaIion Groups
1he righI mix oI inIeracIion sIimuli, a social
"personaliIy" IhaI IiIs your companies requiremenIs.
1he abiliIy Io allow selI-organizaIion. No Iixed
sIrucIures, Iree grouping, social Iagging eIc.
Peer-Io-peer, asynchronous and sIigmergic
collaboraIion and communicaIion Iools.
SmarI aggregaIion mechanisms and collaboraIive
IilIers Io use Ihe wisdom oI Ihe crowd.
AdapIed Io Ihe crowd (your employees and / or
cusIomers) and Io Ihe processes iI needs Io leverage.
lnIegraIed wiIh ouIside social paIIorms and oIher
corporaIe sysIems. No social plaIIorm is an island.
A good platform is “S.O.C.I.A.L.”
27 Start here
Texts about social platforms within the organization quickly give man-
agement the impression that they are primarily concerned with entertaining em-
ployees, who are expensive and must therefore continue to work billable and pro-
ductive hours right up to the last minute. Te accounts in this book might also paint
a similar picture of a band that has cut loose and now has to be left alone “because
work has to be performed in a bottom-up and organic manner.” In efect, it is dif-
fcult to imagine that a company’s Facebook might make anything more than an
occasionally useful contribution. It is not immediately discernible how uploading
clips or getting people to post stories about their holidays might contribute to more
efcient business operations. Examples like Wikipedia perhaps generate somewhat
more trust, but what then?
At the same time, the fear that such applications are only “played” with is equal-
ly ungrounded. Of course, the launching of blogging facilities will not mean that
people who, normally speaking, fnd it diffcult to write Christmas cards once a
year will all of a sudden begin flling up their personal weblog with literary mas-
terpieces on a daily basis. Nor is it likely that people will suddenly start to discuss
their hobbies and passions with their co-workers instead of their friends. People
who fnd it all too diffcult to decide what they will eat for dinner will not, all at
once, transform into masses of enlightened visionaries and, instead of performing
their daily tasks, will not abruptly become individuals exclusively devoted to
earth-shattering innovation. Certainly not! The social sphere of an organization
does not work like that.
What social factors can, in fact, do is add a dimension to your organization that
enables employees to select more varied work, more fexible working hours and
a greater range of locations. The result is an organization that operates much
more fexibly and effciently. The people working in an intelligent organization
will, in principle, perform the same tasks and produce exactly the same products,
but they will accomplish these goals in a different manner. In general, one that
is smarter, more effcient and less boring. And this new way of working is some-
thing that is impossible to implement in a purely bureaucratic organization with-
out a loss of productivity. One is social and the other is not. “Corporate social,”
the primary subject of this book, is something substantially different from “open
social.” It is entirely different “out there” then it is “in here,” inside the company
walls. We will certainly use open social examples as illustrations, but corporate
28 from crowd to Community
social is ultimately an entirely different ball of wax from open social. The need-
ed and, in fact, already existing ingredient is a specifc way to abandon the
limitations of the current organization, a way to combine the advantages of self-
organizing collaboration with the existing methods of working together. We have
been busy trying to optimize our organizations over and over again for decades.
Process optimization, business intelligence, kpis, the whole shebang. A good
social platform can be the next big step in this parade. As boring as it sounds,
social, when qualifying organization, refers to nothing more or less than a new
way of working together in which normal work is still accomplished, although
it is performed differently. The new way is superior to usual practices in some
processes, but not in all.
29 Start here
31 Vive la Revolution!
Vive la Revolution!
...Everyone who was anyone in the internet world was in attendance
at Caesars Palace Hotel in Las Vegas. For months, people had been months squab-
bling over who should speak, the advertisements to be allowed and the broadcast-
ers covering the event. Te introduction of the new Internet—currently still in beta
but already nicknamed Web 2.0—promised to be one of the biggest ever events in
the recent history of the computer industry. No self-respecting it company could
aford to pass this one up.
The ceos of Microsoft, Google and Oracle
wasted no opportunity in demonizing each
other. Google rewrote all the Microsoft
indexes in their search engine to refer to
those from Sun, causing serious overload
of the web servers there. Apple felt some-
what lost among all this pr power, moti-
vating Steve Jobs to release a special sa-
tirical mash-up of the media war on iTunes
and to develop a clever media campaign.
With great success! The viral he created in which Steve Ballmer gave a speech
against the background scenery of the flm Planet of the Apes brought the house
down and continues to be a hit on YouTube. It was outright war. Some column-
32 from crowd to Community
ists were even suggesting that the stage for the upcoming event should be re-built
into a boxing ring. Caesars Palace is after all a regular venue for the largest and
most prestigious boxing matches in the world. It was there that Muhammad Ali
chose to frst introduce the world to the famous Ali-shuffe. It was also there that
a mordacious Mike Tyson bit off a clearly discernible chunk of opponent Ivander
Holyfeld’s ear. And then, after receiving a warning and being booed, coolly also
tried to similarly incise the other ear.
The Web 2.0 launch almost had to be delayed as well. On the morning of the
event, a recalcitrant Larry Ellison, capo di tutti capi of Oracle. “moored” his
110 meter long yacht in the Hotel’s outdoor swimming pool. The yacht blocked
the main entrance to the hotel so that the organization had to switch to using
rear entrances, which many of the speakers and guests initially refused to do.
They all had hired the biggest limousines, purchased specially-tailored new suits
and gathered a number of representative women around them. And then there
was the press, the red carpet, everything that goes with it. Larry’s gesture had
upset everyone’s plans. He and his group could easily enter through the main
entrance, of course. The yacht, on which there was exuberant partying all day
long, could simply lower its gangway, which reached, completely “by chance” of
course, right up to the large revolving doors of the hotel’s main entrance. Even
today, it is still unknown how the yacht was moved to this precise location with-
out being noticed. The yacht’s trip home was a media spectacle in itself. All this
publicity had its positive effect: it made sure that the new Web 2.0 received the
attention it deserved.
Web 2.0 has recently also developed its own conspiracy theory, as the very peo-
ple involved in the development of Web 2.0 began one by one to disappear over
the ensuring months, never to be seen again. The few clues that have surfaced in
the case are still not understood. Notes were left at the scene of each of the mys-
terious disappearances with the words: Lontar Illustrum Natrmm Ustst Xem-
plaros. Only recently has this text been identifed as ancient Sumerian for “In-
ternet deserves a stable platform.” The other evidence left behind, a plush penguin,
still puzzles investigators.
33 Vive la Revolution!
Te internet has been transformed. Te new internet, called Web 2.0,
its ubiquity and the enormity of its social impact are without doubt imposing a
parallel transformation on the entire world. It is changing the way in which com-
panies approach their markets. It is changing the way in which companies operate.
It is changing the way in which people organize their social lives. It is changing the
way in which people collaborate. Large groups of people turn out to possess enormous
creativity and energy, and Web 2.0 is proving to be a perfect means for tapping this
resource. Te so-called 2.0 sites are still springing up from the ground like mush-
rooms, and there is even a “2.0” jargon/style that is emerging. Tis new language is
even apparent in the very naming of sites: flickr, plaxo, youtube, xanga, twit-
ter, zopa, fleck, wakoopa, flock. When we recently had to think about a domain
name, “fleedr” was one of the suggestions. No idea what it might mean, but the
domain was still available and “sounded so 2.0.” Well it may just be that the depletion
of “normal” domain names originally started this trend out of necessity, but appar-
ently there is still such a thing as “the right 2.0 memes.” Not just names, but also the
layouts of those sites have a 2.0 feel: purely functional, simple and colorful. Tey have
large buttons, bulky logos, clear menus and many social features.
All the trends and technologies that we lump together under the heading “Web 2.0”
were obviously not all launched on March 14, 2004 as an offcial new release of
the internet. There was never a release of Web 2.0; it is the result of years of
gradual evolution. The internet is an ecosystem in itself, a fairly extensive one at
that, where changes are constantly rolling off the assembly line in the form of ever
more innovative web techniques and new types of websites. Through a kind of
natural selection, the most successful technologies, the most powerful memes,
survive and become the foundation for new developments. After 10 to 15 years
of evolution, something was noticeably created, something that now, in retrospect,
has come to be called Web 2.0. We are going to look in detail at this development
and will also come up with a workable defnition of it.
Huge numbers of people use the new web, but mainly just to hang out
on so-called social sites. Pure social sites like MySpace and Facebook are among
the largest websites in their respective languages. Tis is a rather strange phenom-
enon, because the only thing people do on these websites is socialize. Tey create
34 from crowd to Community
accounts and reveal who they are using photos, profles, blogs and a circle of friends.
Tey send each other messages and join groups. Evidently, there is a great demand
for such activity, as nearly 3,000 (three thousand!) servers for the Dutch Hyves (our
own Facebook) are moaning and groaning under the weight of pages that a few
million active members visit and especially show to each other. Te crowd is appar-
ently unafected by the fact that it often crashes for too long periods of time and
will not always do what you want.
On the new web, you do everything online, not just searching information and
socializing. If you want to share your thoughts with others, you can do that us-
ing a weblog or blog. Answers to pressing questions are to be found on a forum.
Capturing and sharing knowledge can be performed together on a wiki. Wiki-
pedia is the largest encyclopedia in the world and is compiled by people from
around the world. These people have never met and do not know each other.
They nevertheless produce a valuable resource, as the quality of Wikipedia is no
less than that of the famous Encyclopedia Britannica. You can report activities
or news by “twittering” mobile short messages so that everyone subscribing to
the ticker-like message fow can then see what you are doing or what is going
on. You can keep track of your agenda and daily concerns on sites like Plaxo.
Emailing is done entirely online, using Gmail or Hotmail. You make friends on
Facebook. You directly place your holiday snaps on Flickr using your mobile
phone and link them to Google Earth, so others can view what you all saw.
Transgressive, sneaky or just nice clips (especially of others) are directly up-
loaded to YouTube from your mobile phone. Before too long, everyone will be
able to look around the 360 degree panoramic view of our collected images us-
ing Microsoft Photosynth. All our holiday snapshots together form a virtual
world in which we can walk around and look around, the images automatically
“stitched together” into a virtual world by the Photosynth software. All to-
gether, we build our own world after based on a “paraverse,” a virtual universe
based on reality. An example is the virtual world of Google based on Google
Earth. Microsoft’s announcement that Photosynth would be able to the same
trick with real-time video caused a shock wave. Real-time video from various
sources can be mixed into a new video stream with a more comprehensive and
panoramic image, as well as greater detail. Even including moments when we
cough and forget to cover our mouths.
35 Vive la Revolution!
And there is no editor or director involved. Neither Wikipedia nor Flickr, neither
YouTube nor Facebook and not even Photosynth have editors to provide “con-
tent.” Visitors to the site do it themselves, based on themselves, simply because
it is fun and cool, and the facilities are available!
Te news media are also undergoing transformation. News is more and
more “social” and “user-generated.” It is becoming social because we now are broad-
casting “the best news” to each other. Tis news is user-generated because we are
“collecting” and publishing increasingly more of it ourselves, instead of relying on
a specialized editor or agency. Te phenomenon of social news sites is relatively
new, but the last time we looked, had a larger audience than the cnn
website. On digg, everyone can post “link dumps” to articles on the web that they
believe to be important or interesting. A link dump is a brief description of an
article with an associated link. Others may vote on the news and, a deliberately
undemocratic algorithm is then used to determine the news that appears on the
front page (often not every vote has the same weight, democracy on the internet
being a bad idea because it almost always ends in a dictatorship of the majority, or
the death of quality). Articles given headlines, are guaranteed to receive well over
ten thousand views in a few hours and often the linked sites crash because of the
overwhelming attention. Tis efect is called slash-dotting,
named after one very
big “nerdy” it website with so many visitors that if all of them are alerted to an-
other website by a link on the front page, the other site immediately crashes due to
an overload.
It is easy to see the type of news that, in general, makes the headlines on such
sites and incites mass public participation. In the Netherlands, the largest news
site has its own social variant nujij, and the news that there appears, stands
in stark contrast to the news that appears on nu. While nu, like any new com-
mercial news provider, must remain in tune with the interests of advertisers, large
corporations and politicians (probably in that order), nujij initially displayed
much rawer, more honest and more authentic news. The difference was so great,
so ad unfriendly that nujij have begun to manipulate things behind the scenes
36 from crowd to Community
in a very unsocial manner because they ultimately just want to make money from
the ostensibly “social” site.
nujij was the frst social news site in the Netherlands affliated with a major
commercial news service, and it is not inconceivable that other large traditional
news sites will subsequently think twice before they consider making such fa-
cilities available to their readers. Be that as it may, social news will continue to
change politics and society; that much is for sure. Less and less news is coming
from major news agencies like ap, Reuters and anp, and more and more from
the crowd itself. And since, at any given time, someone, somewhere in the world
is experiencing the daily news as it happens, the crowd is everywhere. No news
agency service can beat it in this respect. Video and pictures taken at the locations
where news happens are, one hour later, distributed worldwide through com-
munities and blogs. Aggressors, freedom fghters, victims, bystanders, and others
have discovered video platforms like Liveleak and can use their cell phones to
share their views with the world. This content is not always pleasant to see but
nevertheless real. It will only be a few years before mainstream audiences view
live streams broadcast from cell phones, and that will unleash a complete revo-
lution in news gathering. There are no longer any technical problems preventing
television programs from being created online by mixing together broadcasts
from multiple sources.
Similarly, it is quite conceivable that, in the very near
future, Twitter streams will be used to provide live images with commentary and
explanation by the crowd.
It will take time to become accustomed to all these changes. Large
companies have to contend with customers that have a large impact on internal
operations. Te customer is a member of a community, and that community will
gives otherwise anonymous consumers a hugh infuence. Individual customers can
now have companies such as Nike bow before them, a nice anecdote about this
later. Te customer is now willing and able to collaborate, especially regarding
public services. Customers now possess more creativity than the best innovation
departments or advertising agencies. In addition, they already most likely possess
the best knowledge about the product, as well as about the demand for the product.
37 Vive la Revolution!
When cbs television discontinued the Jericho series in May 2007, fans of the series
began to send nuts to cbs in large numbers, thus referring to an event in the last
episode that aired: “nuts!” Within three weeks, cbs received 8 million nuts, weigh-
ing a total of over 18,000 pounds. Nina Tassler, ceo of cbs, decided to create seven
episodes and broadcast them in the same year.
The crowd is powerful, and smart companies, (i.e. “2.0” companies) try to make
use of the crowd. Amazon, the largest book and music store in the world, has its
Mechanical Turk. Visitors to Amazon can make money by answering questions
from other Amazon customers. Amazon moderates the exchange. As yet, such
crowdsourcing only involves simple tasks that computers perform with extreme
diffculty but that people fnd incredibly easy. Amazon provides a small fee for
anyone who performs such a “hit” (Human Intelligence Task) as writing a re-
view, or identifying and selecting objects in photos.
Dell has its and tries to use it to better satisfy customer require-
ments. Ideastorm is a kind of electronic suggestion box. Anyone can propose a
product improvement in one of Dell’s products, on which others can then vote.
Some ideas have received more than 100,000 votes, such as removing pre-installed
Windows Vista from laptops or providing the option to choose pre-installed
Open Offce instead of Microsoft Offce. Dell has promised the community that
it will actually adopt many good ideas as possible. “Post,” “Promote,” “Discuss”
and “See”! Often a customer’s requirement is, unfortunately, in confict with the
objective of the company. A popular idea was to have all laptops work with a
standard power adapter and cable. The response from Dell was very honest,
stating that they would never do that because they earn a great deal of money
from selling the adapters, and the whole point is that a new adapter must be
bought for each model.
TomTom spends a great deal on the creation of good road maps, but even the
best maps have errors. even if only temporarily due to road maintenance or
temporary diversions. Instead of entirely re-mapping the road network on a
daily basis, TomTom give users the opportunity to report errors and corrections
that TomTom then distributes to the rest of the TomTom community, with or
without checking their accuracy. The advantage for users is that they may even
38 from crowd to Community
occasionally beneft from the updates of others, and the beneft for TomTom is
of course still more apparent: a more reliable set of route directions from a neg-
ligibly more expensive product.
In two years, YouTube has grown into what is perhaps one of the largest media
companies in the world, at least in terms of audience. During July 2007, YouTube
had more than 410 million page views in the Netherlands alone. It registers more
than 200 million unique visitors per month worldwide, each remaining on the
site an average of 28 minutes. At present, the data traffc on YouTube is as large
as all the traffc on the entire Internet in 2000. Although these fgures are ex-
tremely diffcult to verify and change every month, it is nevertheless clear to
everyone that YouTube is a signifcant player in the new media world. It is not
unusual for a clip on YouTube to be viewed 500,000 times within a few days.
The “Evolution of Dance” clip has now been watched more than 60 million
times, and the clip’s performer has become a celebrity on “normal” tv. Broad-
casters are hiring him based on his YouTube success. And all this is happening
without him or YouTube having to make any marketing effort. A similar thing
happened to Esmee Denters, the singer that started her carreer on Youtube with
a little help from Justin Timberlake. What distinguishes this activity is that
YouTube does not have to produce any of its own content. We make every video
that it shows. Us, we, ourselves.
More and more peer-to-peer services are popping up: services that
enable visitors to collaborate with each other. Typical of such phenomena are the
online auction sites on which internet users make deals with each other instead of
going to a “store.” eBay is well-known to all of us. In addition to selling our old
39 Vive la Revolution!
washing machines or cameras, we can now use similar concepts to borrow money
from each other, as well as cover each other’s insurance risks. Peer-to-peer banks
are gradually beginning to become more popular.
At Zopa, the average interest rate on loans is often more than one percent
lower than the cheapest rates offered by most commercial banks under much
more favorable ancillary terms. A peer-to-peer bank has the additional advantage
over modern commercial credit institutions of always having coverage for sav-
ings, so that a bank run is impossible. Unlike banks based on the fractional reserve
banking system (as in the case of all currently-existing commercial banks), they
do not cause infation. It is not inconceivable that peer-to-peer banks or large
websites might, in the future, introduce their own currencies. Savings-point sys-
tems such as Air Miles or the Linden dollar in Second Life are intermediate
After “normal” radar detectors were banned, new types of detectors began to
appear. Any user driving through a speed trap signals its location with a press of
a button, and the network automatically evaluates and distributes the informa-
tion to all other users. Users are now warning each other about “speed traps,”
and it will be very diffcult to prohibit this technology.
A new trend coinciding with the emergence of social computing in-
volves the far-reaching convergence of so-called smart mobile devices. Everyone
has now heard of the smartphone, which are nothing more or less than small laptops.
Te technological and functional structure is exactly the same, with only slightly
less power while nevertheless having more capabilities. A smartphone is a laptop
plus all the connectivity required for Internet access and networking. Plus a “shit
40 from crowd to Community
load” of sensors such as gps, accelerometers, compass and ambient light level meters.
In the near future, these features may even extend to pressure, temperature, feld
gages, sonar, laser range fnders, and biometric sensors. Or even a built-in camera
with infrared and ultraviolet imagery. Some smart phones run the Android operat-
ing system (itself the result of crowdsourcing, as it is based on some open-source
Linux software). For many people, futuristic-sounding features such as augmented
reality and gps tracking have been available for years. It is now possible for any
clever programmer to build software for the most advanced personal-computing
platform in existence and, as a result, have instant access to what are ultimately
billions of devices and users. Tis development has thrown the entire industry into
an accelerating onrush of changes and, along with consumers, everyone is trying
hard to keep up.
