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Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations [Format Kindle]

Clay Shirky
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Extrait

New Leverage for Old Behaviors

Human beings are social creatures—not occasionally or by accident but always. Sociability is one of our lives as both cause and effect. Society is not just the product of its individual members; it is also the product of its constituent groups. The aggregate relations among individuals and groups, among individuals within groups, and among groups forms a network of astonishing complexity. We have always relied on group effort for survival; even before the invention of agriculture, hunting and gathering required coordinate work and division of labor. You can see an echo of our talent for sociability in the language we have for groups; like a real-world version of the mythical seventeen Eskimo words for snow, we use incredibly rich language in describing human association. We can make refined distinctions between a corporation and a congregation, a clique and a club, a crowd and a cabal. We readily understand the difference between transitive labels like "my wife's friend's son" and "my son's friend's wife, " and this relational subtlety permeates our lives. Our social nature even shows up in a negation. One of the most severe punishments that can be meted out to a prisoner is solitary confinement; even in a social environment as harsh and attenuated as prison, complete removal from human contract is harsher still.

Our social life is literally primal, in the sense that chimpanzees and gorillas, our closest relatives among the primates, are also social. (Indeed, among people who design software for group use, human social instincts are sometimes jokingly referred to as the monkey mind.) But humans go further than any of our primate cousins: our groups are larger, more complex, more ordered, and longer lived, and critically, they extend beyond family ties to include categories like friends, neighbors, colleagues, and sometimes even strangers. Our social abilities are also accompanied by high individual intelligence. Even cults, the high-water mark of surrender of individuality to a group, can't hold a candle to a beehive in terms of absolute social integration; this makes us different from creatures whose sociability is more enveloping than ours.

This combination of personal smarts and social intuition makes us the undisputed champions of the animal kingdom in flexibility of collective membership. We act in concert everywhere, from simple tasks like organizing a birthday party 9itself a surprisingly complicated task) to running an organization with thousands or even millions of members. This skill allows groups to tackle tasks that are bigger, more complex, more dispersed, and of longer duration than any person could tackle alone. Building an airplane or a cathedral, performing a symphony or heart surgery, raising a barn or razing a fortress, all require the distribution, specialization, and coordination of many tasks among many individuals, sometimes unfolding over years or decades and sometimes spanning continents.

We are so natively good at group effort that we often factor groups out of our thinking about the world. Many jobs that we regard as the province of a single mind actually require a crowd. Michelangelo had assistants paint part of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Thomas Edison, who had over a thousand patents in his name, managed a staff or two dozen. Even writing a book, a famously solitary pursuit, involves the work of editors, publishers, and designers; getting this particular book into your hands involved additional coordination among printers, warehouse managers, truck drivers, and a host of others in the network between me and you. Even if we exclude groups that are just labels for shared characteristics (tall people, redheads), almost everyone belongs to multiple groups based on family, friends, work, religious affiliation, on and on. The centrality of group effort to human life means that anything that changes the way groups function will have profound ramifications for everything from commerce and government to media and religion.

One obvious lesson is that new technology enables new kinds of group-forming. The tools Evan Guttman availed himself of were quite simple—the phone itself, e-mail, a webpage, a discussion forum—but without them the phone would have stayed lost. Every step of the way he was able to escape the usual limitations of private life and to avail himself of capabilities from various professional classes to the general public is epochal, built on what the publisher Tim O'Reilly calls 'an architecture of participation."

When we change the way we communicate, we change society. The tools that a society uses to create and maintain itself are as central to human life as a hive is to bee life. Though the hive is not part of any individual bee, it is part of the colony, both shaped by and shaping the lives of its inhabitants. The hive is a social device, a piece of bee information technology that provides a platform, literally, for the communication and coordination that keeps the colony or from their shared, co-created environment. So it is with human networks; bee hives, we make mobile phones.

