Monday, February 04, 2008

Here Comes Everybody

The comedian (& now chat show host) Craig Ferguson used to do this joke in his stand up act in the late 80s:

"People are trying to stop terrorism by searching people for guns when they go to the airport. This is completely wrong. They should have a big box of guns and as you go on everyone should be given their own gun. So then if a terrorist stands up during the flight and says 'take this plane to Tehran' EVERYONE else would just stand up and say 'F*** OFF - we're going to Majorca!'"

I was reminded of this while reading the new book Here Comes Everybody - The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky, which the nice people at Penguin sent me as an uncorrected proof copy.

In this book Shirky explains the way that people have been able to organise thanks to new technology. Technology did not create the desire to organise, it just made it much easier. In this they are harnessing the natural human desire to be helpful. The mass of collective action working in cooperation can change society.

For me the best chapters focus on Wikipedia and the open source movement behind Linus and Perl, and offer a really good explanation of why this works, when all logic would suggest that it would not. He also highlights the creative benefits from mass collaboration, particularly when the collaborators come from diverse backgrounds.

This is a very hopeful, inspiring and very readable book, and I'd urge you to get a copy when it is published in late February.

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