The trend that we refer to as convergence is discernibly characterized by the fact
that smartphones like the Nokia E72, the Google Nexus, the Sony-Ericsson
Xperia-10 or the iPhone 3gs increasingly serve as the basis for virtually all the
personal electronics that we gather around ourselves. New cameras will essen-
tially become smartphones, having the same generic software and the same con-
nectivity but with a more highly developed specifc function in terms of its opti-
cal elements. Every picture that is created is automatically uploaded to a server,
or e-mailed, or sent via Bluetooth or Wif. The photographer can install special
software flters in a processing pipeline that the camera applies in real-time to
any picture taken. A television will also essentially become a smartphone, again
with the same generic software and the same connectivity. It will be a smartphone
with a huge screen, connected to all other surrounding smart electronics. It is not
diffcult to imagine that any type of navigational device, car radio, camcorder,
media player, pda and many other electronics will take part in such a social
computing grid.
The ways in which viewing television will change have already been demon-
strated. Modern tvs are designed as so-called dlna / uPnP media streamers,
which means they can take content from any media server in the network, no
matter if that network be local or global. And if the television set does not have
this functionality itself, the consumer can buy a box that can operate as a media
streamer for less than the price of a cinema evening for the whole family. Connect
and its ready! If appropriately confgured, all reachable media servers on the
local network or accessible over the internet are automatically detected. A media
41 Vive la Revolution!
server is itself free, it is freely available software. By installing tversity, Vuze or
Twonky on the pc or soon also on the smartphone, the television can be used to
view content from YouTube or other online media content stored on the device
or network. A media server unlocks all the content to which it has access on the
media streamer. And if the media server has access to the internet and large
amounts of local content, watching television quickly assumes a very great new
It may be confusing, but there is no reason not to think that a camera or cam-
corder may also serve as a media server and streamer, so you can easily add your
own content to the “cloud.” Many of these media servers are also social. For
example, Vuze, originally known as the Azureus torrent client (for peer-to-peer
downloading of content from the incredible PirateBay site, among others) has
evolved into a social media server. This means that you can share content with
friends, “rate” it or recommend it to others. A television network will no longer
determine what you watch but, increasingly, it will be your social network that
helps you make up your mind. And how wonderful is that? You will have some-
thing to talk about the next day when you contact each other using the chatbox
oh no! This chatbox was already available while watching tv. Everything is so
The same goes for almost everything for which you can use smart electronics. If
you like cycling, you can now use Google-maps to share your performance and
routes with your friends or strangers in real-time. You can even challenge others
to complete the same route in better overall time. The phone in your backpack
records your position, your speed, perhaps even your biometric data like heart
rate and power output, and shares all this information instantaneously with your
social network, your coach or your fans. Nokia phones are already offering
something similar called the SportsTracker and are able to connect to Polar
heartrate monitors. Watch where you are currently riding live on Google
The implications for business are perhaps not readily discernible, but it seems
obvious that centralized models will disappear. This will affect every supplier
and every business. New business models will be devised, and everything will
have to change with them. Companies must be designed so that they can quick-
ly change along with their environments. Rigid top-down management systems
42 from crowd to Community
imposed on an equally rigid value-chain will be detrimental. The frst signs are
already evident. A convulsive entertainment industry is trying desperately to have
a ban placed on decentralized distribution models such as the one used by Pi-
rateBay in order to patch up leaky copyright laws. On the one hand, they are
right, but on the other their stance seems grounded in sand. In any event, it is a
lost cause.
Web 2.0 places the main emphasis on the customer or “visitor.” Tis is
a person outside the company, even though the external limits of a business are
becoming increasingly more difcult to draw (as noted above). Many 2.0 companies
are merely organizational frameworks that, as befts Web 2.0, crowd-source all their
work. In this regard, we might almost forget that customers or visitors, who are also
employees somewhere, would also like to reap the benefts of Web 2.0 in their own
companies and work. On Web 2.0, they may collaborate with people who they do
not know, who live all around the world, and who maintain completely diferent
work-life rhythms and lifestyles. And they can do this without making prior ap-
pointments and coordinating activities and agendas all day long. How diferent is
that from their regular work, where collaboration is limited throughout the day by
formalized processes (excessively) strict work fows, direct / synchronous commu-
nications and enormous overloads, primarily in email. Tese are clear symptoms of
an ill-used and excessively intricate bureaucracy. For some reason, people must
repeatedly climb into their cars every morning and drive to pre-arranged locations
in order to work together. Such activity is becoming increasingly infeasible because
of the huge trafc jams and the currently snarled rail schedules.
New workers want to work anywhere and anytime, at times and locations of
their own choosing, and, although a whole bunch of new technology is available,
this new way of working, as Microsoft calls it, has not really gotten off the
New workers also note the illogic that prevents them from accessing the social
networks made up of their friends and acquaintances outside the company when
they are at work. Old companies are still building concrete and virtual walls to
shield themselves from the new world.
43 Vive la Revolution!
44 from crowd to Community
45 Web 2.0
Web 2.0
No matter if its emergence is a revolution or an evolution (for the time
being, let’s call it an evolution), Web 2.0 is having a huge social impact that will
only grow in its signifcance. Conceptually, Web 2.0 can be described in various
ways. Each concept can be characterized in terms of a triad: the name or identifca-
tion of the concept, its characteristics
and the collections of things being identifed
by the concept.
It can be described by listing its properties (what biologists would
call its phenotype
) or by enumerating the instantiations of the concept (what
biologists would likely call its population). Later in the book, we will identify the
properties of the Web 2.0 but below we will begin by just briefy surveying the
landscape and describing what we see. We will thus map out the extension of the
2.0 concept.
There is never only one viewpoint but usually multiple perspectives and often
various flters providing additional information. An overall picture is created by
combining these elements, appearances and views. Ross Dawson’s blog
some beautiful “landscapes” of which we are showing two examples. Each divi-
sion, each fgure is as arbitrary as the next, but each one provides additional
insights. For example, the fgure below makes distinction in terms of the content
that users supply, the flters that Web 2.0 sites use to segregate the most useful
46 from crowd to Community
content from noise and the tools provided to convert the fltered content into
usable end products.
The Web 2.0 landscape
Figure (cc) Vincezo Cosenza /
An entirely different view is also possible, for example by concentrating on the
conversation element. The result might then look as follows.
47 Web 2.0
The conversation element of Web 2.0
Figure (cc) Brian Solis /
You can experience Web 2.0 “in the fesh” by visiting various social websites.
Use this fgure to examine how you experience Web 2.0.
48 from crowd to Community
Social websites and social media
Web 2.0 is very diverse; it is an ecosystem in the most literal sense of the word,
constantly evolving. Some cristallized “concepts” have been formed in the course
of this evolution—call them means of communication—each time recurring in
the same basic form. The specifc forms of these communication tools are strong-
ly linked to certain recurrent communication needs of large communities. At this
point, it would be valuable to briefy introduce a few of them. For the time being,
we will limit ourselves to well-known media that are primarily concerned with
content (e.g. texts, videos, photos, audio). There are of course numerous others,
and some that are not just content-oriented. They include buddy lists, chat box-
es, tag clouds and many others, but the foundations of any community are, in
our opinion, based on the following.
49 Web 2.0
Weblogs have perhaps been the engine of the Web 2.0 revolution. Tey
“push” ideas, opinions and other messages such as news to the public. A weblog is
a website on which brief posts are made with great regularity and high frequency,
generally presented in inverse chronological order (latest on top). Visitors can then
respond to the reports. A weblog is a typical one-to-many communication medium.
Te author of a story determines the subject and the way he or she wants to com-
municate any message, and the community can then respond to this input. Te
possibility of responding provides the basis for conversations and has a communi-
ty-building efect. Wikipedia describes a weblog as follows:
A blog (a contraction of the term “web log”)[1] is a type of website, usually
maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descrip-
tions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are
commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. “Blog” can also be used
as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog. Many blogs pro-
vide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more
personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to
other blogs, Web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability of
readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of
many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual, although some focus on art
(Art blog), photographs (photoblog), videos (Video blogging), music (mp3
blog), and audio (podcasting). Microblogging is another type of blogging,
featuring very short posts. As of December 2007, blog search engine Tech-
norati was tracking more than 112,000,000 blogs.
Large blogs are powerful opinion makers. Many “virals” originate their epi-
demic on such a blog.
Starting a blog is very easy. There are many possibilities, one of which involves
using Blogger. Anyone can use Blogger, the weblog service from Google, to
promptly start his or her own weblog in a few minutes.
50 from crowd to Community
With a little more trouble, standard open source software like Wordpress and
Drupal is easy to use in order to design a personal weblog that can, if necessary,
grow into a full-featured social site.
Besides weblogs, forums are proven means of communication that we run across
in more or less the same form at many places on the Web. A discussion forum is
precisely what its name suggests, a place where anyone can initiate a new discus-
sion, to which everyone else can then respond.
Forums have a recognizable format and a simple layout. There is usually a main
page displaying the topic lists for each category. It also exhibits the current dis-
cussion topics, with the most recent responses shown frst. Clicking a given
discussion topic opens the relevant “forum thread” where all comments can be
seen and responses added.
Many companies that value the opinions of their own customers now have a forum
on which complaints, suggestions and questions can be posted. The advantage of
such a freely accessible forum is that it provides a place where visitors, along with
company employees, can respond to questions and complaints. The activity on a
forum can therefore also be used to keep a fnger on customer demands.
51 Web 2.0
A wiki is a communication medium that is exceptionally well-suited
for collaboratively documenting events, processes, functionality and anything else
that can be described, without someone coordinating the activity. Te technology
is such that many people can edit the “wikifed”document while, at the same time,
collaboratining on the writing of it. Wikis are, rightly or wrongly, seen as the
panacea of the intelligent organization. Often the two are mentioned in the same
sentence as if they were Siamese twins. Just as in the case of a forum, anyone can
start an article. Unlike a forum, others are not expected to comment on the topic
in separate responses, but to incorporate comments and responses in the article by
revising and hopefully improving the original text. A wiki can be regarded as a kind
of encyclopedia that everyone creates and maintains. But it is also a means for many
people to work on a document at the same time, without the usual circulation of
the latest versions by email.
The best known wiki is Wikipedia, which is intended as a vehicle on which “store
all the knowledge in the world.” The software that Wikipedia runs on, Media-
Wiki, is available to everyone and is free and open source.
In a corporate environment, a Wiki is ideal for collectively producing documents
and for storing knowledge, and increasingly more companies are also using wikis
to have anonymous visitors work on the documentation for their own products.
After installation of the MediaWiki software, each company begins its own en-
cyclopedia of knowledge, geared to its specifc feld of interest.
A marketplace is an auction or mediating facility in which the supply
and demand of services or goods can be brought together. Many marketplaces have
the form of an auction, but the actual format may depend on the type of goods and
services involved. Anyone can ofer goods or services, and everyone is allowed to
bid or respond. In principle, the ofers appear in inverse chronological order on the
front page. Often the front page of an auction site is, like a forum, divided into
categories. Ofers that have found takers disappear from the marketplace. Te most
famous auction site in the world is eBay, which is also one of the largest websites
in the world. In the Netherlands, the best known auction sites are
52 from crowd to Community
Somewhat inexplicably, there is a rather slender selection of standard / open-source
auction software, and no comparable communication media can be found in the
corporate collaboration suites produced by ibm or Microsoft, for example.
Everyone knows YouTube. YouTube has now become a complete social
platform, although it was initially started as a rather pure media center. It origi-
nally ofered users a means to store their video in a manner that made it very easy
to reuse on other websites, and nothing more was intended. Tere was a communal
front page and the opportunity to vote on items, but that was it.
A straightforward library, lacking any social capabilities, in which video, photos
and audio can be easily stored is just as much a communication medium as a
blog, a forum or a wiki. Just like these media, it is a building block for more
comprehensive websites. Video footage to be used in other parts of the site, such
as blogs and wikis, can be stored in the library and then subsequently made
available to other, external websites from there. Most commonly, this is done by
‘embedding’ such media on a website as if it is an integral part of that site, while
the content is actually stored and run from the media-library.
YouTube video is the best known internet video library and the best
known library for photography. The frst integrated media libraries for audio,
video, photos, documents and slide shows are starting to enter the mainstream
(e.g. Any items that a user stores in such libraries (e.g. YouTube
video) can be “embedded” into other websites, These types of mass storage web-
sites can be simply and indiscernibly incorporated in individual websites so that
the user’s of the individual websites can access the material without knowing it
and without requiring website owners to develop their own systems for provid-
ing the material.
53 Web 2.0
A link dump is a facility by means of which community members can
share their bookmarks, possibly including a brief description of the content in ques-
tion. Actually, this element was initially the original weblog, but blogs have now
evolved into sites that place great emphasis on self-written articles, leaving space
for the reintroduction of whatis now known as a link dump.
Link dumps have become very popular, especially in combination with what has
been labeled social voting, such as it occurs on the aforementioned and In such cases, users evaluate the articles and construct a hierarchy of
items. A purer form of a link dump is the immense
The corporate use of link dumps holds great promise. The various divisions of
a company, such as the innovation department, a group of product developers
or a marketing team, can continuously share the most interesting bookmarks
and keep each other abreast of new developments and trends. Any social voting
mechanism then ensures that the most interesting items are given proper consid-
eration for the site’s front page focusing what is called the wisdom of the crowd
on this subject matter.
54 from crowd to Community
Such a practice would result in a system that includes both bi (business intelli-
gence) and ci (competitive intelligence) and that can be used for knowledge
sharing in addition to the company’s wikis, for example.
There is a small quantity of good open source software for social bookmarking
like drigg,
the digg clone for the Drupal cms.
Websites can automatically “broadcast” new articles or recent changes
to other sites, or to special news readers (a kind of email-like program that collects
news from websites) who have subscribed to the website’s news service or ‘feed’ as
it is actually called. Te mechanism behind it is called Really Simple Syndication
(rss). Strangely enough, rss has never truly broken through
but has nevertheless
now become a piece of solid mainstream technology. Every modern website broad-
casts rss information through its “news feeds.”
A news aggregator is a website or application that displays the news from many
other websites in reverse chronological order, possibly allowing opportunities
for commentary. Users subscribe the aggregator to various news feeds from
other websites, and every time there is a new article posted on these sites, an
intro to it automatically appears on the aggregator. It is, in effect, an automated
link dump.
It is a communications tool that provides content without requiring editorial
intervention. Again, a social voting mechanism can be used to select only the
most interesting news for archiving. Like the link dump, it is a very useful com-
munications medium in a corporate environment.
Oddly enough, there are very few ready-to-use “server-side” news aggregators
available and support for this functionality is rather meager in most cmss.
Still, there are many client-side systems, such as Google Reader and Feedly. And
they are, of course, socially oriented. Interesting news can be shared on social
55 Web 2.0
Twittering is one of the latest social crazes. It is sometimes called mi-
cro blogging. At the moment, nobody knows exactly what Twitter is actually very
useful for, and various uses are being made of the service. News services use it to
help spread the news by means of yet another channel, afraid as they are of missing
the boat at the launch of a new technology (the same thing that motivated them
to adopt rss feeds, a far better technology for that purpose). Celebrities twitter to
let everyone know what they are doing, how cool they are and just to collect as many
friends as possible. Online reputation is now mainly a matter of having a very large
social network, not necessarily a very useful one. Most people use it for a combina-
tion of everything, sometimes to enable their network to share in their own lives,
sometimes to alert the network to something nice. Ultimately, it should become
clear that Twitter may be used to leave a stream of signals on which to foat a new
kind of collaboration, a topic to which we will devote an entire chapter of this
There are many other types of social software capable of maintaining an activ-
ity stream, and able to perform this function much more effectively. Twitter is
currently an unstoppable fad, but if we look at the much larger Facebook, we
see the same potential, though much more integrated and far more targeted. At
the moment, Yammer has become relatively popular in our company.
An activity stream is a list of activities, ranging from the banal to the surprising,
that gives the people in your social network the feeling that they are in contact
with you and you with them, without the need for direct communications. You
are keeping in touch: that is what the communication medium seems to imply.
And it works! Later in this book, we will describe how this seemingly superfcial
media has garnered interest in the corporate environment, as it unexpectedly has
more added value in business than it does in the private sphere. The activity
streams in personal private networks, are mainly flled by people with narcissist
and exhibitionist bents the “see-me people.”
56 from crowd to Community
57 The “Crowd”
The “Crowd”
In the previous chapter we made a sort of detour through the accoutre-
ments of the new web, surveyed several diferent sites and discussed some of the
more frmly established communications tools. Under closer scrutiny, all the men-
tioned sites and communication tools appear to have one thing in common…
...this collective feature is perhaps the most important part of the whole Web 2.0
phenomenon and the cornerstone of the social organization that we are going
to “build” in this book.
In each case, it is up to the users of these sites to furnish the added value. This
way of having a crowd help you in your work is called crowdsourcing: outsourc-
ing to an anonymous crowd. Perhaps the best example of crowdsourcing concerns
the involvement of the crowd, in the development of open source software. The
open source community has repeatedly demonstrated how large groups of peo-
ple who do not know each other can still collaborate on software that ulti-
mately has better quality than the best commercial products.
No matter how the advantages of Web 2.0 are categorized or which features are
mentioned as most useful, it is always the crowd element that all Web 2.0 shares
in common. Apparently a crowd has become so very useful that everybody wants
to have one of their own.
58 from crowd to Community
One of the fnest examples that illustrates the power of a crowd took
place around the most recent presidential election in the United States. In January
2008, the campaigns of the various U.S. presidential candidates were running at full
strength. Te candidates of both the Democratic and the Republican Parties were
doing their best to convince the American people that they would make the best
President. Most candidates on both the Democratic and Republican sides had al-
ready fallen away, so the battle was to be decided by two Democrats (Hillary Clin-
ton and Barak Obama) and three Republicans ( John McCain, Mike Huckabee and
Ron Paul).
The crowd-control of Edward Bernays is not understood by anyone as well as
industrial lobbyists and their media companies. In broadcasts around the presi-
dential election, all media-expressions were full of subliminal signals. Every ques-
tion asked by an interviewer or anchor was full of suggestion; no setting was
randomly selected, no background was just a backdrop. Powerful symbolism in
support of one candidate and distractive loser-symbolism aimed at “undesired”
opponents were incorporated everywhere. Media experts saw it on almost all
the channels, not just fox, but cnn and other stations around the world that
received their material from one of the major news agencies. The average view-
er had little chance under such an enormous onslaught of propaganda that was
aimed at them without them being aware of it. Yet, a force appeared on the scene
during this election whose power could compete with these highly-polished pr
machines. It was a crowd, a disorganized group of people who did not know
each other. There was a presidential candidate with the best intentions and one
that had always acted according to them throughout the terms that he was gov-
ernor. He was against aggressive foreign policy and against military interventions
or operations abroad. He understood that the dollar was collapsing because the
fnancial system was malfunctioning and that money not backed by gold com-
bined with mega-infation would be ruinous. He was for a “single” gold standard
for money and against the Federal Reserve. He was also against big government
59 The “Crowd”
and direct taxation such as income tax. He supported gay marriage and had
qualifed views about abortion, having brought more than 4,000 babies into the
world as a doctor. This man was for personal freedom as long as it was not at-
tained at the expense of others and spoke capably on this subject.
His name was Ron Paul, and although the corporate-owned mainstream media
did its level best never to mention his name, this neglect began at some point to
become increasingly more diffcult. A portion of the American people paid at-
tention to Ron Paul’s views and became his enthusiastic supporters. His support
remained absolutely massive and, at one point, enabled him to raise nearly as
much money as the top candidates. While Obama, Clinton and McCain obtained
their millions in large contributions mediated by well-paid lobbyists, Ron Paul’s
funding was simply in the form of small donations from citizens, soldiers and
veterans. Not industry but people gave tens of millions to Ron Paul! Ron Paul
won almost all the sms and online polls. Ron Paul was also regarded as the win-
ner of all the debates—although such evaluations are admittedly somewhat sub-
jective. He won because he stuck frmly to the constitution, and America has an
extremely good and thoughtful constitution. To argue with Ron Paul is to fnd
oneself arguing with the constitution and the founding fathers. You can do it,
but of course you don’t want to.