But mere tools aren't enough. The tools are simply a way of channeling existing motivation. Evan was driven, resourceful, and unfortunately for Sasha, very angry. Had he presented his mission in completely self-interested terms ("Help my friend save 4300!") or in unattainably general ones ("Let's fight theft everywhere!"), the tools he chose wouldn't have mattered. What he did was to work out a message framed in big enough terms to inspire interest, yet achievable enough to inspire confidence. (This sweet spot is what Eric Raymond, the theorist of open source software, calls "a plausible promise.") Without a plausible promise, all the technology in the world would be nothing more than all the technology in the world.

As we saw in the saga of the lost Sidekick, getting the free and ready participation of a large, distributed group with a variety of skills—detective work, legal advice, insider information from the police to the army—has gone from impossible to simple. There are many small reasons for this, both technological and social, but they all add up to one big change; forming groups has gotten a lot easier. To put it in economic terms, the costs incurred by creating a new group or joining an existing one have fallen in recent years, and not just by a little bit. They have collapsed. ("Cost" here is used in the economist's sense of anything expended—money, but also time, effort, or attention.) One of the few uncontentious tenets of economics is that people respond to incentives. If you give them more of a reason to do something, they will do more of it, and if you make it easier to do more of something they are already inclined to do, they will also do more of it.

Why do the economics matter, though? In theory, since humans have a gift for mutually beneficial cooperation, we should be able to assemble as needed to take on tasks too big for one person. If this were true, anything that required shared effort—whether policing, road construction, or garbage collection—would simply arise out of the motivations of the individual members. In practice, the difficulties of coordination prevent that from happening. (Why this is so is the subject of the next chapter.)

But there are large groups. Microsoft, the U.S. Army, and the catholic Church are all huge, functioning institutions. The difference between an ad hoc group and a company like Microsoft is management. Rather than waiting for a group to self-assemble to create software, Microsoft manages the labor of its employees. The employees trade freedom for a paycheck, and Microsoft takes the cost of directing and monitoring their output. In addition to the payroll, it pays for everything from communicating between senior management and the workers (one of the raisons d'etre for middle management) to staffing the human resources department to buying desks and chairs. Why does Microsoft, or indeed any institution, tolerate these costs?

They tolerate them because they have to; the alternative is institutional collapse. If you want to organize the work of even dozens of individuals, you have to manage them. As organizations grow into the hundreds or thousands, you also have to manage the managers, and eventually to manage the managers' managers. Simply to exist at that size, an organization has to take on the costs of all that management. Organizations have many ways to offset those costs—Microsoft uses revenues, the army uses taxes, the church uses donations—but they cannot avoid them. In a way, every institution lives in a kind of contradiction: it exists to take advantage of group effort, but some of its resources are drained away by directing that effort. Call this the institutional dilemma—because an institution expends resources to manage resources, there is a gap between what those institutions are capable of in theory and in practice, and the larger the institution, the greater those costs.

Here's where our native talent for group action meets our new tools. Tools that provide simple ways of creating groups lead to new groups, lots of new groups, and not just more groups but more kinds of groups. We've already seen this effect in the tools that Evan used—a webpage for communicating with the world, instant messages and e-mails by the thousands among his readers, and the phone itself, increasingly capable of sending messages and pictures to groups of people, not just to a single recipient (the historical pattern of phone use).

If we're so good at social life and shared effort, what advantages are these tools creating? A revolution in human affairs is a pretty grandiose thing to attribute to a ragtag bunch of tools like email and mobile phones. E-mail is nice, but how big a deal can it be in the grand scheme of things? The answer is, "Not such a big deal, considered by itself." The trick is not to consider it by itself. All the technologies we see in the story of Ivanna's phone, the phones and computers, the e-mail and instant messages, and the web pages, are manifestations of a more fundamental shift. We now have communications tools that are flexible enough to match our social capabilities, and we are witnessing the rise of new ways of coordinating action that take advantage of that change. These communications tools have been given many names, all variations on a theme: "social software," "social media," "social computing," and so on. Though there are some distinctions between these labels, the core idea is the same: we are living in the middle of a remarkable increase in our ability to share, to cooperate with one another, and to take collective action, all outside the framework of traditional institutions and organizations. Though many of these social tools were first adopted by computer scientists and workers in high-tech industries, they have spread beyond academic and corporate settings. The effects are going to be far more widespread and momentous than just recovering lost phones.