It was perhaps for this reason that he was not invited to the large national tel-
evision debates preceding the primaries. However, there are tens of thousands of
Ron Paul fan clips on YouTube, many more than the other candidates; his name
invariably appeared among terms like “iPhone” and “Britney Spears” in the tag-
clouds of large social websites. Ron Paul had his own gigantic advertising blimp,
helicopters few his banners around the country and people placed signs bearing
his name throughout America.
At one point, in November 2007, Ron Paul spontaneously suddenly attracted so
much money (4.5 million, then a record), that anonymous online supporters
organized a second “money bomb” on December 16, 2007. Prior to the event,
his supporters were already calling it the Ron Paul Tea Party in analogy to the
Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773, which is seen as the beginning of the
American Revolution. Proceeds from the day were more than 6 million dollars,
a new record that could not escape mention on cnn. This man was and is ex-
60 from crowd to Community
tremely popular, and yet very few have even heard of him. Isn’t that peculiar?
Ask the editors of your newspaper how this could be possible.
Much more unusual and particularly relevant in the context of this book is the
fact that neither Ron Paul nor his campaign team organized any of these activi-
ties. He did not make or pay for any of the thousands of spontaneous Ron Paul
fan clips that he used in his campaign. Nor did he organize or fund any of the
many spontaneous demonstrations, meetings and fund-raising events all around
the world, from Asia to Europe, from Canada to Argentina! Even the huge blimp
fying over the country was not something that he arranged or paid for himself.
The only thing that Ron Paul did himself was to deliver an honest and clear
message with mass appeal. Internet users are therefore purely and solely the ones
that organized spontaneously and en masse; they were the driving force behind
Ron Paul’s campaign!
Isn’t that peculiar? A spontaneous initiative that was not managed by anyone,
organized itself and developed the potential of becoming something acting as a
counterweight to the greatest pr forces in the Amercian political arena, if only
for the time being. It revealed the true power of the crowd. If the primaries and
elections were held on the internet, Ron Paul would undoubtedly have become
The only thing that Ron Paul yet has to do, is provide an explicit platform on
which the “Ron Paul community” could emerge. For the frst time in American
history, this community would be a genuinely democratic political party. Bottom-
up and organically grown, and consequently with its ideals penetrating deep into
the roots of the organization.
With all the technology and all the websites and means of communi-
cation such as wikis, forums and blogs, all of which we just reviewed, it is always
the added value of the crowd that is at stake. Social software and all other Web 2.0
communication tools are primarily means of facilitating crowdsourcing. Set up the
right facilities, ensure a pleasant climate, establish the right ecosystem and let the
crowd loose there. Almost immediately, people show an ability to work together
and turn out very fne, cool and useful things. And this occurs almost without direc-
61 The “Crowd”
tion or interference. It is a form of collaboration that we would all like to experience
in our companies, not only with regard to the external crowd, such as customers
and website visitors, but also the internal crowd: our employees.
But how do you bring this about? We already know how to control people or
employees on an individual basis. You give them a function, some procedures,
place them in a hierarchy of control, start the whole thing rolling and the entire
machine runs in sync. The key words in such a procedure are “control” and
“centralization.” An individual in a crowd is different; a crowd member is no
longer a directly accountable individual occupying an identifable position in a
hierarchical structure. There is certainly structure, but it is volatile and designed
along the lines of a network. In the case of a webcrowd like the one on YouTube
or on digg, the members of the group are strangers, and they live in different
places on earth and in different time zones. So how do you deal with this situa-
tion? To answer this question, we will frst try to discover the general laws gov-
erning groups. Nature provides many examples of crowds, but let us examine
just one of them: the example of the ant colony. It is not made up of one or a
few ants, but a very large number of them.
Ants are very limited creatures. They are insects with little or no scope for indi-
vidual intelligent behavior. They are tiny borg drones that react purely instinc-
tively to their immediate surroundings. If you’re not a Trekkie (a Star Trek fan)
and do not know what a Borg is (shame on you), do not worry; think of emo-
tionless workers who exist only in the service of the collective and communicate
through a collective consciousness. The Borg assimilation process, by the way, is
also not based on free will (see this as a tip). Ant colonies can be huge; there are
well-organized ant colonies that stretch over areas of more than 100 square miles.
The Ishikari colony in Japan consists of an estimated 300 million worker ants
and 1 million queen ants, spread over 45,000 interconnected nests. It can be as-
sumed with some confdence that none of the ants in the colony has any idea
about the enormous size and complexity of this mass of insects. Let alone that
one of them has the intellectual and communicative abilities required to manage
it. None of the workers, not even one of the queens, has any overview of anything
other than their immediate surroundings, and there is no central governing body
controlling it. In contrast to the bureaucratic organizations that we humans tend
to create (because we think that we are smarter than millions of years of evolu-
tion), the control of the ant colony is completely decentralized. Each ant performs
62 from crowd to Community
its task, purely on the basis of very limited local incentives and certain instincts:
a scent, the presence of other ants, food, enemies, temperature, light, vibration,
perhaps the weather, but not much more. However, these immense communities
are highly effcient organizations with complicated social structures.
Despite their individual limitations, ants are capable of working as a collective
to perform very intelligent activities.
Ants fnd their way to food supplies by
following the scent that other ants leave when they fnd food. The more useful
tracks are marked by more ants, making the scent stronger and more attractive
to the rest. Once the food source is depleted, the ants travel back along a differ-
ent route looking for a different food supply and the track fades naturally. In
this manner, routes compete against each other and the overall quality of the
food track network remains high.
As a group, ant colonies can even solve
simple problems of a mathematical nature. When they drag away the corpses of
their deceased comrades, they leave them in a place that is the greatest average
distance from all the surrounding nest openings. This does not occur by chance,
but happens every time. Similar collective intelligent behavior can be observed
in other social insects, such as wasps, bees and termites.
The underground nests of grass-cutter ants are huge buildings with an extensive
labyrinth-like entanglement of corridors, complete with sophisticated internal
climate control.
On the outside, only a few “chimneys” are visible, but scientists
who once flled such a nest with concrete and then carefully excavated it—
without alerting the ants beforehand to the approaching calamity,—could not
believe their eyes when they saw the complexity of the construction. Systems of
chambers and what was effectively hot and cold plumbing ensured that tem-
perature, humidity and the co
composition was always at the best level through-
out the colony, which had a volume as big as a large gym.
63 The “Crowd”
Consider a fock of starlings, a school of sardines or a swarm of mosquitoes:
anyone can immediately imagine the chaotic movements of all the individuals in
the fock, school or swarm, but there is a clear and simple mechanism regulating
all this chaos into a collective order. On the basis of only three very simple rules,
it is easy to simulate this behavior, a simulation that we call “boids”
or “swarm
simulation.” Each average Java or C++ programmer writes the corresponding
program in less than a day. Each “boid” in the “swarm” is only concerned with
three things: “1) Make sure you do not contact the next boid, 2) Follow the
average direction of the boids in your immediate surroundings and 3) Make sure
that you do not fy to far from the group.” Three simple rules make central con-
trol unnecessary (admittedly, the swarm is also guided by external factors) while
creating a strong organization that has its own behavior. The simulation is in
widespread use in the flm industry. Anyone who has seen the massive battle
scenes in The Lord of the Rings or the herds of scaly fowl running around in
Jurassic Park knows what swarm simulations look like.
64 from crowd to Community
In mathematics and biology, there is something like a cellular automaton
, a
network of interconnected cells, each with its own state and behavior. Every cell
in the network only knows about its adjacent cells and its state only changes in
response to infuences from these adjacent cells. Extremely complex systems can
be simulated on the basis of such simple cells in large but simple “grids.” In this
regard, complexity is the measure of observable behavior of the whole. The well-
known computer game SimCity is based on such cellular automatons. A few
years ago, SimCity enjoyed huge popularity in the pc world. Nowadays, the game
runs on the iPhone platform and is again attracting throngs of fans.
But what do ant colonies, mosquitoes, sardines or cellular automata
have to do with the internet and Web 2.0? Te answer is simple: they are all crowds.
Without immediately reducing individual Web users to the status of annoying
insects or fighty fsh, ant colonies, schools of fsh, swarms and focks have neverthe-
less many things in common with a large group of internet users. A crowd is a crowd
regardless of the species comprising the crowd. Every crowd has features in com-
mon with all others. Te main one is that crowds are not governed by a central
control or authority (and are likely not governable by any such central authority),
and there is a great chance that they are self-organizing. Te members of a group
do not have to possess any great knowledge of the whole and can quickly produce
complex behavior or results by following a few simple but cleverly chosen rules or
laws. Te only thing that is truly necessary is localalized perceptiveness (or sensing),
the right stimuli (incentives) and predictable reactions.
65 The “Crowd”
Another feature of a crowd is that the collective has control over the individuals.
The strong infuence of the collective on individuals participating in it, can for
instance clearly be seen in ants. For example, the fact that the behavior of various
types of ants, from queen to worker, depends on the age of their colony as a
whole. The colony can be older than the individual ants, but newborn ants nev-
ertheless adopt the behavior that suits the age of entire colony and not the one
suited to the ant’s own age. If we scoop out a large percentage of one type of ant,
say the worker type, thereby disturbing the optimal distribution of types, the
newborn ants will automatically be of the worker type. Actually, this collective-
to-individual-feedback need not surprise us, we all know how sensitive we are
to the culture in a company concerning the latest trends in our business environ-
ments; we rapidly change our behaviors to keep in step with the new surround-
ings. Fashion, lifestyle and any other expression of Bernays’ theory are based on
peer-pressure and therefore feedback of the whole to the parts. Almost all people
feel inclined to ft in as best possible.
Fertilized ova successively divide in a uniform manner until, after four or fve
cell divisions, they begin to differentiate into cells with specialized functions
within the organs or body parts that will constitute the complete individual.

Individual cells have no awareness of the group of cells to which they belong and
in which they have separate roles. In this respect cells are mere cellular automa-
ta. Since it is diffcult to imagine how the relatively static genetic material (dna)
of the cell can store the knowledge of the dynamically unfolding whole and of
the role that the respective cells has in it, there must be some form of supercel-
lular communication. Science is faced with a mystery here. Again. Epigenetics

is an attempt to explain such supercellular links from a more holistic approach
based on knowledge outside the cell. It suggests that even the experience of an-
cestors somehow infuences the genetics of descendants.
Where might such
external knowledge be stored and what types of feedback occur between the
whole and the parts? There are theories claiming that our dna is only a re-
ceiver / transmitter connected to external databases. You should realize that,
while the human genome was unraveled during the Human Genome Project and
all the genes are known, this knowledge only applies to the genes that actually
encode proteins (read: contain building instructions to create new proteins, which
66 from crowd to Community
is the supposed function of dna). These genes only constitute 2% of the entire
genome, the remaining 98% of the human genome is referred to as junk dna,
so called because biologists believe it to serve no purpose.
It is as if Mother
Nature has stuffed us full of genes that have no function. But Mother Nature
does not work that way.
Like probably any combination of parts into a whole, crowds also have emergent
Emergent behavior is spontaneously occurring recognizable and identif-
able pattern of behavior that arises when individual systems, (e.g. humans,
animals, things and environments) are linked. By spontaneously occurring,
we mean to suggest that no explicit guidance from others is needed to evoke
the behavior.
Examples of emergence are:
Color (viewed in terms of chemistry):
“Elementary particles do not absorb or emit specifc wavelengths of light
and thus have no color ; it is only when they are arranged in atoms that
they absorb or emit specifc wavelengths of light, and can thus be said to
have a color.”
Life (viewed in terms of biology) is also sometimes identifed as an emergent
Specifc organisms:
“[I]ndividual atoms can be combined to form molecules such as polypeptide
chains, which in turn fold and refold to form proteins, which in turn create
even more complex structures. These proteins, assuming their functional
status from their spatial conformation, interact together and with other
molecules to achieve higher biological functions and eventually create an
67 The “Crowd”
The state of nature:
“Another example is how cascade phenotype reactions, as detailed in chaos
theory arise from individual genes mutating respective positioning.
At the highest level, all the biological communities in the world form the
biosphere, where its human participants form societies, and the complex
interactions of meta-social systems such as the stock market.”
Source: Wikipedia
Our favorite example however, is that of “water” or H
O. The fact that an ex-
plosive and infammable gas like oxygen and an explosive and infammable gas
like hydrogen combine into something that can be used to extinquish fres, can-
not be predicted by analyzing the parts. The fact that water is liquid cannot be
reduced to the properties of the water molecule itself. The resulting, non analyz-
able behavior, is called emergent behavior because it spontaneous emerges out
of nothing. Emergent behavior puzzles modern science, yet it is all around us, at
all levels of scale. Almost all organizations and structures around us have observ-
able emergent behavior in some form or another. It is not uncommon to compare
such systems as a whole to organisms.
In this case, we call them super-organ-
isms. Organisms themselves are already the result of a high degree of emergence,
and it is for this reason that Lord Kelvin
exempted life from his formulation
of the second law of thermodynamics (since organization cannot occur spontane-
ously, there must be an outside energy source that organizes life).
Emergence occurs by degrees. Pure emergent behavior is unpredictable and sub-
sequently unanalyzable. Such systems could be thought to live. Examples include
fnancial systems such as “the stock market,” biological ecosystems, large mete-
orological systems, such as “weather” but also large corporations and all soci-
ety in general. The controversial, award-winning documentary “The Corporation”

makes it seem very likely that large corporations have their own personality,
distinct from those of their directors and employees. Emergence ensures that they
collectively have the character of a psychopath without anyone working there
68 from crowd to Community
being able to do anything about it. Imagine, companies like Shell, Exxon, Walmart
or ing have the economic power of a small country,
the personality of a psy-
chopath and only one goal: to create shareholder value at the expense of (almost)
everything. The economic crisis of 2009 made it clear that even capitalism itself
is an emergent entity that devours itself. In this book, we assume that crowds
can do things that none of the respective individuals or a multiplication of them
is able to do. Hence, we will ascribe a mild form of emergent behavior to
According to Artifcial Intelligent (ai) scientist Francis Heylighen, it’s only a
matter of time before the internet itself is self-conscious and eventually experi-
ences its own feelings as well. The web would then be nothing less than a global
brain, the true collective consciousness that it is now metaphorically described
as being. And if the internet becomes truly self conscious, it is hoped that it does
not then realize that it (or them) would be better off without the more than
seven billion parasites that link into it. In the scif flm Terminator, the network
called Skynet comes to this realization and turns against humanity. The network
therefore sends Terminator machines from the future into the present. When, in
the series based on this flm, the cyborgs intended to sanitize us begin to look
like the female terminator from The Sarah Conner Chronicles or Seven of Nine
from Star Trek, we will, at least in a certain perspective, appear to be progressing.
Futurologist and ai expert Ray Kurzweil
has, for years, been predicting a
similar scenario involving computers. It can hardly be doubted that self-aware
computers will eventually exist. At that moment in time, a collection of dead
parts will have, as a whole, a consciousness that cannot be traced back to any
of the parts nor to the sum of them, They will therefore be exhibiting emergent
behavior. The computing power to simulate the human brain will exist in 2012,
and 10 years further on, a computer will have enough power to upload and
launch human brain activity.
69 The “Crowd”
In 2025, computers will be able to run the human brain as a program.
Will they then also be self-conscious?
Figure (cc) Ray Kurzweil /
Emergence is completely compatible with a concept that may be more familiar
to many people known as holism.
Holism, an idea frst fully developed by
Aristotle, states that the properties of a system cannot be fully explained by its
parts alone and that the whole largely determines how the parts behave. Emer-
gence is a concept that will transform science, which is still dominated by reduc-
tionist reasoning according to which everything, no matter how complex, is
mechanical and can be viewed as a sum of its parts. This still dominant paradigm
of the “clockwork universe.” Is continuing to govern the way scientist think, the
way that we see the world and even, as we will view it into the future, as well as
the way that we tend to organize collaboration. But there are important new
insights. Chaos theory
reveals that even simple deterministic (previously thought
predictable) systems display (apparently) haphazard behavior and fractal math-
makes it clear that it is not always possible to add up parts in order to
arrive at a whole. A fractal has infnite parts at infnite levels of aggregation. Even
70 from crowd to Community
quantum theory now requires terms to describe the feedback from a whole to
the parts, developing concepts such as “ether,” “x-ether.” “ether waves”
and the
zero-point feld mechanisms are cautiously making comebacks as mechanisms
for time and distance-independent interactions. This in addition to the concept
of “entanglement,” which has been in use’ for some time.
It is conceivable that collectives also possess a consciousness, a collective con-
sciousness, which refers to a whole range of things, from collective memory to
collective genes, all suggestive of some kind of emergent quality. For where do
the grass-cutter ants acquire the knowledge needed to build such complex struc-
tures? The ants have no idea of the role they play in the whole. Which mechanism
is at work that fuses individuals into a smart self-organizing collective? The
example of ants maintaining the best possible network of routes to food can be
explained using a phenomenon called stigmergy (communication via the
Even Tom Thumb understood the principle behind it. For the
sustainability of evolutionary theory, it poses however quite a problem, as species
appear to evolve not just on the basis of improved individuals but also on the
basis of improved collectives since no one ant can start a stigmergic process on
its own. Furthermore, the step from using odor as a tracking aid to building
unbelievably well designed structures like the grass-cutter ants is still a big one.
How does a whole exercise any infuence over its parts? The current state of sci-
ence cannot provide us with any answers here, and we must therefore resort to
more esoteric concepts. One example is provided by the morphogenetic felds of
Rupert Sheldrake.
He argues that “formative” information is stored in morphic
felds to which organisms and other structures are “tuned.” But there are many
other elegant theories about collective memory. In this respect, we have plenty
of choice. The Akasha Chronicles
is a mythical name for the collective memo-
ry containing all human knowledge and the complete history of the entire cosmos.
From Star Wars, we know of “The Force” and the Jedi masters who know how
to make clever use of it. “Use the Force Luke, the Force ” In traditional Chinese
culture, there is Qi,
the life energy that forms and permeates all things. In
71 The “Crowd”
modern quantum theory, there is room for a holistic entanglement in the form
of above-mentioned ether waves, which relate everything in the universe to eve-
rything else without the restrictions of speed and distance.
No matter if it involves emergence of collective consciousness or sim-
ply complex determinism with a touch of chaos, a crowd as an entity in itself has
special talents that we do not immediately recognize in its parts. Tese talents can
be used. A frequently-cited familiar example in the Web 2.0 context (taken from
the 2004 book Te Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Tan the Few and
How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations by James
Surowiecki), concerns Francis Galton, one of Darwin’s cousins, who was a math-
ematician, anthropologist, tropical explorer, geographer, inventor, meteorologist,
geneticist, inventor, statistician and psychometrician. In 1906, Galton
visited a
livestock market where an ox was on display. Te ox was the subject of a game that
immediately caught his attention. Te villagers were invited to guess the weight of
the ox and more than 800 of them made a guess. None of the estimates accurately
matched the ox’s actual weight (1198 pounds), and the range of the guesses was, of
course, enormous. Would you be able to gauge the weight of a random cow in a
pasture? Although no individual in the “crowd” knew the exact weight, the crowd
as a whole possessed this knowledge, as the average of all the estimates was, in fact,
1197 pounds, almost the exact weight of the ox.
Every crowd has special talents that can be cleverly exploited. In the least, crowds
can break down the inhibiting group-think of your own specialist teams. Group-
is the phenomenon of team members often tending to reach consensus
by contributing confict-avoiding solutions and opinions rather than critical and
informed views. The talents of a crowd, the crowd iq, are increasingly being
identifed as cq or the collective intelligence quotient.
cq is a factor that var-
ies with the size of the crowd, the independence of its opinions and personal
news-gathering activities and the diversity of its composition.
72 from crowd to Community
Crowds cannot be controlled by a central authority but they can be
manipulated by controlling their environment. In our everyday life, we are con-
stantly being infuenced without realizing it. Tis is done by applying marketing
principles and propaganda. It is an subliminal type of control and therefore, for the
most part, goes unnoticed by us. Without pr and propaganda, our democracies
would not function.
Many “crowd control” mechanisms are indirect and imperceptible. They often
operate at a subliminal level, aimed at our subconscious and therefore not con-
sciously noticeable. Anyone curious about the pervasiveness of such control needs
only to search for Derren Brown on YouTube.
Those unfamiliar with the prin-
ciples behind his work might, when viewing his skills for the frst time, well think
that he has paranormal if not extraterrestrial abilities. Derren is so unbelievably
good, such an incredible virtuoso, that even if you know the principles behind
his work, you might still think that he has paranormal if not extraterrestrial
abilities. Derren “reads” the impact that the environment and recent perceptions
have on a person with such great accuracy that he is almost without fail able to
predict the responses that a given person will have to specifc stimuli.
is the fragment in which he is able to preset the thinking of experienced advertis-
ers, themselves masters of subliminal control, so that it complies with what he
predicted. He performs this stumt by unconsciously exposing them to subliminal
signals en route to the studio.
Crowds can be controlled, transformed and played with by constructing frame-
works, establishing the preconditions, manipulating their environments, gradu-
ally implementing changes, and playing with them. The best way of understand-
ing how this works is perhaps by regarding the crowd as an organic whole that
evolves in a given ecosystem according to a few mechanisms. Although it may
not be possible to control the behavior of the crowd directly, the mechanisms
and the ecosystem can be manipulated and, in this way, the direction of the crowd
can, in fact, be channeled. This technique takes more time and is indirect, but it
is at least as powerful, to say the least.
73 The “Crowd”
The frst paragraphs of the book Propaganda by Edward Bernays, the father of
crowd-control, states the following:
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and
opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those
who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible
government which is the true ruling power of our country.
We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas sug-
gested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of
the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of hu-
man beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a
smoothly functioning society.
Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their
fellow members in the inner cabinet. They govern us by their qualities of
natural leadership, their ability to supply needed ideas and by their key
position in the social structure. Whatever attitude one chooses to take to-
ward this condition, it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily
lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or
our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of
persons—a trifing fraction of our hundred and twenty million—who un-
derstand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they
who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social
forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.
This work has laid the foundation for modern societies and the doctrine is ac-
tively applied by virtually all governments and corporations on earth. Edward
Bernays and Milton Friedman—the promoter of the aggressive type of “free
market” capitalism that we see today—are in some ways the most infuential
people of the past one hundred years, along with Frederick Taylor, who we will
introduce later on. Disregarding the political implications and social desirability,
it is interesting to note that our governments already view and control us as
crowds, this in addition to the more obvious and more direct mechanisms that
we call “democracy.” Such crowd control occurs in ways similar to those used
on the advertisers chosen by Derren Brown in the example that we mentioned
earlier. Like them, we are left the illusion or believe that we are thinking inde-
74 from crowd to Community
pendently when in fact we are programmed to think in specifc ways. The ad-
ministrative elements in a society contain very many active control mechanisms:
some direct others indirect. This is not so entirely different from practices in
companies comprising both a bureaucracy and an active social side, although
companies tend to have an extremely dominant bureaucracy, which is precisely
not the case in a society.
Before we mobilize “our” crowd, it would be wise to think about the frameworks
that we are setting up and the steering mechanisms that we are going to use. At
the largest scale represented by a society, propaganda and pr function very well.
On the internet (or intranet), these frameworks and mechanisms these must in-
volve the establishment of the website where a crowd hangs out. Such a thing is
certainly possible on the scale of the organization, and we will provide specifc
details about how to do it below. The behavior of an Internet crowd may be
infuenced by the proper design of the website. Operation, interaction design and
the functionality of a website form the framework within which to channel a
crowd and it is this framework that we can manipulate. In this way, we can in-
directly manage the evolution of the crowd. In Part 2 of this book, we will in-
troduce the methodology specifcally intended to develop websites that are suit-
able as “crowd control” instruments and that can, subsequently, take your
organization to the next phase. It is in this more advanced phase that a com-
pany complements its bureaucracy by developing an organic, more “holocratic”
The whole subject of crowds is extremely stimulating and inspiring, especially
in relation to these holistic characteristics, and a basic understanding of it will
certainly belong to the future skills required by each manager “2.0.”
75 The “Crowd”
76 from crowd to Community
77 Socializing with the crowd
Socializing with the
For those accustomed to operating in a hierarchical, top-down managed
environment with controllable communications and central coordination, learning
to deal with self-managed crowds and communities involves making a serious adjust-
ment. Each community has its own manners and culture, and these factors are part
of the previously described manifestations of emergent behavior. In any case, they
comprise a self-forming and evolving set of values and norms that do not necessar-
ily have to run parallel with existing business ethics. Few ceos and boards can deal
with these issues, the new freedom of the workers appearing, too often as a threat
that must be suppressed. Gently suppressed, because the same directors and ceos
simultaneously realize only too well how easy it is to become the subject of a bogey
“viral,” a fear that makes them appropriately cautious but improperly nervous. In the
frst days of blogging, businesses did not know how they should deal with employees
who had their own blogs, especially if the posts were also about work.
78 from crowd to Community
“You know that here the frst person to eat is also supposed to set the table
for all”
“Of course”
“From now on, would you please set the table if you are the frst to sit
He stood behind me, I didn’t see him, but his deep breathing betrayed his
“That’s the way things work here”
“But won’t I then always have to set the table, because you always wait until
I go eat frst? I don’t think so. Just do your own place at the table”
Others were now entering. Unperturbed, I remained seated with my back
to them. Picked up a glass of milk, which tasted good. Milk contains many
important nutrients, including essential amino acids and calcium. I drink
a lot of it.
“You have no respect, (last name)”
“I was just trying to explain things to you nicely, but it seems not to have
sunk in. From now on, just make sure that you set your own table and I
won’t get annoyed when I come to sit down. I’m the frst to come here
because I want a bit of peace and quiet while eating”
The others were now watching what was going on. Nothing unexpected.
After all, they had all been waiting until they no longer were the frst to
enter the lunch room.
“Especially since you have just started working here, I suggest you’d be
wise to set the tables!”
79 Socializing with the crowd
Unmoved, I ate my Duo Penotti sandwich and, began the next one. I contin-
ued to sit with my back to them, and instinctively visualized the position of
all seven people present. I was used to combining the information provided
by my senses into a mental radar screen. The smallest noises, the weakest
beams of light, nearly imperceptible temperature differences, and fuctua-
tions in ventilation. I never miss a thing. In my work, as a programmer, I
can’t afford to. A compiler mercilessly penalizes any errors.
“do it now (last name)! “now!!”
I didn’t move. These situations were child’s play for me, I’ve been well
trained. I had more than 17 years of it experience, including the necessary
practical training. I had the debugging background and coding skills that
you can proudly tell your children and grandchildren about. I decided not
to wait any longer. In one smooth motion I stood up, came two feet off the
ground and with a simple roundhouse kick, smashed the jaw of Richard,
35-year-old technical designer. Richard had no chance, no one could blame
him for being knocked out. I packed enough power in this kick to foor an
ox without any problem.
I heard the radio in the background. Tiesto’s Just be. Delicious, I just let it
act on me. After the break the music becomes exquisite.
Even before Richard fell over the table with a dull thud, I landed softly on
one leg and spun one more time. William stood right behind Richard. And I
had no problem shattering his larynx. Although my heel left very little of the
cartilage structure in his throat intact, William unexpectedly remained on his
feet. He was 6’2” and weighed 260 lbs and programmed in Java. To be certain,
I deftly landed six, or seven quick and powerful punches in his solar plexus.
Short, straight jabs against which no defense was possible. Bullet-time style, my
trademark. His constricted diaphragm combined with his crushed larynx proved
such a great obstruction to his breathing that William’s knees slowly but surely
began to buckle, toppling William to the ground on which he would never stand
again. His gasping breath subsiding into a quiet death. An oxygen-starved brain,
passing through a series of pleasant hallucinations. I allowed William this fnal
bliss; he had been a likeable fellow, and I decided not to take further action
against him. I might be cold-blooded but certainly not heartless.
80 from crowd to Community
The above excerpt is exciting to read. Written somewhat in the manner of a Mar-
vel comic book with deliberately overdone slow-motion streams of thought. Com-
pletely over the top. On frst impression, nothing apparently out of place. The
relevant story was actually based on an encounter that really happened, in which
there was, of course, no physical contact between the main characters. The blog
was posted on a personal weblog with the permission of a number of colleagues
who where mentioned by frst name.
During a brief preview, some of them vol-
unteered to suffer an even more spectacular death, “perhaps something with gush-
ing arteries.” The management of the company employing the author and free-lance
software developer felt that it provided good reason to get rid of overly expensive
employees in a poorly performing and overstaffed project. They claimed that the
story had so terrorized the other employees that it was no longer possible to allow
the author into the building. Large blogs soon got wind of the story and before
long it kicked up a big fuss, attracting a lot of media attention.
The incident took place at a time when similar incidents were occurring in
America (a Delta Airlines stewardess posted photos of herself in sexy poses on
board a Delta Airlines aircraft on her blog).
In retrospect, it can now be said
that, in the vast majority of the cases, the only real problems were subsequent
responses by the managers involved. Nowadays, these types of occurrences will
no longer lead to such incidents.
Internal communities are, of course still directly controllable (although
you should actually not want to exercise such control), but external communities
such as clients or customers, can absolutely not be told what to do. On the con-
trary they might even act with great hostility to any efort at overt manipulation.
Nvidia is a manufacturer of what are normally good and fast-operating graphic and
sound cards, but at one point one of their products was not entirely fawless when
run on the then new Windows Vista. Te drivers of the hardware did not function
properly, and many users experienced problems with then. Te support forum
started to fll up with complaints and requests for software upgrades. Nvidia could
not immediately comply and began to regard complaints on the support forum as
undesirable experiences. It did something that it ought not to have done; it removed
81 Socializing with the crowd
unwanted “threads” from the forum.
Within days, users started their own forum,
much bigger, beyond the control of Nvidia and with more complaints. Tey also
started a class-action suit, a group lawsuit on behalf of injured consumers.
Nike, the sports shoe and apparel manufacturer, spared no efort to
meet customer requests for a new personal shoe design. Te shoe confgurator was
a cool piece of web design. Any color, combination of colors, size and anything else
that might be included on a shoe was confgurable and the result immediately and
interactively visible. A brief personal comment could make the shoe entirely unique.
A press of a button causes the shoes to be delivered to you within a few days. Pay-
ment occurred online of course.
...that is what Jonah Peretti wanted to have on his shoes. This was intended to
protest against the child labor practices of Nike. Nike, the same company that
can pay hundreds of millions of dollars to soccer teams in order to have them
run around in Nike clothing, cannot arrange for its third-world workers to receive
a decent wage. Nike had four simple rules with which the text had to comply
and this text complied with all of them.
Nike still refused to print the text and had the bad luck that Jonah was a tal-
ented letter writer, a persistent activist (at least in this case) and a blogger as well.
A farcical correspondence between the Nike pr department and Jonah was the
Other blogs picked up on the incident, and it was estimated that 10 mil-
lion people read the correspondence at the time. A costly mistake by Nike. These
kinds of incidents have in fact an extremely “long tail.”
From: Jonah H. Peretti
To: Personalize, nike id
Subject: re: Your nike id order
82 from crowd to Community
Dear nike id,
Thank you for the time and energy you have spent on my request. I have
decided to order the shoes with a different id, but I would like to make one
small request. Could you please send me a color snapshot of the 10-year-old
Vietnamese girl who makes my shoes?
Thanks, Jonah Peretti
What do these incidents have in common, except that they lead to
confict? Te wrong response! 1.0 Managers are still living under the assumption
that the reputation of their company can be destroyed by the occasional unwanted
statements by loners. And they are right. Joep van ’t Hek can be held personally
responsible for the collapse of the Buckler brand of beer. “A bland non-alcoholic
beer for sissies. Not for real men.” At least that was the view of the comedian which,
unfortunately for Heineken, had an infectious efect.
Managers certainly have a
reason to be afraid of unwanted statements, but the question is what is then the
best way of containment. Ban everything beforehand? Control and establish rules
creating a climate of repression that prevents any single initiative from germinating?
Or basically allow everything and then if something unwanted happens, retrospec-
tively try to give it a playful twist knowing that most unpleasant incidents will not
even reach the outside world and will only have a half-life of at most a few days?
In any case, trying to suppress the incident by intimidation, censorship and other
repressive measures is certainly the wrong response. A crowd reacts generally very
poorly to coercion. When anonymous, not present in person and behind an Inter-
net connection, many people suddenly become very brave.
Because McDonalds has a lot of money but does not like to give any of it away,
they were clever when they were confronted with the fash mob phenomenon.
A fash mob is a very local and temporary public community. Unknown and
unconnected individuals use sms, email and other one-on-one communications
83 Socializing with the crowd
media to organize themselves into a “mob.” The aim is usually a harmless prank.

One of the frst fash mobs emerged seemingly from nowhere in a Toys R Us
where suddenly 1,000 people knelt and began to worship the life-size
animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex. The store staff reacted in panic by switching
off the T-Rex and calling the police. Response 1.0
McDonalds responded more cleverly, when they were confronted with a similar
prank. In a few months, various German franchises of MacDonald’s were “hit”
by fash mobs. All of sudden, more than 1,200 men would be standing at a coun-
ter wanting to order a Big Mac or hamburger. Some forums mentioned crowds
of as many as 4,000 individuals: a considerable number for the average McDon-
alds outlet to handle. After the frst occurrence, franchise managers were informed
of the problem and advised to view any such “hit” as a positive challenge. It
provided MacDonald’s with a great deal of favorable publicity. ard, a German
television network, was able to show how employees worked like crazy to grill
burgers and retrieve new supplies from basements. Franchise managers switched
on extra grills. This televised activity was undoubtedly staged, but its lack of
authenticity did not seem to matter at the time. In retrospective, it was a memo-
rable moment for both the mob and mobbed. And was certainly better than a
showdown with the police. Of course, it remains uncertain if the practices of
giving a free meal to any customer having to wait longer than 15 minutes re-
mained in effect on these occasions.
Toys’ R Us should not have called the police but the press. They should have
treated participants to a cup of coffee. Or tea if necessary. Throughout the year
they are always trying to lure as many people as possible into their stores and
the large numbers of people now entering the store were all of a sudden being
asked to leave. Make up your mind!
The Nike case is different, as the problem involved is a lot deeper. Nike was be-
ing accused of hypocrisy, even criminal behavior, and this censurable activity
could not be changed fast enough. In the documentary “The Corporation,”
Michael Moore offered to accompany the ceo of Nike, Phil Knight, to Indone-
sia—fy with him there business class and stay in fve star hotels while making
84 from crowd to Community
inspections of Nike’s sweat shops (i.e. factories) in that country.
Phil had nev-
er been in any of Nike’s many sweatshops, and had never seen with his own eyes
how his shoes were being manufactured under miserable conditions and for
scandalously low pay. At the time when the decision had to be made, he prob-
ably thought that, if he acted as if everything was all right and not go inspect the
production facilities, he would get away with it. Phil refused to go with Michael.
But Michael Moore received an invitation to travel with him a few months later
to...a golf tournament in Australia. The problem here is basic and only avoidable
in one way: accepting social and moral responsibility.
The above does not mean that Nike is less socially committed than any other
company. On the contrary, the same documentary, “The Corporation”, also clear-
ly shows that every large company has basically the same evil “genes.” When ana-
lyzed as a person, a multinational appears to have the personality of a psychopath.
All multinationals! They enjoy revenue as large as the national product of a small
country and have only one goal: to create shareholder value no matter what. Due
to their legal structure, big organizations not only act like they have a single, very
powerful, evil person, they are legal persons. Large corporations represent prime
examples of the emergent behavior discussed above. It can be assumed that none
of the employees at Nike agrees with any decision to use child labor—at the worst,
they surrender to the very easy compulsion in modern society to just close their
eyes and wait for the next episode of their favorite tv show. However, the com-
pany as a whole makes the decision, acting under the effects of emergence. Likely,
such “offences” are only considered by the company as a whole in terms of fnan-
cial considerations counterbalancing the savings and possible fnes, as no one will
be held personally liable. Like any community, multinationals display emergent
behavior. Without any evolving or framing factors to guide or limit this behavior,
it may even come to dominate every corporate decision.
A community is a wonderful mechanism for obtaining a great deal for
very little. For example, it can enact a huge marketing campaign without requiring
much money or efort. Word of mouth advertising by internet communities is much
stronger than most other dissemination methods because people communicating
85 Socializing with the crowd
with each other can have an infectious efect. Cool content and trends can and will
spread throughout a community at lightning speed without requiring any explicit
push or strategy. Tis is called viral communications, and the craze that infects the
community is called a viral, as it concerns information that spreads like a virus.
The analogy is of course with the transmission of the biological virus. A bio-
logical virus is a passive piece of encapsulated genetic material (dna or rna)
that has receptors enabling it to “stick” to other cells. In this way, the virus in-
corporates its genetic material in the host cell, using this cell to replicate its own
dna and, subsequently, infecting more cells. An epidemic occurs when an in-
fected person infects more than one other person, and the process persists for a
suffciently long time. Such viral effect also requires suffcient contact, suffcient
infectivity (viruses that infect others through the air are more infectious than
sexually transmitted diseases) and suffcient susceptibility (not everyone becomes
sick from the same virus). Infectious diseases are characterized by their exponen-
tial rate of transmission: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, etc.
A viral advertisement or a viral video is put together so that communities feel
compelled to share it with others. The transmission can hardly be controlled but,
if a viral catches on, it provides a very cheap way of marketing that can quickly
have an extensive reach and an extremely large impact. The processes involved
in this case are not genetic but memetic. Memetics is the study of the evolution
of culture and ideas in a manner that is analogous to genetics.
By far the best viral ever was the Star Wars kid.
It is estimated that this viral has
been viewed by one billion people, and we mean one billion times. Such expo-
sure is the ultimate dream of any pr department. The clip did not cost anything.
Its technical quality is poor. Nevertheless, it is the most successful clip ever. The
internet community started making parodies, which only increased the success of
the original. The Star Wars Kid vs. Agent Smith (The Matrix), the Star Wars kid
vs. Yodi (Star Wars), Star Wars kid in Psycho, the Hulk, there were even episodes
of cartoons in which the Star Wars Kid made his appearance. Even news channels
like cbs and bbc, and newspapers like the New York Times paid attention to the
kid. The clip was made by a teenage boy in a video cabin at his school during a
rush of inspiration that hit him after seeing Star Wars. Assuming that it would all
86 from crowd to Community
remain anonymous, he used a golf ball retriever as a light saber and began handling
his matchless light sword to kill virtual enemies. In all his enthusiasm, however, he
forgot to erase the recording from the video tape recorder. Schoolmates found the
video and then placed it online with the resulting, huge viral effect.
The parents of the boy were less enamored by the action and did not take it at
all too kindly. After a brief court case, an out-of-court settlement was reached
with the families of the boy’s classmates. The settlement amount is estimated at
150,000 Canadian dollars.