By making it easier for groups to self-assemble and for individuals to contribute to group effort without requiring formal management (and its attendant overhead), these tools have radically altered the old limits on the size, sophistication, and scope of unsupervised effort (the limits that created the institutional dilemma in the first place). They haven't removed them entirely—issues of complexity still loom large, as we will see—but the new tools enable alternate strategies for keeping that complexity under control. And as we would expect, when desire is high and costs have collapsed, the number of such groups is skyrocketing, and the kinds of effects they are having on the world are spreading.

The Tectonic Shift

For most of modern life, our strong talents and desires for group effort have been filtered through relatively rigid institutional structures because of the complexity of managing groups. We haven't had all the groups we've wanted, we've simply had all the groups we could afford. The old limits of what unmanaged and unpaid groups can do are no longer in operation; the difficulties that kept self-assembled groups from working together are shrinking, meaning that the number and kinds of things groups can get done without financial motivation or managerial oversight are growing. The current change, in one sentence, is this: most of the barriers to group action have collapsed, and without those barriers, we are free to explore new ways of gathering together and getting things done.

George W.S. Trow, writing about the social effects of television in Within the Context of No Context, described a world of simultaneous continuity and discontinuity:

Everyone knows, or ought to know, that there has happened under us a Tectonic Plate Shift […;] the political parties still have the same names; we still have a CBS, and NBC, and a New York Times; but we are not the same nation that had those things before.

Something similar is happening today, with newer tools. Most of the institutions we had last year we will have next year. In the past the hold of those institutions on public life was irreplaceable, in part because there was no alternative to managing large-scale effort. Now that there is competition to traditional institutional forms for getting things done, those institutions will continue to exist, but their purchase on modern life will weaken as novel alternatives for group action arise.

This is not to say that corporations and governments are going to wither away. Though some of the early utopianism around new communications tools suggested that we were heading into some sort of post-hierarchical paradise, that's not what's happening now, and it's not what's going to happen. None of the absolute advantages of institutions like businesses or schools or governments have disappeared. Instead, what has happened is that most of the relative advantages of those institutions have disappeared—relative, that is, to the direct effort of the people they represent. We can see signs of this in many places: the music industry, for one, is still reeling from the discovery that the reproduction and distribution of music, previously a valuable service, is now something their customers can do for themselves. The Belarusian government is trying to figure out how to keep its young people from generating spontaneous political protests. The catholic Church is facing its first prolonged challenge from self-organized lay groups in its history. But these stories and countless others aren't just about something happening to particular business or governments or religions. They are also about something happening to the world.

Group action gives human society its particular character, and anything that changes the way groups get things done will affect society as a whole. This change will not be limited to any particular set of institutions or functions. For any given organization, the important questions are 'When will the change happen?" and "What will change?" The only two answers we can rule out are never, and nothing. The ways in which any given institution will find its situation transformed will vary, but the various local changes are manifestations of a single deep source: newly capable groups are assembling, and they are working without the managerial imperative and outside the previous strictures that bounded their effectiveness. These changes will transform the world everywhere groups of people come together to accomplish something, which is to say everywhere.