Many webshops allow users to write reviews about products. Tis move
is a smart one, allowing the community to inform its own members without com-
mercial bias. It is of great added value to your website, especially when you deliver a
good product. Amazon has been doing it for years. Te community is very suspicious
of outsiders. It only trusts its own members, certainly not any marketers or manu-
facturers. Hence, more and more webshops are providing the opportunity for these
user reviews. Te reviews are considered more reliable than the information that a
manufacturer provides, and many manufacturers are therefore tempted to manipu-
late such reviews, to have their own people write them or even have them produced
by their pr department. Tese contributions, which are of course all very positive,
are then passed of as items written by members of the community. Tis form of
undercover marketing or astroturfng (astro turf is a synthetic turf that pretends to
be real grass) works well but is dangerous, since sooner or later someone will dis-
cover the deceit and then cook the company’s goose. Astroturfng is nothing new;
it is similar to the false-fag operations
that have been dominating terrorism and
warfare for ages. Blaming the other side for atrocities they perpetrate themselves.
Sony has had the most amazing commercials for years. Did you ever have the
idea that PlayStation was initially prevented from being sold internationally
because it was contrary to laws that prohibit export of high-grade military
We don’t think such an idea was ever really true. More likely, it
was a great marketing ploy, which gave the ultra hi-tech device an almost top-
secret aura. Or did you ever really believe that Sony’s video cameras were re-
87 Socializing with the crowd
moved from the market because their night vision mode
could be used to see through thin summer dresses and
fabrics like canvas? Such notions were never true, but
they gave the devices some of the features of X-ray
glasses, which everyone wanted at the time.
Recently, Sony decided to go a step further. Since the
crowd only trusts its own members, there may be some
beneft from pretending to be one of them. Sony hired
specialized stealth-marketing agency Zipatoni to create a fan blog for their new
psp. Only, the people who wrote it were not true fans, but marketing employees.
The site was too slick, the stories too positive and the real fans quickly fgured
the ruse out and condemned it as shameful. They experienced it as an insult to
their intelligence, and Sony was caught with its pants down.
They were fur-
thermore dumb enough to register the blog domain www.alliwantforxmasisap- in their own name.
Recently, the Nintendo Wii game controller became a phenomenal success among
the other attractively presented controllers / joysticks that come pouring out of
video screens.
The Wii is a game console that is controlled by body movement.
Alone, in pairs or as a quartet, you can box, play tennis, bowl and much more.
Shortly after the release, many articles were posted on the blogs about children
who, in the heat of battle, accidentally threw
their controller through the brand new
42 “fat screen.” This generated huge (viral)
attention for the device. It is of course per-
fectly feasable for a manufacturer or its ad-
vertising agency to organize or instigate
such media frenzy. Or it is clearly extreme-
ly easy to jump on the bandwagon when
such commotion arises all on its own.
88 from crowd to Community
Are you afraid already, of your own crowd? Do you begin to hesitate
to roll out any blogs, wikis and forums within the organization? What if you your-
self are the target of their anger, ridicule or ingenuity?
Do not be afraid. To start off with, if it happens or can happen to you, then it
will also happen to a competitor at some point. This levels the playing feld. To
a certain extent, it is part of the game. The question is not whether it will hap-
pen—it will certainly happen at least once—the question is how to deal with it.
To put it simply, there are very good measures to be taken in advance. In many
of the above cases that go wrong, the “perpetrators” knew of course beforehand
that there was a risk associated with their actions. They should have known that
things might go awry, as a crowd is surprisingly inventive and ultimately diffcult
to fool. The solution is actually quite simple. Here are some rules that can help
you to deal with your community:
The community always sees through you 1
The community will call you to count 2
The community only trusts itself 3
You cannot beat them, you must join them! 4
This means that there is only one “continuously foolproof Web 2.0 strategy,”
which is to remain morally and socially incorruptible.
Not very sexy perhaps. No astroturfng. No undercover activity or manipulation
of grassroots
movements (you will have to wait until they spontaneously arise).
However, it is the only way to make sure that you can rely, under any circum-
stances, on that which each community will ultimately respects: a clean conscience
and the intention to do what is right!
Integrity and honest behavior are forever and understandable by everyone.
And if things ever run out of control, consider using or recasting the incident to
your advantage, Perhaps Heineken should have adopted the term Buckler drink-
er as a nickname; in this way, the company could have latched onto the public-
89 Socializing with the crowd
ity that was occurring. We can imagine an advertising campaign for the brand
that is maybe, to our mind, on the verge of being socially distasteful. It displays
a series of accidents that might be avoided by the unimpaired Buckler drinker
but not by the drinker of competitor beers. If kept at the level of suggestion,
without too much blood, it might be very effective in turning a bad thing into a
Heinekens advantage. Recently, there was an ad for Bolletje bakery products in
which a fctitious spokesperson was named Sonja and identifed as a baker (in
Dutch: bakker). The onscreen caption was: “Sonja, bakker van bolletje.” The real
Sonja Bakker, known for her “Sonja Bakker diet” was not so pleased with the
confusion that was seemingly invited. The name had to be removed from the ad.
In response, Bolletje ran a prime-time announcement (during the half-time inter-
val of a European Championship soccer fnal) having its apology stated by Dick,
“advocaat van Bolletje” (advocaat is Dutch for lawyer and the coach of the Dutch
National soccer team is named Dick Advocaat).
It is very possible that the advertising agency staged the whole affair and that
Sonja was even co-conspiring with Bolletje, as she also garnered favorable atten-
tion as a result, and this free of charge.
90 from crowd to Community
91 The new way of working together
The new way of
working together
Are you already fed up with hearing about ants? Don’t be! We can learn
a lot from them. Tey have already been around 100 million years longer on earth
than humans, so they must be doing “something” right. Ants are the true super
power on earth. Not we humans. Tey easily surpass humans in numbers and bio-
mass, and unlike humanity, they produce no non-biological waste and do not exhaust
their ecosystem, two practices that will ensure that they will outlive us (unless we
sweep them away in our fall). Te ants of the Pampas in Argentina eat more grass
than the large herds of cows grazing there. Te ants of the African savannah eat
more meat (in the form of other insects) than all the big cats living there. Teir
relative strength, their efciency, the tricks that they can employ, make them special
and fascinating creatures. Ants are the only species besides humans that have do-
mesticated pets. Tere are nomadic species of ants that carry their cattle, honeydew
producing aphids from tree to tree with them and even protect them against rain
and storms. In the context of social awareness, the documentary entitled “Ants,
Nature’s Secret Power”
is a must-see.
92 from crowd to Community
Ants are all individually special, but they are obviously not very smart.
If a fre threatens the grass-cutter ants, they still continue working at their tasks
until they are burned. Te drones are small nanotech machines programmed with
simple responses to a limited number of stimuli. In this regard, there are many more
talented and more thoughtful species on the earth. But where ants really excel, what
makes them into an undisputed master race, is their capacity for mass collaboration!
Tey constitute what may be described as a super organism, which surpasses all
those other talented individual organisms, Ants are social: “individually stupid,
collectively smart, opposite to man,” With hundreds working together, ants operate
as an army in search of new food, for example. In large numbers, they project their
antennas out of the nest and go of on their search in random directions. One goes
left, the other right. Absolutely chaotic they run in all directions, without any plan-
ning, without any coordination. Until a single success occurs, then something spe-
cial happens. An ant grabs some food and brings it back to the nest and, while
returning, it leaves a scent trail, a capacity that has been provided them by nature.
Te next ants sticking their antennas outside the nest will pick up the scent and
cannot resist following it. Nature has made them that way too. Tey simply follow
the scent and fnd the food in one straight dash. In returning from the food source,
they also leave their scent, which reinforces the existing track, providing even more
incentive for more ants to obtain their food there.
At some point in the life of the colony, there is a web of such traces. The tracks
leading to the closest places where food may be found are the strongest because
the greatest number of ants travel these paths purely due to the length of the
route. Tracks leading to places where food sources are exhausted fade on their
own because increasingly fewer ants use them to bring back food, while more
and more ants decide to conduct their search in other directions, the scent left
along track fades, as it is no longer reinforced. What begins as a seemingly cha-
otic scene ends in a self-organizing process of building up and maintaining a
optimal network of trails. What looked like the uncoordinated actions of ants
moving in utter confusion turns out to be a very sophisticated way of working
A few special things can be noted about this mechanism. To begin with, ants are
able to perform coordinated tasks and to make complex structures (their food
network) without communicating with each other. There is no direct communi-
93 The new way of working together
cation. Nor is there any central coordination. Nevertheless, there is an active
mechanism that manages to bundle together the combined efforts of many of
these non-communicating individuals into a useful group performance. This
mechanism is called stigmergy and is based on a whole new way of working
together. At least, it is new to us as knowledge workers. Nature has known about
it for a long time.
Te entry in Wikipedia reads as follows:
Stigmergy is a mechanism of indirect coordination between agents or ac-
tions. The principle is that the trace left in the environment by an action
stimulates the performance of a next action, by the same or a different agent.
In that way, subsequent actions tend to reinforce and build on each other,
leading to the spontaneous emergence of coherent, apparently systematic
Stigmergy is a form of self-organization. It produces complex, seemingly
intelligent structures, without need for any planning, control, or even direct
communication between the agents. As such it supports effcient collabora-
tion between extremely simple agents, who lack any memory, intelligence
or even awareness of each other.
Stigmergic behavior in insects
Stigmergy was frst observed in social insects. For example, ants exchange
information by laying down pheromones (the trace) on their way back to
the nest when they have found food. In that way, they collectively develop
a complex network of trails, connecting the nest in the most effcient way
to the different food sources. When ants come out of the nest searching for
food, they are stimulated by the pheromone to follow the trail towards the
food source. The network of trails functions as a shared external memory
for the ant colony. In computer science, this general method has been applied
in a variety of techniques called ant colony optimization, which search for
solutions to complex problems by depositing “virtual pheromones” along
paths that appear promising.
94 from crowd to Community
Other eusocial creatures, such as termites , use pheromones to build their
complex nests by following a simple decentralized rule set. Each insect
scoops up a “mud ball” or similar material from its environment, invests
the ball with pheromones, and deposits it on the ground, initially in a ran-
dom spot. However, termites are attracted to their nest mates’ pheromones
and are therefore more likely to drop their own mud balls on top of their
neighbors’. The larger the heap of mud becomes, the more attractive it is, and
therefore the more mud will be added to it (positive feedback). Over time
this leads to the construction of pillars, arches, tunnels and chambers.
The term “stigmergy” was introduced by French biologist Pierre-Paul Grassé
in 1959 to refer to termite behavior. He defned it as: “Stimulation of work-
ers by the performance they have achieved.” It is derived from the Greek
words stigma (mark, sign) and ergon (work, action), and captures the notion
that an agent’s actions leave signs in the environment, signs that it and other
agents sense and that determine and incite their subsequent actions
Later on, a distinction was made between the stigmergic phenomenon, which
is specifc to the guidance of additional work, and the more general, non-
work specifc incitation, for which the term sematectonic communication
was coined
by E.O. Wilson , from the Greek words sema (sign, token), and
tecton (craftsman, builder): “There is a need for a more general, somewhat
less clumsy expression to denote the evocation of any form of behavior or
physiological change by the evidences of work performed by other animals,
including the special case of the guidance of additional work.”
Stigmergy is now one of the key
concepts in the feld of swarm intel-
Stigmergy is not restricted to eusocial creatures, or even to physical systems.
On the Internet there are many emergent phenomena that arise from users
interacting only by modifying local parts of their shared virtual environ-
ment. Wikipedia is an example of this. The massive structure of information
available in a wiki,
or an open source software project such as the Freebsd
could be compared to a termite nest; one initial user leaves a seed
95 The new way of working together
of an idea (a mudball) which attracts other users who then build upon and
modify this initial concept, eventually constructing an elaborate structure
of connected thoughts.
The term is also employed in experimental research in robotics, multi-agent
systems and communication in computer networks. In these felds there
exist two types of stigmergy: active and passive. The frst kind occurs when
a robotic or otherwise intelligent “agent” alters its environment so as to af-
fect the sensory input of another agent. The second occurs when an agent’s
action alters its environment such that the environmental changes made by
a different agent are also modifed. A typical example of active stigmergy is
leaving behind artifacts for others to pick up or follow. An example of pas-
sive stigmergy is when agent-A tries to remove all artifacts from a container,
while agent-B tries to fll the container completely.
In addition the concept of stigmergy has also been used to describe how
cooperative work such as building design may be integrated. Designing a
large contemporary building involves a large and diverse network of actors
(e.g. architects, building engineers, static engineers, building services engi-
neers and etc.). Their distributed activities may be partly integrated through
practices of stigmergy.
See also
Swarm intelligence •
Spontaneous order •
Bonabeau, E. “Editor’s Introduction: Stigmergy.” special Issue of Artifcial Life on Stig- 1.
mergy. Volume 5, Issue 2 / Spring 1999, p.95-96.
Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, E.O. Wilson, 1975/2000, p.186 2.
Parunak, H. v D. (2003). Making swarming happen. In Proc. of Conf. on Swarming and 3.
Network Enabled Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveil-
lance and Reconnaissance (C4isr), McLean, Virginia, usa, January 2003.
abInfoworld: A conversation with Steve Burbeck about multicellular computing 4.
Heylighen F. (2007). Why is Open Access Development so Successful? Stigmergic organiza- 5.
tion and the economics of information, in: B. Lutterbeck, M. Baerwolff & R. A. Gehring
(eds.), Open Source Jahrbuch 2007, Lehmanns Media, 2007, p. 165-180.
96 from crowd to Community
Rodriguez M.A. (2008). A Collectively Generated Model of the World, in: Collective 6.
Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace, eds. M. Tovey, pages 261-264, ein
Press, isbn: 09715-6616X, Oakton, Virginia, November 2007
Christensen, L. R. (2007). Practices of stigmergy in architectural work. In Proceedings 7.
of the 2007 international acm Conference on Conference on Supporting Group Work
(Sanibel Island, Florida, usa, November 04 - 07, 2007). group 2007. acm, New York, ny,
Christensen, L. R. (2008). The Logic of Practices of Stigmergy: Representational Artifacts 8.
in Architectural Design. In Proceedings of the 2008 acm Conference on Computer Sup-
ported Cooperative Work (San Diego, ca, usa, November 8-12, 2008). cscw ‘08. acm,
New York, ny, 559-568.
How brilliant is all this? Everywhere around us, the world is flled with entities
that respond to certain stimuli predictably and, instinctively. Not just ants or
pets, but machines as well. And things! And people! Depending on the chosen
perspective and the most appropriate context, we label these people subject,
consumer or employee. While able to act intelligently, they are, under certain
conditions, not much different from the drones or boids that we previously de-
scribed. All these drones have a certain degree of instinctive behavior that can
be used to cause them to work together on complex tasks without having them
come into contact with each other and without having them perform complex
actions. All it requires is a stigmergic mechanism, predictable behavior, the right
signals and an environment where it all takes place.
Bees are social insects just like ants, and they have many ways of working to-
gether, apparently without communication. This behavior is, of course, in addi-
tion to the famous example of direct communication involving their thorax
wagging “dance” to inform other bees about the routes to their food. If at some
point the temperature in the hive becomes too high, one by one, the workers
begin to use their wings as fans. They do this instinctively and not all at the same
temperature due to genetic differences. Eventually this collective effort cools
down the breeding compartments. When the temperature drops, the bees one at
a time stop fanning the hive. The story is one of the many tales about nature that
have become somewhat clichés. They are frequently used in the social context,
but it is not always clear if they actually are correct, or if they are, in fact, more
or less urban legends. This is certainly the case with this example, since the
harder the bees fan, the more energy they use, which then is released in the form
of heat, warming the hive that their fanning action is supposedly cooling
97 The new way of working together
In any event, the information instigating their “stigmergic” group performance
comes from the environment. Ants and bees behave in this way in nature; con-
sumers act similarly in trendy shops surrounded by incentives to purchase, com-
bined with “traces” left by lifestyle and pr departments, while employees display
similar behavior in the social environment that you provide! Stigmergy is every-
where; it can be seen in the societies of social insects, it can be seen in the human
body in the form of cells incited to work together by stimuli passed through the
bloodstream, and it is also the main way of working together on the internet.
The internet as a whole, at the level of routers and servers, but also many of the
websites that can be found on it, are almost entirely creations resulting from a
stigmergic process. Take for example Wikipedia. Almost everyone uses the web-
site to look up something. Wikipedia is basically a stigmergic medium. Essen-
tially, no direct conversation or communication with other visitors is required
for the mechanism to work. Someone reads an article and sees that something is
wrong or that something is missing, and can make the necessary revision. The
environment is Wikipedia itself and the traces to be followed are the articles. The
structure that results is an encyclopedia., the social bookmark site
of Google, makes the operation even clearer. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps
millions of Diggers browse the internet daily in search of fun, interesting and/or
useful information. Like ants, this search activity happens in seemingly uncoor-
dinated chaos. Each time, however, that one of those Internet ants encounters a
useful link, they leave a marked trail in their environment, in this case at The other ants can pick up these markings and even strengthen it
by voting. Ultimately, a mechanism is created that separates useful information
from noise. The community uses stigmergic processes to maintain
what is, in their eyes, a qualitatively high-grade and up-to-date subset of the
internet that is changing daily. From chaos, to blazing trails, following them and
reinforcing them in a process of self-organization.
Although the word stigmergy might sound very scientifc and the ant
might be a nice example but still have a very “academic feeling,” the phenomenon
is to be found in almost all facets of our world. Our world is through and through
98 from crowd to Community
Our body is an enormously complex organism consisting of more than 150 bil-
lion cells. Our brains cannot possible keep tabs on all these cells. Yet, if we ulti-
mately want our left arm to extend forward, or else our right one, the movement
ultimate has great probability to succeed. It is only when you realize how much
of our body is comprised of self-suffcient units that you understand what an
enormously complex communication is required for such movement. To a great-
er or lesser extent, the present concerns of all the autonomous units have to be
interrupted in order to coordinate their contribution to the whole. They have a
double life: self-survival, and simultaneously collective survival. Some of this
control is conscious but most of it is unconscious. Some of it occurs directly and
instantaneously, by means of electrical impulses that are sent through the nervous
system, but the vast majority is indirect. The vast majority of our body’s activity
relies on stigmergic collaboration. All the cells in our body are separate entities
with their own metabolism, self-perception and specifc behavior. It would be
impossible for the brains to control everything. Instead, this all involves mass-
collaboration on a scale far greater than what the ants perform.
Cells are equipped with receptors, which act as their senses and these receptors
respond to signals in the form of molecules or in the form of electromagnetic
stimuli. Once an appropriate signal attaches to a receptor, the cell does something.
Thus, viruses can attach to a cell receptor and instigate replication of the viral
dna. And similarly hormones, lipids, proteins and other chemicals induce the
cell to other actions. The body (actually its cells, the individuals of the collective)
distributes these chemicals throughout the cellular environment, and each cell
subsequently knows what to do and obtains this knowledge independently of
every other cell. Cells can communicate with each other without knowing about
any other cell or group of cells from which the communication comes.
They act on the basis of genetically programmed responses to signals, and it is
this programming that ultimately creates a synergistic collaboration. Our body
is a giant stigmergic communication platform on which all components emit or
leave signals to coordinate the actions of others.
Stigmergy is opportunism in its highest form. You should realize that
the ant carrying food back to the nest and consequently leaving a scent does not
99 The new way of working together
know when or if any other ants will take notice and follow the trail. Nor does it
leave the trail for specifc other individuals. Perhaps it does not even know it is
making the trail. Nevertheless, it marks the trail, which becomes the instigation for
a sophisticated self-correcting process.
If ants can resultantly organize themselves so well this way, would it not also be
handy if knowledge workers were to leave traces leading to where they are ac-
quiring knowledge for the company? Unsolicited, opportunism? Or is this just
a waste of time?
Consider an activity stream, which is often nothing more than a kind of micro
blog on which we inform and broadcast to the world and/or our network, or
unilaterally say what we are doing, where we are, what we believe and so forth.
Manually posted information can easily be supplemented with events that can
be added automatically. “Wim stored one fle in the “Sustainability” work group
under the title <Policy Plan>,” “Chris is a member of the <Sustainability>” group,
etc. This more or less coincides with a continuous transmission of status informa-
tion. Mostly, you do nothing explicit for followers or friends in providing this
information, but often your “trace” gives rise to further actions. In any event,
your followers at least know what you are doing, making it easier to communi-
cate in a specifc manner and to fnd points of contact when you unexpectedly
undertake more immediate forms of communication or when you bump into the
person in the real world (you know, an old fashion physical encounter). The
simple fact that your trace is visible to everyone at least makes it possible for
others to help you and to ensure that you keep in touch. Particularly in a corpo-
rate environment, activity streaming is very useful because it provides “specifc”
information and involves meaningful “activities” more often than it does in the
private sphere. Twitter and Facebook are in this respect more than just tools for
the see-me crowd. Flickr serves a much clearer purpose, as it supports the pri-
mary objective of managing the world’s largest photography exhibition. Each
time you log in to manage your own photo gallery, Flickr gives you an overview
of relevant events, the people who have looked at your photos, those who com-
mented on them, etc. In a corporate environment, an activity stream provides
guidance leading to other activities, and to new or different content and conver-
sations. Just like ant behavior, activity streaming starts in chaos and is based on
assumptions and opportunism. No one knows who, if anyone, will stumble on
100 from crowd to Community
a trail, but eventually processes begin to organize themselves and add value,
without requiring any supervision or control.
Due to the absence of central control and the presence of self-organi-
zation, a stigmergic environment (let us henceforth refer to it as “just” a “2.0 environ-
ment”) is very well suited for what might be called brute force strategies. Information
in such an environment is derived from a self-organizing, trial-and-error method.
Instead of looking for information themselves, knowledge workers may post search
requests in the environment, in response to which their colleagues happening to
notice the request may assist in the search. Tey may do this on their own time, and
using keywords in a way that they themselves choose. With a suitable aggregation
or ranking mechanism, the most useful results come automatically to the surface,
just like at What began as an opportunistic marking of a trail has evolved
from chaos to useful results through the cooperation of unselected passers-by. Te
result has been selected using the full collective intelligence of the crowd.
As another concrete example, consider what is known as social bookmarking
such as performed on, which differs from digg because a different
mechanism is used to optimize group performance. Millions of internet users
make use of the service to save their bookmarks online. At one point, some
bookmarks become more signifcant than others because they are kept by more
people. There is now a selection of bookmarks that are chosen by users of del. as being more valuable then others. Without all these people consulting
each other, they discover the most interesting places on the internet and implic-
itly give them a “rating.”. Their result is actually a subset of the internet that
others have found to merit highlighting. This is another example of how brute
force tactics can yield very useful results when used in the right environment
(something that is virtually impossible under central control). Bookmarking on is a continuous process and very useful to the social platform of a
large company, but it is quite conceivable that a similar mechanism can be used
in a more ad hoc manner to supply solutions and answers to problems that arise
spontaneously, again using the social platform of the company. In this case, the
community is asked to fnd and recommend links with possible solutions to a
problem. The wisdom of the crowd and the principle of brute force generated
by the swarming of the community may turn up useful links.
101 The new way of working together
An important feature of a good “2.0” environment is a mechanism to
“aggregate” or cluster individual contributions into a group result. Such a mechanism
is called (how predictable) an aggregation mechanism and is based on such prac-
tices as collaborative fltering. We will discuss the details involved in Part 2, but it
is important to realize that just leaving traces is not enough. Te ants have an ag-
gregation mechanism in the continuous reinforcement of the tracks and the auto-
matic evaporation of such traces over time. On social bookmark sites like,
there is a similar mechanism. Found information that receives many votes from the
digg community appears on the front page and will start climbing above other
items. After a while, however, the item is “exhausted” (read: evaporates) and disap-
pears from the front page. Te front page displays the currently most valuable col-
lection of information in the view of the community. Programmers refer to this
evaporation and decrease in value as a “half-life” or “radioactivity”; it is a useful and
easy to program aggregation mechanism.
Essential in describing the diference between (functional) 1.0 teams
and the (social) 2.0 communities is the kind of communication that is dominant.
Teams primarily partake in direct communications from person to person. It does,
by the way, not always have to be people who are collaborating; it could also be
machines, androids, cyborg or simply “functions.”
Direct communication has a known endpoint; it is clear who or what will even-
tually respond. Email is typically direct communication. just like a phone call as
well. People who do not understand that this form of communication is dominant
soon become known in the organization as spammers. Much of this type of
“spam” is also an important indication that a good social platform is lacking.
Direct communication is the most dominant type of communication in the func-
tional side of the organization.
In contrast to the functional side of the organization, the social side is mainly
dominated by broadcast communications (broadcasts or broadcasting). In this type
of communications, it is unknown who the recipients will be or even if a receiver
exists. The communicative act is discontinuous from the participants in the con-
versation. A bulletin board or weblog is a form of broadcast communications.
102 from crowd to Community
The difference between direct and broadcast communications involves the degree
of decoupling and security. In direction communications, the parties are more
strongly linked and secure. There is always only a certain amount of direct com-
munications that are possible before the communicative act is so complex that
problems begin to arise. This means, among other things, that teams can only
ever be of limited size.
A good example is the difference in document preparation by a team communi-
cating by email and the manner in which a document is prepared by a commu-
nity using a wiki.
A wiki is a stigmergic means of creating a document by engaging the joint efforts of multiple
Communication can be synchronous or asynchronous. During synchro-
nous communication, the sender waits for the receiver to respond. Tis makes them
sequentially interdependent, and makes the course of the procedure predictable. In
the case of asynchronous communication, the sender does not wait for the receiver
to respond but the receiver merely interrupts the sender when responding. Te send-
er can do something else in the meantime. Tis makes the sender and receiver less
dependent on each other but simultaneously requires a diferent approach.
Synchronous and direct often occur in combination, as do asynchronous and
broadcast. Synchronous and direct communications will be dominant on the
functional side of the organization, Stigmergy, the social form of collaboration,
is mainly based on asynchronous, broadcast communications.
103 The new way of working together
Stigmergic collaboration can occur among large groups of “workers”
without any central control and without direct communications to coordinate com-
plex tasks. Te parties involved are decoupled from each other by means of an
environment or platform. Because there are no direct communications, it is not
necessary to know the parties who will be working together beforehand or even at
all. In principle it is possible to execute the most complex tasks without ever know-
ing who is participating and without ever coordinating schedules. Te “workforce”
can be continuously changing its composition and size. It is a self-scaling mecha-
nism. And what’s more, it is self-organizing. Tasks are automatically performed at
a greater speed when greater capacity becomes available, without requiring a pro-
cedure to revise or adjust communications. Tis makes the principle terrifyingly
universal, and it is no wonder that it is also the preferred method of “mass collabo-
ration” in nature.
Forming and coordinating large teams is not something everyone can
do. Not everyone has the makings of a project manager. Truly good managers and
project managers are people with whom organizations need to be frugal. Tey pos-
sess special communication skills, need to be aware of the political context, must
be capable of keeping an eye on everything and have to be able to handle complex-
ity. Stigmergic collaboration means that such people are no longer needed. In a
good stigmergic environment, anyone can undertake the most complex tasks and
perform them without direct communication and without central control. Te only
thing that is truly necessary is the right stimuli (incentives) in the right places. Te
crowd will automatically discover these markers and collaborate on the task. Te
work will be automatically distributed. Working in this manner, the crowd can even
perform many tasks simultaneously, so that their commitment is self-scaling. In the
Intelligent Organization, some tasks no longer requires project management or
leadership in order to deploy talent required for these projects or tasks.
Instead, any individual with access to the environment can initiate projects of
great complexity and large scale without having to understand anything about
coordinating and managing large groups of people. Social media is therefore
“empowering.” “Yes, everyone can!”
104 from crowd to Community
105 Various types of social collaboration platforms
Various types of social
collaboration platforms
Previous chapters have discussed the new way of working together,
which they identifed as the basis of an organization’s “social” side, the essence of
working as a community 2.0. Tis book is ultimately designed to make you excited
about the Intelligent Organization and inspire you to provide your organization
with a “living” social side. Te adjective “social” in the Web 2.0 context is, of course,
associated with “social networking” (activities also encapsulated simply as “2.0”),
which represents a step beyond existing ways of working, now retroactively referred
to as “1.0.” Smart businesses can use these new insights to ensure that their im-
plicit and explicit social sides make and are able to make contributions to results.
New social mechanisms can be introduced later in their social development. We
call such companies “Intelligent Organizations.”
Te best way to distinguish social “communities” from “conventional”
functional “teams” is to make a distinction between a functional machine and a
social organism. A machine consists of a predefned set of rods, bolts, nuts, shafts,
gears and everything that operates in the manner of clockwork. Everything is pre-
dictable and in sync. Machines are built to specifcation and may be repaired if they
do not meet the specifcations. Te functional side of the organization operates as
if it were a machine.
106 from crowd to Community
1hesis Sans n/¡¡
1hesis 5ans 8oId ç/¡¡
functionaI 5ociaI
is like a MACHINE is like an ORGANISM
Mechanical versus organic
An organism has nothing of the sort; it is not built but grows, evolves, and adapts.
An organism cannot perform machine-like, repeatable performances; there re-
mains a degree of uncertainty in its performance. Try to bowl three times using
exactly the same delivery. Try to discern the same pattern in the fight of starlings
even twice. An organism is, on the other hand, both very adaptive and self-or-
ganizing: the ultimate in fexibility and survivability. It can do things that a
machine cannot and vice versa. The social side of a company is comparable to
an organism. It sounds like something very new and very hip: something for the
future. But without realizing it, organizations already have (or to put it more
accurately, are), to some extent, “ecosystems” within which a crowd of employ-
ees can obtain results and within which organic structures form by themselves.
In a large company, two types of work have always been available. The me-
chanical is recognizable as the form of the company appearing on the “organiza-
tion chart” and codifed in procedures resembling algorithms with which proc-
esses must comply. It ensures that a large organization has a predictable outcome,
while typically making it infexible. For this reason, large organizations always
generate informal / social structures as well. Communication is not always
through the lines displayed on the organization chart and not everything that
happens is recorded in process descriptions or foreseen in preconceived plans.
Implicitly, most companies are already heterarchies. This book and TeamPark
are designed in part to make these structures and their benefts explicit, while
making an organization a more organic and a little less mechanical. Everything
at work will then become more effcient and still be enjoyable.
107 Various types of social collaboration platforms
What is social collaboration?
“2.0” is a new way of working together that breaks down the rigidity of
the bureaucracy by combining planning, predictability and controllability
with the fexibility, creativity and adaptability of social networking, com-
munities and crowds.
“Social” collaboration needs a special platform that allows for discon-
tinuous communication and free participation modelled on the way nature
organizes communal activity (stigmergy).
Just as there are degrees and types of bureaucracy (functional order),
there are degrees and types of social activity. Some social forms have strongly func-
tional characteristics; in organizations possessing such forms, the two sides of the
heterarchy are most naturally integrated. Other social forms are so organic that they
are very far removed from the traditional way of communicating and collaborating,
and have to incorporate a whole diferent approach in the organization. Tese social
forms are not directly implicitly created by-products of conventional bureaucracies.
A great deal of innovation and crowdsourcing will be found and included in these
new social forms.
TeamPark distinguishes three broad types of social entities, some already implic-
itly and directly usable as social networking, others more diffcult to use and only
usable when suffcient “tender love and care” helps to get the ball rolling, such
as crowdsourcing. Ranging from less to greater social interactivity, we can dis-
tinguish (1) implicit social activity (2) productive social activity and (3) creative
social activity.
108 from crowd to Community
WisJcm c[ the
Web z.o
Different degrees of social collaboration
One of the easiest to use social tools is the social network. A social
network is a structure that is visible by the record kept of the contacts or connec-
tions among people. Social networks are not built like a chart, they arise naturally
as a byproduct of interaction, communications and collaboration. Connections ex-
ist among people; charting them creates a network diagram that shows the social
network to which people belong.
Whatever the degree of bureaucracy and formal organization in a company, there
will always be a social structure. This structure can be used for communication
and collaboration within the processes of the bureaucracy and to improve un-
derstanding of the organization. Communication over the social network may
be more effective than that occurring through the hierarchy of the organization
chart and may also relieve the burden on these normal lines. Anyone looking for
a quick answer to a question from a colleague known to be an expert on the
subject will obviously make use of a social network to get in touch with this
person. An email will be sent or a simple phone call made. The question will not
of course be sent along formal channels, as that would be a far less desirable way
to access the information. If no explicit social network exists, the questioner is
limited to asking the people who he knows personally, while an explicit social
network makes it possible to contact people who are not personal acquaint-
ances. Tags or ratings can be used in a social network to fnd the right people
109 Various types of social collaboration platforms
An explicit social network can help organizations quickly fnd the relevant peo-
ple and information; it improves collaboration.
6-degrees of Kevin Bacon
The analysis of social networks is based on graph theory in mathematics. Analyz-
ing social networks is called sna: social network analysis. Analysis reveals many
useful statistics and features. A very familiar proposition, based on sna, concerns
the six degrees of separation. Between you and any other random person on earth
are only fve other people who know each other.
Six degrees of separation: in the social network that connects all people on earth, there are only
5 people between you and any other person
Figure (cc) Laurens van Lieshout, cited in Wikipedia
A newsgroup message appeared on April 7, 1994 stating that the actor Kevin
Bacon was the center of the universe. The notice referred to an entertaining game
developed around Kevin Bacon of which the aim was to connect any other per-
son to Kevin by the smallest number of associations. The game, which was such
110 from crowd to Community
a huge fad that it is now simply referred to as the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,”
inspired a number of scientists to investigate the phenomenon.
The investigations led to new insights about social (self-forming) networks. It
appears that these networks do not comply with the standard Gaussian or nor-
mal distribution. When connections can be made arbitrarily, such as in the cases
of the contacts between people, the design of traffc networks and the links to
websites, expectations would be that the degree of connectedness of most nodes
would be average. It should therefore be possible to plot connections per node
as a standard bell curve. Most nodes would have average connectedness, and
progressively fewer would have would have either a higher or lower degree of
association. The same situation holds true for the distribution of iq scores in a
population where most people have an average iq.
The Gaussian or normal distribution of iq
This type of distribution turns out not to apply to networks. Scientists discovered
that a strong tendency to develop super hubs exists in various kinds of networks,
ranging from the internet, to neural networks and air transport networks. These
are certain nodes that have very many connections to other nodes. The distribu-
tion of the connectedness of each node in the network is that of an inverse ex-
ponential function: there are a few nodes with a high degree of connectedness
111 Various types of social collaboration platforms
and more with increasingly less connectedness. What was originally a joke on
an internet newsgroup eventually leads to a major scientifc “discovery.”

Nodes in a social network are distributed according to what is known as a power-law function,
a characteristic of complex or “organic-like” systems
A little earlier, we were very tough on chaos theory and complex systems. It can
now be revealed that this power-law distribution is the typical manifestation of
chaotic and/or complex systems. Complex is here meant in a mathematical sense.
To cut to the chase, this means that complex systems are “organism-like,” self-
organizing and non-deterministic, or diffcult to predict.
Useful facts and statistics about the company can be discovered by analyzing the
social networks in a business, and this information can be used for normal op-
erations by making these networks constantly discernible using appropriate so-
cial software. Social networks are created by people contacting each other by
email, phone and face-to-face meetings, and by people meeting each other and
participating together in activities. But they also arise because people use a social
platform to make posts on each other’s blogs, providing link dumps, participat-
ing in forum topics, rating each other’s content (giving it a grade), faving (adding
to favorites), and doing almost everything else possible on the platform. A good
social platform would incorporate all these activities in order to build up a social
network. This network will enable people to have far more connections than
others and, although it is dangerous to immediately draw such conclusions, it
112 from crowd to Community
may be assumed that people who are super hubs in the social network are crucial
for business. They are on average asked more questions than other people, and
are used more frequently to fnd, knowledge, expertise and ways to get jobs done.
It is again worth mentioning that these fndings merit further consideration. For
instance, it might mean that people should be given more time in their duties for
the organic side of their work, provided that such contacts occur outside their
function and place in the chart. The social network might also be correlated with
the organization structure and may cause processes to be adjusted and possible
reorganization of the chart.
A second type of social entities are communities. Communities are
groups of people who choose to work on certain tasks, to discuss particular subjects
or to share specifc interests. While communities may choose their own composition
and determine their own subjects, there is coherence, a great deal of mutual com-
munication and relative similarity. Tis is necessary for their members to work
together efectively.
Communities are the social counterpart of functional teams. For instance, both
perform tasks that the organization needs, but they involve different forms of
collaboration. A team is a small machine, while a community is more like an
organism. Unlike teams, communities have no fxed composition; they usually
do not communicate directly or synchronously, and have no central planning or
control. These feature are replaced by signals and a platform on which to leave
these signals. There are few established procedures in a community. Below, we
will discuss the platform and tools required to ensure that good results are
achieved. Teams and communities can work well together, provided the right
technical infrastructure is available.
Unlike social networks and, in effect as we shall see, unlike crowds, communities
do not arise on their own as a by-product of the normal course of business.
Communities must be explicitly established and require special facilities, such as
a platform or rather an ecosystem. In intelligent organizations, social communi-
ties are given platforms that are specifcally designed as counterparts to the cor-
responding processes replacing on the functional side, enabling communities to
113 Various types of social collaboration platforms
obtain the same results while implementing, a stigmergic form of collabora-
Communities give organizations the opportunity of having their people work
together irrespective of their location and time and regardless of the community’s
continuously changing composition. Such fexibility and adaptability is virtually
impossible for teams. Some tasks require teams and bureaucratic methods, oth-
er tasks are best performed using communities and social methods. The choice
is driven by the nature of the process as well as the environment in which the
process is incorporated.
WisJcm c[ the
Web z.o
The same tasks can often be performed in either bureaucratic (teams) or stigmergic (communi-
ties) fashion
Te most organic social form is the crowd. Te diference between a
community and a crowd boils down to the fact that the members of a crowd do not
have any fxed or clear relationships to each other. Te composition is ad hoc and
the members act, in principle, independently of each other and, in any case, without
much consultation. Whereas a particular afnity must exist among the members
of a community, such lack of diversity is quite undesirable insofar as crowds are
concerned and must be resisted. Te reason why any possible homogeneity should
be counteracted is that it undermines the “wisdom of the crowd,” which requires
114 from crowd to Community
crowds to by independent, diverse and uncontrolled. A crowd along with the ap-
propriate software (providing an aggregation mechanism) is used to solve difcult
problems, to channel innovation and to fnd information not widely available by
employing brute force tactics and crowdsourcing.
It is in this part of the social spectrum that the “wisdom of the crowd” can be
found and where the normally unused talents of individuals and collectives can
be used to beneft organizations. Somehow, a large crowd always can come up
with a special solution or a perfect idea that individuals overlook. In principle
all internet users, not just your own employees, may join your crowd. This rep-
resents a huge potential that can be used to crowd-source problems or work.
More and more companies are discovering this huge resource of talent, and not
just from a marketing perspective. Many of them dare to risk making crowd-
sourcing of for such tasks as product development a part of their strategy. The
automotive industry makes a very strong effort in this regard, with the likes of
fiat, bmw and Peugeot launching extensive initiatives incorporating a large
anonymous crowd into their design teams. Using nice, well designed platforms
everybody can help them develop the car of the future.