From Publishers Weekly

Blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 accoutrements are revolutionizing the social order, a development that's cause for more excitement than alarm, argues interactive telecommunications professor Shirky. He contextualizes the digital networking age with philosophical, sociological, economic and statistical theories and points to its major successes and failures. Grassroots activism stands among the winners—Belarus's flash mobs, for example, blog their way to unprecedented antiauthoritarian demonstrations. Likewise, user/contributor-managed Wikipedia raises the bar for production efficiency by throwing traditional corporate hierarchy out the window. Print journalism falters as publishing methods are transformed through the Web. Shirky is at his best deconstructing Web failures like Wikitorial, the Los Angeles Times's attempt to facilitate group op-ed writing. Readers will appreciate the Gladwellesque lucidity of his assessments on what makes or breaks group efforts online: Every story in this book relies on the successful fusion of a plausible promise, an effective tool, and an acceptable bargain with the users. The sum of Shirky's incisive exploration, like the Web itself, is greater than its parts. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Everybody should read it 9 avril 2011
Format:Broché
Unless you've been living under a rock over the past few years, you would have noticed an explosion in ways that people interact, collaborate and exchange information online. We are probably undergoing the greatest technological shift since the advent of e-mail, and it'd probably hard to grasp all the ramifications that profound new change is heralding. Every year now, or sometimes every month, several new information terms and products enter our collective consciousness, terms like blog, Twitter, Digg, Facebook, MySpace, collaborative filtering, crowdsourcing, online social networking, and many, many others. It becomes harder and harder to keep track of what each one of them means, little less of how to use it or whether to use it at all. Many of them may just be passing fads, but it is hard to deny that put together they are part of some larger trend. However, it may not be so obvious what this trend is all about and one often can't see the forest from all the trees. From that point, Clay Shirky's book "Here Comes Everybody" can be best understood as a field guide that will take you on a guided tour of this new forest and explain its immediate implications for how we live our lives, work or play. It is a very well written book, written in an easy-going journalistic style. It brings forth many real-life stories and case analyses that help with explaining these recent trends. The book is informative without being bogged down in technical jargon. It is also a very gripping read, and once one starts reading it is hard to put down. I would recommend it to everyone who is interested in getting a big picture of where we are headed in terms of collaborative technologies.
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4.0 étoiles sur 5 La collaboration à un coût quasi-nul 7 avril 2015
Par Tillier
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Clay Shirky est un journaliste américain spécialiste des nouvelles technologies.

Le sous-titre "the power of organizing without organizations" résume le livre : comprendre le fonctionnement de nos organisations, puis comment les nouvelles technologies bousculent ces organisations, avec quels effets ? Le bilan reste positif vu de l'auteur, même s'il cite les "pertes" (emplois, conventions sociales et utilisation à des fins mafieuses et terroristes).

La conclusion à retenir :
1. ce qui compte n'est pas combien de personnes je connais, mais combien de genres (diversité vs. nombre) ;
2. les systèmes ouverts fonctionnent admirablement bien car ils diminuent le coût de l'échec, et permettent d'intégrer les contributions de ceux qui n'apportent qu'une idée (l'expression "failure for free" est admirable est prend tout son sens!) ;
3. il faut faire tomber les obstacles à la coopération, aller contre les idées reçues.

J'ai beaucoup apprécié la capacité de l'auteur à relier des fondamentaux sur le fonctionnement des organisations à des phénomènes nouveaux et émergents. A recommander !
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4.0 étoiles sur 5 very good 31 décembre 2012
Par kateloui
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
things you know they are there, but never really found the way to focus on them.
very useful and eye opening
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271 internautes sur 308 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Do we really need another bit of tech-prognostication? 30 avril 2008
Par Stephen R. Laniel - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
If you read enough, you just have to be wary of "Here Comes Everybody" and its ilk. If you're the sort of person thinking of reading Shirky's book, you've probably also read Larry Lessig (Code), Yochai Benkler (The Wealth of Networks, not to mention essays like "Coase's Penguin"), Shapiro and Varian (Information Rules), maybe Weinberger (Everything is Miscellaneous), and on and on. You've used the Wikipedia. You may well use Linux. You've learned about "the wisdom of the crowds" (Surowiecki). You've got "the long tail" in there somewhere too.

What does Shirky add to this cacaphony? He adds one important special case of all of the above: the Internet lets us form groups effortlessly. Now we can work together on projects that we wouldn't have known about otherwise. We can find other people for fun in the real (non-Internet) world. We can find people with remarkably obscure interests matching our own. Previously these would have taken far too much time and effort. And the payoff is far too low for any company to be interested in connecting, say, lovers of ancient Chinese art. What the Internet has given us is a set of tools that allow us to create and find these groups.