Every company can do this by starting with their own internal crowd and upscal-
ing to more global reach with a great deal of ease.
What does such a crowd then do all day long?
Does the queen ant know what all the worker ants are doing all day long? Is there
one sardine in the school that knows what the others are up to? Do your brain
cells have any information about the activities that your other cells are carrying
out? Are your brain cells even aware of what you are currently consciously expe-
riencing? The answer to each one of these questions is no. Nevertheless, everything
still works, producing what may by individually divergent results.
It is not important to know what any one individual in the crowd is doing. What
counts is what the crowd does as a whole: the things that cannot be asked of
individuals. If securing a group’s optimal performance requires that a few indi-
viduals seemingly do nothing but hang around all day long, then they should
perhaps be allowed to hang around. Do not underestimate the social control of
the crowd in this respect. It might take a while, but eventually the parasites will
be automatically remedied; you need not deal with them yourself.
115 Various types of social collaboration platforms
Participants in a crowd or social network cannot be evaluated in the same way
as participants in a bureaucracy. A crowd is not based on job profles, and mem-
bers of a crowd are not susceptible to performance reviews. No indeed! Perform-
ances are to be expected from the whole, and evaluations should also occur at
that level.
Eventually, people and groups who come up with ideas and solve problems will
emerge. Innovation is fuelled and accelerated. People and groups will pull others
along in their wake. To help these others along, they can write stories, update
wikis, post activity streams, participate in forum discussions, tell jokes, play
tricks, make each other angry, sometimes even be censured. In brief, do everything
that is done in any social setting,
Switching the crowd on and off
A company that recognizes the crowd operating within its own walls and uses
Web 2.0 applications in order to form communities that channel and make use
of all the talent existing in the organization is what we are calling the “Intelligent
Organization.” Starting an Intelligent Organization involves much more than
ficking a light switch. You can only provide an organization’s social environment
with the right facilities and environmental factors in the hope that the correct
processes will emerge on their own. Think of it as the difference between a rule-
based knowledge system and an ai system (a neural network / artifcial intelli-
gence). Once switched on, the former delivers useful results from day one, all the
necessary knowledge is contained in the system. The latter must undergo a learn-
ing process and will only produce results after a certain training period. Such a
network can think up its own “knowledge.” The frst gives only the results that
are identifed in advance or for which inference rules have been devised. The
latter will frequently yield surprises.
Obviously, there is more to do than just wait and hope; that is specifcally why
we have developed TeamPark. We will provide a great deal of detail about this
point below, but it is important to realize that social practices are very different
from bureaucratic activity. The latter has precisely the beneft of being predict-
able and therefore subject to planning, in contract to social actions, which are
much more diffcult to predict and plan.
116 from crowd to Community
117 “2.0”
It is obvious that Web 2.0 and its underlying concepts regarding col-
laboration add up to more than just a hodgepodge of fads and memes. Despite the
apparent diversity of sites and efects, there is a clear thread that can be seen, inso-
far as stigmergy is, in all cases, an underlying principles. It is therefore no exag-
geration to speak of a new paradigm, a new “conceptual framework,” another par-
adigm for communications and the basis for a new kind of business. Let us
henceforth call this paradigm “2.0,” with Web 2.0 as one of its implementations.
Let the old way of communicating and collaborating be immediately identifed as
“2.0” has distinctive features. It is facilitative and enabling, as it primarily allows
visitors or workers to get in touch with each other in order to produce results
without anyone managing the collaboration. Instead, visitors build relations
among themselves and form groups. There is no fxed procedure.
It is decentralized / bottom-up, because all the on-site activity is initiated by the
“crowd” or the “community.” Any hierarchy that emerges, arises from the bot-
tom up.
It is organic because the content on social websites are not structured in advance
and is not centrally controlled using predefned procedures. The community must
grow things organically, bottom-up. No top-down “taxonomy” (set of categories)
but a “folksonomy” (e.g. tags and their tag clouds) formed bottom up. Com-
118 from crowd to Community
munities can be guided by adjusting the framework within which they evolve.
The result is a number of features constituting an “ecosystem” that can success-
fully facilitate a crowd and result in the successful generation of user content.
What we have to make available is a framework in which the above features are
dominant or, at least, emergent.
The most important characteristic of all is perhaps the fact that collaboration is
based on stigmergy and stigmergic tooling while reducing direct communication
and synchronicity.
The “2.0” or “social” part of your organization is stigmergic, facilitative, decen-
tralized / bottom-up and organic.
Since we now have features that we can describe as “2.0,” it is also useful to
characterize the “1.0” side using the same vocabulary. Although even the most
conventional “1.0” organization is never a pure bureaucracy and a company
always involves several hybrid forms, there are enough differences between “1.0”
and “2.0” to be able to make a general distinction.
A bureaucracy involves central control, in contrast to the decentralization of a
crowd. Control is top-down, while the self-control of a crowd occurs bottom-up
in the form of self-coordination; it is organic, not synthetic.
“1.0” therefore appears to be the opposite pole of “2.0” due to the fact that it is
synchronized, controlled,centralized/top-down and synthetic. As an informal sum-
mary, the differences and distinguishing features would likely be the following:
Paradigm Features
“1.0” “2.0”
Bureaucracy Holocracy
Mechanical model Organic model
Synchronous Asynchronous
Direct communications Stigmergic communications
Regulation Moderation
Standardized Ad-hoc
119 “2.0”
Reductive Emergent
Controlling Facilitating
Centralized Decentralized
Top-down Bottom-up
“1.0” and “2.0” are certainly not mutually exclusive in an organization;
on the contrary, they are synergistic and mutually reinforcing. Counterbalancing!
Tey are like Yin and Yang, like the south and the north side of a mountain, the
left hemisphere and right hemisphere of same brain. An organization possesses
both forms, ideally in a ratio that will work best, a ratio that varies for each com-
pany. Google is known for having a fairly dominant organic side. Many of the
current Google products and services have been created bottom-up by employees
devoting a great deal of time and many facilities outside their “regular” working
hours to try things out in a more organic and ad hoc form of collaboration. In or-
ganizations with very dominant physical production (e.g. factories), extensive social
activity would have much less added value then it would for a ‘knowledge process-
ing facility’ like an insurance company or a bank. Each company will need to iden-
tify the right mix for their particular circumstances.
In this book, we hope to excite you about a different type of control, and your
current organization will very likely have to change to accommodate it. The risk
of overdoing it is enormous. Who has not heard of the vicious outsourcing/in-
sourcing cycle? For some reason, nobody manages to get the balance right. Is it
not the case that everything must be outsourced because the corporate structure
is not fast enough to respond to demand variation and “it is not a core compe-
tency”? And almost immediately after complete outsourcing, does it not all have
to be insourced again or else all knowledge is lost? Does anybody ever come up
with the idea of halving all outsourcing or insourcing plans before beginning
with either?
The same holds true for your transformation into an intelligent organization.
Consider therefore how “social” you wish to make your organization and start
cautiously by realizing half of your plans. It is a question of balance: yin and
120 from crowd to Community
With “2.0,” your company is able to instigate what is known as crowd
or community collaboration, jointly lumped together in the container concept of
“social collaboration.” Tis form of working together supplements the already exist-
ing team collaboration. Even if you are not immediately aware of it or if you use
another term to label it, the dominant way of working in a bureaucratic organization
is set up as team collaboration. Both forms of collaboration may certainly coexist. In
fact, both forms can use “each other’s” resources. A very smart team can use a wiki,
and a community can often beneft greatly from an online meeting. Te functional
processes can generally best be left to teams, the social processes for which scalable,
self-organizing and discontinuous mass-collaboration is needed, should probably be
left to communities. Both forms of collaboration can deliver the same results but,
depending on conditions, one form may be more efcient than others.
Initiating team collaboration involves patching together the right team, and then
designing and testing the appropriate procedures, workfows and channels of
interaction. To establish community collaboration is to assemble and make avail-
able the appropriate environment. Because of its generic nature, community
collaboration will regularly use the same generic platform. In previous chapters,
it has been noted that a certain number of communication media are being de-
veloped on the web, each of which is being re-used in a comparable form: the
blog, forum, wiki, social bookmarking and more.
The differences between a team and a community can be encapsulated in a simple
Types of collaboration
Team collaboration Community collaboration
Mechanical Organic
Central control model Decentralized model
Standardized Self-organizing
Management Autonomy
Direct communications Platform communications
Synchronous Asynchronous
Procedures and workfows Stigmergy
Specialized functions Self-regulating application of knowledge
Fixed allocation of workers Extremely varying allocation of workers
Fixed team size Extremely varying community size
121 “2.0”
Of course, there has already been a great deal written about organiza-
tional structures. Celebrated organizational expert Henry Mintzberg has discussed
the coordination mechanisms and organizational units with which organizations
are constructed, ways in which work is allocated, coordinated and executed and the
manner in which the company is structured. Mintzberg uses the term bureaucracy
for an organizational form in which mechanisms, processes and functions are stand-
ardized and formalized. Bureaucratically structured companies have a predictable
performance and can be directly managed and changed. No matter how large or
complex the organization is, Mintzberg claims that it continues to need a coordina-
tion mechanism that he identifes as “mutual adjustment.” Tis term stands for a
more organic, self-regulating manner of working, and it is similar to what we are
proposing as the social side of an organization. An example of a large bureaucratic
organization that Mintzberg cites in his book Structure in Fives is nasa. During a
space fight guided by hundreds of specialists, the large number of unforeseen events
make it necessary to switch over to a more ad hoc manner of working, and the
standardization and formalization characteristic of a bureaucracy must be relin-
quished. Te example, though correct, is an unfortunate choice because it does not
sufciently demonstrate that large bureaucratic organizations need an organic side
not only during special “events” but on an ongoing basis. Teir crowd simply enters
the building every workday and, with or without explicit facilities, the social side is
an obvious fact, apparently because there is a certain need. Additionally, the exam-
ple ignores the fact that outside the unexpected situations cited by Mintzberg as
an argument, the crowd always possesses special talents. It always has the emergent
behavior that cannot be found in individuals.
In a certain sense, Mintzberg describes a template for various types of companies
and notes that several forms co-exist, particularly in large organizations. He also
identifes this as a “heterarchy.” What we propose and what this book is about
is that every company already possesses the properties and a platform for such
a “template,” a fxed element in every practical heterarchy. Mintzberg uses the
term organic loosely. Some people call the organic part a holocracy, by analogy
to a bureaucracy and in reference to a holistic view of organizations. Others use
the term sociocracy. We will satisfy ourselves by referring to the social/organic
122 from crowd to Community
side of an organization. Each company is a heterarchy with an incorporated
organic side.
The autonomy of Fairtlough
Another organization expert, Gerard Fairtlough, former ceo of Shell Chemicals
uk, includes a reference to the triarchy theory in his book. This theory suggests
that there are three ideal ways of doing things: hierarchy, heterarchy and respon-
sible autonomy. In this way, management gives workers some space and encour-
ages them to take responsibility for what they do. According to Fairtlough, the
three ways are always present side by side. He even gives an indication of the
most prevalent mix in different types of companies:
Style Example Hierarchy Heterarchy Autonomy
Bureaucracy Government 60% 10% 30%
Mechanical Factory 75% 25% Zero
Organic R&D 30% 50% 20%
Simple Small business 60% 40% Zero
Thomas Malone and democracy in your company
Finally, Thomas Malone, a professor at mit, extensively discusses the benefts of
decentralization in his visionary book The Future of Work, claiming that this
decentralization is mainly made possible by progress in (internet) technology.
For the frst time in history, Malone sees the possible benefts of combining “big-
ness” with the potential of “smallness.” He also views a new kind of business on
the rise, and the keywords that he applies to it are: self-organizing, self-managed,
empowered, emergent, democratic, participative, people-centered, swarming and
peer-to-peer. Not much different than how we describe “2.0.” He even intro-
duces an interesting “new” decentralized (organic) form or organization: democ-
racy. As implied by the word, the employees may vote on important decisions.
This is a form that has been successfully used on many social sites to ensure
quality, for example, and a form that may be quite appropriate to the talents of
123 “2.0”
large crowds. For example, think of the social voting system on the digg.comsocial
news site.
He also shows that there are gradations again, to which he refers as the decen-
tralization continuum:
← <— Centralized Decentralized —>←
Type of decision
Democracy Market
Example Traditional
frms, research
open source
Free market,
markets in
Of course, different organizational experts have different views, but they all come
to the conclusion that an organic component is more or less present and active
in almost every organization. Yin and Yang.
“2.0” is special because it is self-organizing. If properly implemented
and supported with appropriate resources, it is a paradigm that can be used for
processes that cannot be efectively performed in a bureaucracy in order to bring
about their efective performance (or at least more efective performance). By def-
inition, this can only happen if control is kept to a minimum and processes are
allowed to organize and stabilize themselves. If this proves impossible, the solution
is just wrong. Implementing control in social collaboration is to reconvert it into
functional collaboration.
Like in the case of ants, the activity must begin in relative chaos. In a company,
chaos is scary, but the urge to intervene must nevertheless be suppressed. Self-
organization only comes after chaos, or perhaps as a result of chaos.
124 from crowd to Community
A certain kind of interaction occurs between the functional and social
sides of a heterarchy. We have briefy noted that the functional organization has
already discovered social processes and that it ultimately has to be given a place on
the social platform. We shall provide more detail on this topic in a subsequent
chapter. Conversely, it is of course conceivable that processes beginning as social
and stigmergic activities can ultimately be better formalized by mechanizing them,
synchronizing collaboration and making communications more direct. Such a proc-
ess then becomes predictable.
125 “2.0”
126 from crowd to Community
127 2.0 in business
2.0 in business
In previous chapters, we talked loosely about the economic, social and
technological infuences that necessarily infuence your company, as well as about
the new ways of working that makes Web 2.0 into a justifed fad that is still the
rage. We discussed crowds, communities and what their strengths and idiosyncra-
sies are. We even provided a new paradigm for cooperation, “2.0” (the organic
model), and situated it in relation to the existing paradigm, which we retrospec-
tively labeled “1.0” (the mechanical model).
In each case, the carefully disguised but particularly compelling subliminal mes-
sage was that your company needs to change in order to continue to be success-
ful in a changing world. The mechanical model is exhausted, the organic model
is now building up steam. We frmly believe that introducing this model in or-
ganizations worldwide will represent a turning point in industrial development.
Businesses should be provided with platforms on which employees can work
together in a manner similar to the ways in which ants work together. By leaving
traces in their habitat, which is their platform, ants can accomplish the most
amazing task without leaders and without direct coordination. What a platform
for your organization should look like and how your organization can change
into a new kind of organization will be the subject of the second part of this
book. In anticipation of this discussion, we can now say that the basis of this
new organization will likely be a comprehensive collaboration platform com-
prised of social software, although the platform may also certainly have physical
forms. For instance, reconsider the habitat of the ants, but also think of our
128 from crowd to Community
daily commuter traffc. That too is a social collaboration platform. As participants
in vehicle traffc, a mass-collaboration can start by following and adapting the
signals in the traffc environment. Similarly, knowledge workers can engage in
mass-collaboration by following and adjusting the signals on the collaboration
platform. We will explain all of this in the second part of this book.
But there is still another issue to deal with. If we say that your com-
pany has to change because the world around us has changed, how are we able to
recognize what is going on? What are the symptoms of the resulting mismatch?
There are fundamental things that are going wrong:
• Free and unlimitedly scalable collaboration is impossible
Collaborating with customers is diffcult, as they refuse to comply with your
internal procedures. Teams have diffculty working together with other teams,
the rhythms are almost never synchronized; coordination is diffcult. Teams
can only have a limited size, and the same goes for departments. Large jobs
are disproportionately harder to control than small ones. The help desk teams
have diffculty connecting to the customer, or diffculty collaborating with the
underlying organization. The feld organization struggles to share its knowl-
edge with the rest of the organization. Companies have crm strategies com-
plemented by a fexible multi-channel approach, but have diffculty profting
from them. Once collaboration passes beyond the team border, things become
• The impossibility of change
It seems and proves to be the case that the larger a company gets, the slower
moving it becomes and the harder it is to adjust the whole. It is easy to see the
analogy to a super tanker that has to maneuver but only starts to responding
miles after the rudder has been turned. The fexibility of a school of fsh or
fock of starlings, which sometimes comprise hundreds of thousands of indi-
viduals without losing any dexterity, does not exist in large companies. Such
a school absorbs additional individuals very easy, while a company is very
diffcult to scale up.
• Working any place and at any time is proving diffcult
Despite all the technology being already available, it turns out that the new
129 2.0 in business
way of working has not really gotten off the ground. “Any place” is exceed-
ingly manageable, a fast mobile internet connection and a laptop with a web-
cam is all that is needed. “Any time” has proven more diffcult to handle be-
cause a fast internet connection and a laptop is worthless if you have to wait
for the work of a colleague who currently fnds the gym to be a lot more in-
teresting than his work. As long as established procedures and fxed allocation
of work means that an employee A is sequentially dependent on employee B,
the new way of working will not work.
• The end of conventional business process improvement (bpi)

Despite all the optimization efforts, despite the enormous amount of business
intelligence and benchmarks with which we make black-magic calculations in
order to produce new kpis, despite the constant updating of business rules, it
has proven impossible to arrange all the processes in an organization st that
everything operates at peak performance. Improving process A will often distort
process B and vice versa. The analogy with the large, confusedly monolithic
super application on which most programmers have all worked at one time or
another is easy to see. The resolution of a bug in module A leads to failure of
module B. If both the bugs in module A and B are addressed something goes
wrong in module C, and in this way programmers keep having to track down
bugs. It is not much different insofar as the improvement processes of large
organizations are concerned. These processes appear to have run their course.
• There is a great deal of hidden talent
Large companies are frighteningly incapable of accessing all the talent that
exists in their organizations. People are capable of doing much more than what
their job profle asks of them. Solutions to problems about which production
teams have to think about sometimes for weeks may simply involve ready
knowledge possessed by someone in the billing department, for example. A
revolutionary idea does not necessarily have to be pulled out of innovation
department’s hat, but might be devised by someone outside the team. The most
recent task might have been on time if the right people had climbed on board.
Additionally, employees often feel that their work is boring and would like to
do something else in the organization. The organization does not, however,
have any latitude for such interchange as an intellectual box literally dominates
thinking, the one constructed from job descriptions and standardized proc-
130 from crowd to Community
How can this be? What is wrong with corporations? How can a struc-
ture that once was so successful now be full of enormous errors? To understand
such issues, we will return to the 19th century to see the age and context in which
the corporate structure was created. Te structure was created at a time when work
was done very diferently than now. For many centuries, industry existed in small
forms and was focused on local markets. Products were made by craftsmen operat-
ing in small workshops—often at home—and were sold to customers in the neigh-
borhood. Apprentices learned it from their masters who they were serving and
assisting. Craftsmanship was regarded as mastery. Tese craftsmen were organized
into guilds. Efciency was not a topic of conversation, and quality was guaranteed
by the reputation of the master, regulation and inspection. Te industrial revolution
gave birth to “the factory” around 1900, which was managed according to guesswork
and the owner’s sense of how things should run. Frederick Taylor rightly saw that
this way of working could be improved. Taylor introduced what he called “scien-
tifc management.” In 1911, he published his Principles of Scientifc Management, a
publication that can seen as a turning point in industrial development. His ideas
have greatly altered society as a whole, not just the manufacturing sector. We have
already mentioned that Edward Bernays invented modern public relations, and
businesses have since learned how they can create false demand, ultimately result-
ing in our current, unsustainable and wasteful consumerism. Taylor is also the
person who helped change the world into what it is but, in his case, the benefts
may not have outweighed the detriments. He was one of the founders of what we
now call “machine bureaucracy.” Te formal, measurable way of working together
that we now normally use and perceive was, in fact, conceived by him. Examples of
formal and task-oriented organizations existed of course much earlier, the invinci-
ble armies of the Rome being one of them. Or consider how the Vatican and the
Templars exercised their infuence by means of a hierarchical system of rules and
procedures. However, the hierarchical control and continuous measurement and
adjustment of factories are generally ascribable to Taylor, especially the mathemat-
ical and scientifc basis for them.
According to Taylor, businesses work much better if the work is standardized.
Work should be carried out according to established procedures and by special-
131 2.0 in business
ized and uniformly trained “workers” with limited responsibilities. The word
stupid “drone” is not entirely inappropriate in this context because he saw work-
ers as such. Taylor would formalize, standardize and optimize everything “sci-
entifcally,” allocated the control of processes to managers and had employees
work according to fxed procedures, ultimately creating the familiar hierarchical
structure, in addition to the primary axis. When organization experts now speak
about the “machine bureaucracy,” they are they talking about Taylorism in its
purest form.
A familiar story about Taylor’s scientifc management concerns the development
of the best spade or shovel. Standardized processes such as those proposed by
Taylor can be systematically optimized, and Taylor explores the best possible
shovel size in a report entitled “The science of shoveling.” At the time, it was
customary for workers to bring along their own tools, and each worker evi-
dently had his own idea of the perfect shovel. In several studies, Taylor discovered
that, viewed statistically, workers could on average perform the most work with
a shovel that could move 10kg of material at a time. Because sand is heavier than
snow, snow shovels can therefore be larger than shovels for sand and, if gold
dust shovels existed, they would still be much smaller because gold is much
heavier than sand. In the case in question, the productivity of the workers went
up by as much as a factor of four. It is no exaggeration to say that Taylor is one
of the founders of what we now call “business process improvement.”
Later, when Henry Ford used the principles to organize his automotive plants,
Taylorism was defnitely common property in industry. The much more well-
known Fordism, the stereotype assembly-line factory set up is actually “just” an
offshoot of Taylorism.
Te world has not stood still since Taylor had his brain waves. Indus-
try has evolved, has renewed itself and productivity has soared. Te 20th century is
said to have provided a 50-fold improvement in productivity. Te basic features of
the Ford industrial model are however still clearly refected in modern business.
Tis not only involves factories or other efcient production facilities such as fast-
food restaurants, but unexpectedly ministries, banks, insurers and other knowledge-
processing organizations as well. So much has changed since Taylor wrote his book
132 from crowd to Community
and Ford built his factories that the model used and vision applied is now no
longer the best. Te end of bureaucracy as a dominant organizational model is in
sight. Te model was conceived for a very diferent kind of society and reached
maturity under very diferent circumstances.
At that time production mainly involved physical products like Henry Ford’s
cars. Many of the features of our current way of working can be reduced to the
physical nature of these products and their associated physical production fa-
cilities. Products were manufactured on an assembly line and therefore required
that the workers sit in fxed positions along the line at the same time each day
and carefully perform the same act repeatedly. For one reason or another, we
employed the manner of working that was so logical and effective with regard
to physical production for other types of work, namely knowledge work. Most
companies that we have constructed in this way without thinking are, in fact,
knowledge work factories and, with the emergence of the internet and modern
communications technology, this form of organization is becoming a complete
impediment. And the form is also unnecessary.
If we gave Edward Bernays, and his invention of “marketing” all the blame for
a world full of unnecessary, unsustainable but highly fashionable nonsense prod-
ucts, we can make Frederick Taylor and his invention of bureaucracy responsible
for all the traffc jams and the nine-to -fve workday. And as the need for a sus-
tainable society will make Bernays’ ideas undesirable, the fast, reliable and ubiq-
uitous internet will make Taylor’s ideas obsolete, at least in terms of knowledge
work. What works very well for physical plant and production does not function
so well for knowledge work. The ultimate expression of misplaced Taylorism are
well-known cubicle companies, intensive personnel husbandry.
133 2.0 in business
Intensive personnel husbandry, factory model applied to knowledge work
Knowledge work is the enrichment of information, for example the
supplementation of a license application with the information that will convert it
into a granted license. Or enriching a “request for proposal” (rfp) into an attractive
bid. Information does not have the limitations of physical materials for which
factories had been designed. Knowledge work concerns information, and informa-
tion can be easily and rapidly distributed on the modern internet and made avail-
able to workers around the world. To work with information we do not have to
travel to that information; we can easily make the information come to us. Te stack
of paper on our desk is instantly moved to the desktop of the laptop or tablet pc
134 from crowd to Community
and linked to almost any location on earth. We can therefore make factories vir-
tual. Te unquestioning use of synchronous communication and and machine-like
collaboration expires once worksites are virtualized. We no longer have to physi-
cally deliver updated fles to the next co-worker in the document production line.
Actually, we no longer need factories for knowledge work. Tere are now other ways
in which we may combine our individual eforts into a collective endeavor, much
smarter ways as we have seen in previous chapters.
At the beginning of this chapter, we gave some clear symptoms of an inappropri-
ate organizational model. The cause for each of these symptoms turns out to
have the same industrial basis: the misapplication of the bureaucracy (the machine
model of collaboration) as organizational forms. Although the problems seem
very diverse, they miraculously have the same common denominator:
Although a commumication mismatch always makes the collaboration of •
teams or organizations with their outside world diffcult to organize,, the world
inside the team or organization must be organized according to strict proce-
dures, with which the outside world cannot be forced to comply. Organizations
that work on the basis of standardized processes will always fnd it tricky to
collaborate with their customers and each other because the entire world can-
not be encapsulated in a single comprehensive procedure.
Each machine (such as a team but also the organization as a whole) is a com-
position to which parts cannot be easily added and which does not easily cope
with the organic nature of the outside world (as customers). Nor does it read-
ily interact with other machines (as other team or organization) because of
differences in rhythm.
The machine model prevents uninhibited collaboration.
The fact that our companies are infexible and hard to change is again a direct •
result of the extensive formalization and optimization.
Because the machine consists of such specifc and specialized parts, nothing
can be changed without completely shutting down, re-designing and reconfg-
The impossibility of the new way of working (any time, any place) in such a •
structure, is a direct consequence of standard workfows and their underlying
synchronicity and sequencing.
The machine model imposes a mutual sequentiality.
135 2.0 in business
The existence of underperforming processes in virtually every company despite •
all efforts at business process improvement indicates that some processes are
fundamentally misplaced. These processes do not probably ft into a bureau-
cratic organization.
The machine model is not the best for every type of job.
The presence of so much untapped talent in companies is a direct result of the •
standardization of processes and functions. An organization can do much more
than that which is codifed in standard processes, and a standard job profle
does not, by defnition, provide any account of the special talents and other
capabilities that an employee might possess.
The machine model only incorporates parts with predefned and fxed forms
and functions.
How astonishing is all this? The most substantial and fundamental problems
plaguing major companies are all the result of a single design decision: choosing
a bureaucratic or machine model of collaboration.
As we have seen in the previous chapter, the machine model has specifc proper-
ties with advantages and disadvantages. To eliminate the disadvantages while
retaining the advantages, we have constructed a complementary model based on
stigmergy for the purposes of our method and vision. Following the example of
ants. The part neglected by bureaucracy will only be activated if the existing
model is replaced by a new model that is at least as effective as the bureaucracy
while enriching it. This model is based on a collaboration platform: social soft-
ware. By transferring the purposeful, bureaucratic processes in your company to
such a platform will ultimately result in a better functioning company possessing
the features of both a factory and the Web 2.0
136 from crowd to Community
If all goes well, everything will now fall into place, all the unclear talk,
the new concepts and ideas, everything should now hit home! In seven points, the
ideas of a unique innovation department will extend to an entirely new model for
your organization:
The world around us has changed. •
Organizations are displaying increasingly more symptoms of maladjustment •
to this world
The machine model on which our organizations are based creates this malad- •
Web 2.0 has found a new way of working, based on stigmergy, the behavior •
of the ants.
By adopting this way of working together in organizations, we preserve the •
advantages of the existing machine model while eliminating the disadvan-
Stigmergy or social collaboration requires a platform in the form of social •
software, for example.
Step by step, we can now provide an organization with a social dimension by •
transferring appropriate functions to the appropriate social platform
A word of warning. Getting right down to business, we are a socially
committed team of people and we see both the positive and negative consequenc-
es of our fndings. In this respect, stigmergy, like any other technology, can be used
in various ways. A hammer can have both constructive or destructive purposes.
Nuclear technology can mean both the death and the salvation of mankind. Tech-
nology is neutral and has no opinion. Its use, of course, is another story.
We have extensively discussed bureaucracy the pros and cons of it. At the time
when Frederick Taylor was bringing industrial production to a higher level by
promoting a more scientifc approach, people were already warning about the
adverse civic and social consequences that such a development entailed. We have
now indeed come to regard this kind of approach as highly undesirable. One of
the biggest drawbacks to the rationalization of production is that non-productive
137 2.0 in business
but very basic human needs are lost. Simply because such needs are not or insuf-
fciently represented in the data used as a basis for rationalization. A man is not
a robot which you can monitor on the basis of indicators such as energy, capac-
ity per unit time and so on. A person is not a statistic according to which you
can expect performance based on averages and standard distributions. Work is
also not at all an objective. On a philosophical but no less real level, it may even
be argued that work is just a tool for or a means to a happy society. By looking
purely at the fgures, humanity is quickly forgotten, especially since modern sci-
ence restricts itself to a materialistic perspective. Modern science is based on
reductionism, materialism and determinism, ideas encapsulated in the well-known
metaphor of “the clockwork universe.” This is in sharp contrast to the man and
his psyche that is totally holistic in nature. Happiness cannot be objectively
measured, satisfaction cannot be calculated and susceptibility to various physical
and emotional discomfort is not conveyed by kpis.
In this respect, bureaucracy is vacuous. In many of the workshops that we have
given, it became apparent that many workers felt their jobs were monotonous
and stressful. It is not diffcult to see that work becomes boring if people are
beaten down into production units with limited job descriptions and continu-
ously repetitive patterns of work in which the same product is provided each
time. It is amazing how many people are able to carry on this activity, probably
“encouraged” in this endeavor by consumer debts and obligations. Taylor and
Bernays, there they are again.
138 from crowd to Community
Man is not a robot, familiar fgure of Fritz Kahn
It is no different with regard to the social tools presented in the second part of
this book (TeamPark, platform and method). The form of the social practices
that we have chosen as a basis for TeamPark is based on stigmergy: the manner
in which social insects, for example, manage to produce their impressive perform-
ances. This stigmergy is ideally suited for reducing people even more effectively
139 2.0 in business
to stupid drones. It is easy to think of a stigmergic mechanism by means of which
only the most primitive instinctive responses by workers are necessary in order
to accumulate a usable group performance. This is exactly what happens in the
case of social insects. Ants have a very restricted environment and respond only
to simple local stimuli with simple local reactions. Stigmergy, when properly
applied, can be used to get the fnal bit of slack out of the process. This can very
well also occur in the case of humans.
Ask yourself if that is what you want. Ask yourself whether you too are an em-
ployee with normal human needs and acknowledge that others also have such
needs. Or are you are just part of the emergent entity that aims to generate
maximum profts? A company is not just the sum of Taylor’s measurable factors,
it is a habitat for people in need of immeasurable things like trust, companion-
ship and security. As for the company as a whole, the ultimate goal is for the
employees as individuals to become less important, and this is controlled by a
force feld that is not subject to a scientifc approach.
Stigmergic collaboration and TeamPark concepts are fortunately very aptly suit-
ed to make work more human and more enjoyable. The can create an environ-
ment with greater diversity and variety, one that is more humane, less “optimized”
while still enhancing productivity. It is an especially appropriate way to address
the inhuman aspects of Taylorism and provide workable solutions. Important
considerations that you need before you begin to work with TeamPark concern
the type of social activities that you want to encourage and take advantage of.
Do you regard workers as ants or do you view them as independent, free, happy
people who have a private life in addition to work? Do you opt for an indus-
trial social order where people function like robots or do you wish to choose a
more sociable social atmosphere?
140 from crowd to Community
Close your eyes, concentrate for a moment and trace in your mind all the processes
that one randomly selected fle undergoes at your company. All the operations
involved until the fle is completed. Imagine how all the information products in
the company are transformed into fnished products in this way, converted step by
step from input to output by your employees. Do you have a little Charlie Chaplin-
like “Modern Times” image in your head? Are you visualizing in your mind a series
of virtual assembly lines? If your company displays any similarity to the common
denominator in this regard, your head is now flled with people working like ma-
chines, fxed work fows, established teams; in short, it is focused on the machine
Open your eyes! Wake up! Can it continue to operate in this manner any longer?
Now close your eyes again, sit up, open your palms facing up and bring your thumb
and forefnger together. Breathe out and make a “Hummm” sound. Indeed!
Now imagine a company where no one is permanently assigned to a specifc task,
a specifc expertise or whatever. Specifc training is being provided, but nothing
more. Imagine that people no longer have to drive to work in the morning, they
do not even have to begin working in the morning but simply whenever they like,
working at their preferred location, during personally selected intervals. A crowd
of people throughout the region, across the country, around the world. To go to
work, they log on the social platform and fnd a kind of market place there. Not
one for selling used refrigerators or iPods, but offering tasks and assignments.
Any work that is suitable for such means of distribution, that can be subdivided
into separate assignable relatively modular tasks and is put up for grabs on this
enterprise marketplace. The separate steps in all work fows can be executed in
such an environment by anyone assuming the responsibility for performing it. In
this market, work can be reserved, performed and delivered on a daily, weekly or
monthly basis. The platform ensures that all sub-tasks are associated with the
right main task and that everything can only occur in the proper sequence. The
platform manages a completely scalable collaboration in which no one needs to be
controlled, where direct communications are not necessary, not one where people
are not stuck in patterns and frameworks.
141 2.0 in business
The image of an organic moving swarm of bees at work in their hive or perhaps
ants crawling to work around their nest would be appropriately applied to this
The work, the production and revision of documents or knowledge, has obviously
to occur in a certain sequence. There is simply a certain intrinsic order of work
that must be followed. What is different is the lack of standard procedures and
fxed allocation of knowledge, functions and personnel. In cases where certain
tasks remain unflled and unperformed for too long, the platform can provide a
mechanism that can prioritize these task on the basis of incentives. The longer
such a task stays neglected, the higher its reward and value that is attached to it.
Tasks that are reserved for too long without being performed can even be revoked
and re-offered on the market.
The scenario is also likely scalable. Imagine that you do not have any regular em-
ployees, as they are no longer needed. Imagine a global pool of independent en-
trepreneurs who go the market place of their choosing every time that they wish
to earn money and look for work there. Although such visions are possible, it does
not have to be so black and white. You can retain the security of having a perma-
nent staff performing a fxed amount of work while allowing the remaining por-
tion to be performed by externals, thus providing better fexibility and a regular
source of fresh ideas. The two types of working together can be apportioned in
any desired ratio.
Don’t you see this as obvious? we certainly do!
142 from crowd to Community
143 Final word
Final word
May 15, 2009—Social software garners 197,000,000 hits on Google
and even more on Yahoo (492,000,000). You can therefore say that the subject of
this book is hot. A hype. Overhyped? Te answer is both yes and no of course. It
seems that, in our society, it is not possible to speak of innovation or any new de-
velopments in a qualifed manner, regardless if they involve it innovations or just
ordinary events. It’s all or nothing, breakthrough or fop, success or failure. Te world
only formulates a more considered view much later, when all the hype is gone.
Many things have happened while we were writing this book. We have given
presentations, organized workshops and conducted discussions with representa-
tives of the top 100 companies in the Netherlands. We have adapted TeamPark
in implementing it as a social platform in our own company. There has been a
great deal of discussion, sometimes becoming very heated. There have been times
when we wanted to stop and moments when we feel that we were riding the crest
of a wave, certain that we were mapping out new territory.
The book is actually far from fnished. There is much more to investigate and
explain. A great deal more practical testing must be undertaken. At the same
time, when at the end of a long project, you Google “social organization” and
fnd the following blog, you certainly catch your breath.
June 25, 2008—do enterprises have the patience to develop communities?
Communications, expectations, and business seem to move faster than ever
these days. With the constant buzz of the Blackberry, a continuous stream
of Tweets, and in incessant interruption of ims our attention spans have
dwindled even more. Our collective attention and patience is a dwindling
resource. Yet, community dynamics still require a long-term view. Commu-
nities—and I don’t mean fash mobs, groups of 10 people, or event attend-
ees because those are not communities—take time to develop and fourish.
Measuring communities based on quarterly earnings calendars is a bad way
to go but most businesses are focused on short term performance. We are
under such intense pressure to show results that we often abort efforts that
play out over longer periods.
144 from crowd to Community
This is precisely why I think many companies will fail. The benefts of robust
communities to a business are enormous and those tantalizing benefts will
lead many companies to try to adopt a community strategy. How do we
protect community efforts while they are in the maturation stage? How to
we measure maturing communities in such a way that we don’t set unach-
ievable expectations that then lead to executive disappointment? How do
we keep executives interested and engaged while communities are maturing
and not yet performing?
There are certainly ways to encourage faster community maturity. Creating
aggressive content strategies and adoption campaigns certainly helps. Hav-
ing a constituency that is already familiar with social media tools is also
helpful. Regardless of adoption and tool use robust communities require
community leaders (not just sponsors), rich interactions between members,
and a collective sense of the community as a whole. Those subtle character-
istics cannot be manufactured in any other way but to have the community
develop those traits organically over time.
Communities are one of the hardest types of organizations to launch, de-
velop, and sustain. Two years is a reasonable ramp period and growth comes
in fts and starts—etrics have to change over time too.)
Take a deep breath! Two years is a long time to stop working in order to build
and maintain communities before you might have a chance of getting anything
out of it.
Nevertheless, we strongly felt that we needed to fnish the frst book at this point,
and the feeling that now persists is one of satisfaction. No, it will not be easy.
No, it will not immediately be only benefcial. But we are frmly convinced that
the emergence of social software will in a few years be viewed as a clearly dis-
tinguishing moment. A point in time when a transition to a new way of working
together was created. The history of work will be divided into a time before
social software and the time after social software. Some developments cannot
simply be held at bay.
145 Final word
Especially when, at the last moment, it becomes possible to include the following
message showing that we also have the political wind in our sails;)
Plea for social innovation in industry report (fragment)
In the Industry Report from the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs,
Minister van der Hoeven not only draws attention to the need for technologi-
cal innovation but also the need for social innovation. See citation below:
‘Social Innovation’
To enable the process of innovation to reach its full potential will require
an innovative environment in which there is plenty of investment in people
and organization; in short, social innovation. Social innovation involves the
renewal of the work organization and the maximized use of employee skills
in order to improve (business) performance and the development of talent.
This calls for innovations in management, organization and employment in
companies, organizations and institutions. Making the best use of (poten-
tial) labor capital through fexible organization, dynamic management and
smarter work practices will increase the productivity of work ……
The existence of this book is mainly due to the tireless efforts of Patrick Savalle,
whose constant stream of texts and seemingly inexhaustible knowledge of this
feld laid the foundation for TeamPark. Together with Arnd Brugman and Wim
Hofand, the other members of Innovation & Inspiration, a great deal of pleasur-
able work has been devoted to the development of the fnal product since 2008.
The above represents a source of inspiration and a starting point. We hope that
our stories and examples will inspire you to take action. We therefore urge you
to go on and read Part 2 of this book: TeamPark—Platform and Methodology.
81 (Bron: persbericht ministerie van ez en “Industrie een wereld van oplossingen. Industriebrief
2008” pag. 27, zie

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