This comes with its downsides. For instance, at the same time that it becomes easier for me to find blogs devoted to 18th-century ship-in-a-bottle designs, it becomes easier for you to find backwoods militias. The example Shirky gives here is a web bulletin board devoted to encouraging anorexia among its teen members. (This was the only part of the book that actually horrified me.) In the real world, these sorts of groups succumb to social pressure and go into hiding. The web makes it possible for them to find one another; they are no longer alone.

Shirky only gives the briefest treatment of these groups, and seems generally in favor of them for the same reason that people favor free speech: it protects the speech we hate as well as the speech we support. I would have liked deeper coverage here. In a lot of senses, the Internet is making us reconsider the foundations of democracy: now we're face to face with the consequences of truly free speech; what do we do about it, if anything? Do we still stand by the free-speech absolutism that we clung to when it was more or less hypothetical? Shirky doesn't really touch on this.

He's quite often a techno-idealist, which is a stance he assumes professionally. As a technologist, he's convinced that the spread of cheap communications technologies will allow protesters to connect and topple ruling elites; he uses protests within Belarus as an example. He doesn't really follow this up with counterexamples: Great Firewall Of China, anyone? More to the point: politics will exist even after text messages amongst flashmobs are a faint memory. I'd have liked this book better had Shirky cowritten it with a political scientist.

Had Shirky dug into this a little more, the whole tone of his book would have changed. Had he scaled out his historical perspective, he might not be as optimistic either. I've been reading about the revolutionary potential of technology at least since I started using PGP; it was supposed to have been used by freedom fighters in the jungles of Burma. This strain continued through O'Reilly's publication of its collection of essays on P2P. Within there were essays on, say, FreeNet, which was explicitly designed to create a censorship-proof peer-to-peer network. Only the occasional voice was brave enough to ask whether FreeNet would even be permitted within a repressive regime. If Shirky were interested in convincing me that technology might topple existing power structures, he'd go ask how those freedom-fighters are doing.

Shirky's is a valuable point of view, but it's a point of view that I've heard too many times. Nowadays, it's more courageous -- and ultimately, I think, more helpful to the world -- to write a book disagreeing with Shirky ("Google and the Myth of Universal Knowledge," say, or "The Cult of the Amateur") than it is to write Here Comes Everybody.
142 internautes sur 160 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Five for Synthesis & Explanation 2 mars 2008
Par Robert David STEELE Vivas - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
I was modestly disappointed to see so few references to pioneers I recognize, including Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly, Joe Trippi, and so on. Howard Rheingold and Yochai Benkler get single references. Seeing Stewart Brand's recommendation persuaded me I don't know the author well enough, and should err on the side of his being a genuine original.

Certainly the book reads well, and for someone like me who reads a great deal, I found myself recognizing thoughts explored by others, but also impressed by the synthesis and the clarity.

A few of my fly-leaf notes:

+ New technologies enable new kinds of groups to form.

+ "Message" is key, what Eric Raymond calls "plausible promise."

+ Can now harness "free and ready participation in a large distributed group with a variety of skills."

+ Cost-benefit of large "unsupervised" endeavors is off the charts.

+ From sharing to cooperation to collective action

+ Collective action requires shared vision

+ Literacy led to mass amatuerism, and I have note to myself, the cell phone can lead to mass on demand education "one cell call at a time"

+ Transactions costs dramatically lowered.

+ Revolution happens when it cannot be contained by status quo institutions

+ Good account of Wikipedia

+ Light discussion of social capital, Yochai Bnekler does it much better

+ Value of mass diversity

+ Implications of Linux for capitalism

+ Excellent account of how Perl beat out C++

Bottom line in this book: "Open Source teaches us that the communal can be at least as durable as the commercial.

Other books I recommend:
Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, & the Economic World
Tools for Thought: The History and Future of Mind-Expanding Technology
The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier
Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised : Democracy, the Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything
Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration
Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming
Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace

There is of course also a broad literature on complexity, collapse, resilience, diversity, integral consciousness and so on.
31 internautes sur 34 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Good Primer for the newbie, Non-Geek and the Seasoned Social Media Pros 11 mars 2008
Par Kare Anderson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
In this book, Shirky describes three levels of group activities, made possible by social media:

1. Sharing with others, using del.icio.us, Flickr, Slideshare and other social tools. After September 11th, a professor of Middle Eastern history starts writing a blog that became a resource for reporters covering the battles in Afghanistan and Iraq.

2. Collaboration, perhaps using Linux or Wikipedia. Kite makers find each other online and collaborate on the most radical improvement in kite design in decades. So are architects.

3. Collective action, where groups form to pursue a larger purpose and use social tools, ranging from google or Yahoo! groups to free online social networks such as Ning to share news and tips, recruit others, support each other and remain unified.

Writes Shirky, "... one of the things I most hope readers get out of it, is an excitement about how much experimentation is still possible, and how many new uses of our social tools are waiting to be invented." Similarly the Internet changed how outraged Catholics could rally for changes when pedophile priests went on trial. The organizing clout of the Internet did not come in time for one of my heroes, Gary Webb.

In a controversial move, Shirky describes why he thinks MoveOn has not succeeded in three ways that Obama has, using social media, beginning with his "wide pockets versus deep pockets" approach to securing many little donations rather than a few big donations. Another example, fighting against the airline industry's resistence setting standards for passengers stuck on the tarmac, some angry passengers recruited, "tens of thousands of people in a few weeks" to join the Coalition for an Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights.

Each example in his book includes three vital elements: a credible and clear promise, use of the right social media tool(s) and an attractive bargain for and with potential participants.

Writing in sharp contrast to Shirky's view of social media as a collective experience for "us", Lee Siegel, in Against the Machine, believes the Internet mainly serves "me" and often brings out the banal in "amateurs". He calls it, "the first social environment to serve the needs of the isolated, elevated, asocial individual."
32 internautes sur 37 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Terrific introduction to social technology 29 février 2008
Par Eric Nehrlich - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Wikipedia shouldn't exist. I mean, think about it - it's a knowledge resource put together by volunteers, many of whom contribute once and then leave. And yet, Wikipedia is working, with its quality improving every day. How did this happen?

Clay Shirky is a leading thinker on social technologies, and this book is his introduction to why social technologies like Wikipedia work. Each chapter has a well-chosen story to illustrate the technologies he's discussing, from the Stolen Sidekick page to Flickr's coverage of Coney Island's Mermaid Parade, and how they are being used, including Egyptian activists using Twitter to keep each other updated of their activities and confrontations with authority, or Belarussian protestors using LiveJournal to organize flash mobs.

Shirky's book is a terrific introduction to social technology, with an overview of both the social and the technological and how they are feeding on each other to form new combinations. I highly recommend it to anybody who has any interest in how new tools are giving us more power by multiplying the number of ways in which we can interact with each other.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Well-written and informative 5 avril 2008
Par Bernhard Groll - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Clay Shirky does a very good job documenting and explaining how new technological tools (e-mail, weblogs, wikis etc.) have, after becoming widely accessible, revolutionized how social groups can form, interact and achieve their goals.

He cites the usual suspects like e.g. Linux and Wikipedia as exceptional feats in free collaboration. But there are a lot of other interesting stories about small and large groups with vastly different objectives in the book you have probably never heard of.

And more importantly, while he explains how these projects and the tools they use work (in a way geared toward non-techies), the book is really about why they work from a sociological point of view. It is delighting to notice all those communities and group projects that have come out of nowhere to, seemingly without organization, build something for themselves and others. But it is really enlightening to read Shirky's well-written explanation of the underlying principles.

The book is fun to read and, considering its topic's impact on society, should be of interest to just about everybody.
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