flip flip flip Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle Learn More Shop now Shop now Learn more Learn more Download now Browse your favorite restaurants Shop now Shop now

TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 30 December 2015
Charles Leadbeater book, is – as you would expect from him – an interesting and thoughtful study. It clearly and persuasively lays out how “an unparalleled wave of online creativity” is upon us, with collaborative efforts such as Wikipedia providing information for free and in a way that would have been previously unthinkable.

Underlying it though is an assumption which features on the book’s cover: “The generation growing up with the web will not be content to remain spectators. They want to be players.” The extent to which this is true matters in particular for those seeking to use the internet for politics, for in the political arena online collaborative generation of content is relatively rare. Is this because those in politics just don’t get user-generated content, Web 2.0 and the whole modern way of doing things? Or is it because they understand the limitations of such approaches – and that only very few people want to stop being a spectator?

To Leadbeater’s credit, he himself provides evidence which undermines the breathless excitement of the book cover. For example, as of January 2006 less than 50,000 people worldwide had made even just five or more edits to Wikipedia. That is a tiny proportion of Wikipedia’s visitors, with the vast majority happy to remain as spectators, consuming the work of others. It’s a large enough number to provide an impressive collection of information – but that is far from saying we’re all moving away from being spectators.

This asymmetry appears again and again in his book. Another example: he received around 200 emails in response to his online drafts during the writing of the book. That’s a large enough number to add significantly to the quality of the final version, but is still a tiny number of the total readers a best selling author like himself can get to. Moreover, in this and other cases, it is far from clear that we could all cope with a scaling up of collaboration on a scale sufficient to make the number of collaborators more than a tiny proportion of the audience. 200 emails would be great, 2,000 challenging and 200,000 a nightmare.

What is the lesson from this for politics? It is that an openness to user-generated content, collaboration and making producing content more like a conversation is really about making what you produce better; it isn’t about involving the public on a significant scale in a paradigm-shifting manner.

Think back to Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign for example. It certainly featured massive successful use of the internet, but that was in aid of getting out his chosen message, his chosen policies and to his chosen strategy. They may have been better informed and selected due to dialogue and feedback, but policies, messages and strategy were not written collaboratively, wiki-style.

Political use of such approaches also has another hurdle: politics has a strong adversarial streak. Voting, after all, is about choosing who to vote for – and who not to vote for. That means political online collaboration and the like is in practice far more vulnerable to online vandalism, negative comments, votes to bury content and so on than most other areas of discussion. There are tools which make handling this problem easier, but the existence of this underlying dynamic is one reason why politics is, to a degree, different.

Involving the public more in politics would certainly be a good thing; it’s just the Web 2.0 world of collaborative and user-generated content isn’t a primary means to do so. Wikipedia gives huge power over the public’s consumption of information to 50,000 people. That may be better than it being only in the hands of a small number of publishers, but it is still a fundamentally elitist structure.

A bigger elite people can opt to join is a nicer, cuddlier one, but still an elite. Part of the reason for that is that, as Leadbetter points out, “communities that share and develop ideas usually start around someone who donates their knowledge.” In other words, the usually start around someone who has something that others do not – and that core role and power is not a position anyone has been elected to. Hence my use of the word ‘elite’.

We see this with open source software projects, where the most successful almost always have a small elite core of people making key decisions and driving the project forward. Linux is many good things, but it is not a democratically created or formed piece of software. Linus Torvalds really has the role of benevolent dictator. And that doesn’t make him or the Linux process a great role-model for how our politics should operate.
|0Comment|Report abuse
on 5 July 2017
|0Comment|Report abuse
on 16 October 2008
From the very start, re-labelling 'Collaboration' with 'WeThink' is actually annoying. After 200 odd pages of hearing 'We Think' can do this and that, becomes downright offensive. 'We Think' is mentioned probably a hundred times, and WILL drive you mad.
This book is one step above rubbish. It repeats age old examples of well known successes, and tries to convince the reader that it has been rebadged and improved. And by rebadging an old idea, means you can call everything We Think.

So, my honest opinion is that you should not pay for this book. Sure, if a friend gives you a copy, then read it.. You can then laugh at them for paying for it (speaking from experience!)
9 people found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
on 8 June 2008
Charlie Leadbeater has written a very well researched and approachable introduction to collaboration and creativity. His illustrations of how successful enterprises can be built by harnessing the "Pro-Am" (the amateur who is as skilled as a professional) are sources of hope. He is undoubtedly right but he has also missed a couple of good points. The first is that in science and engineering like Moore's Law (in respect of computer power) and Sod's law ( in respect of things in general) there is Stigler's Law of Inventions: "No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer." No modern scientific or engineering discovery can be laid at the door of one person - the reality is that multiple entirely independent individuals come up with the same thing at the same time. From the lightbulb to the telephone this has always been shown to be true. This is where "We-Think" can gain its power since, thanks to the Internet entirely independent individuals can collaborate to innovate and invent at warp speed

The second point which Charlie misses (or, to be fair, probably choose not to mention since I believe he is is fully aware of the issue) is the inability of the legal system to protect inventions and technologies developed through collaboration. Brainstorming solutions to problems is overrated - it is easy to brainstorm but it is hard to execute the ideas that have come from the brainstorm. "We-Think" collaboration suggests a mechanism to do just that - but the business models to protect the collaborative effort do not yet exist. (I have some possible solutions but a review of this book is not the place to discuss them.)

All in all a fascinating and thought provoking read - hence the five stars.
10 people found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
on 21 August 2008
I really enjoyed this book - it's far less bombastic than WikiNomics and raises a number of important 'calming factors' surrounding the areas of collaborative technology. In essence he says it's important, and will be dramatically important for a small number of fields and industries, and less important but still influential in more. However, the book makes a number of fairly bizarre points based on what I feel is a misunderstanding of some of the concepts covered. The biggest example of this is the three-four page treatment he does on World of Wacraft in which he talks about in terms of mass collaboration on content development - in this respect, he may be getting it confused with Second Life, but the argument he makes in favour of this interpretation is entirely in the context of WoW. I feel this is a poorly considered argument for one reason - there is nothing new in Warcraft that hasn't been in all social gaming. They're all about collaborating to have fun, but they do not involve content generation. Warcraft is a large scale content-consumption platform, but it's not a content generator.

On the other hand, there is a thriving 'cottage industry' of add-on development which does involve considerable collaboration, but that's not the argument he makes.

On the whole though, a strong book that would make a good introduction to anyone wondering what all this wiki/collaboration stuff was about and why it mattered.
3 people found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
on 29 September 2010
Along with a slew of other catchy titled books looking into the future of the web and society, Charles Leadbeater beats you over head with the same idea, the same story, over and over again. You kind of get the feeling the author is desperate to get his newly discovered theory adopted into the realms of 'the long tail', 'tipping point' or 'freakonomics'.
This book would have been better off as an 8 page article in Wired than a 200 page book.
The examples of 'successful we-think's were always going to be out of date, irrelvant and non-existant by the time the printing presses ran.
One person found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
on 1 June 2008
A lot of factual books acknowledge the input of others but then let it be known that the work is in the end totally the author's responsibility. Here the author admits to strong input from outsiders having let it be edited under a wiki format on the web. In the end I don't think you hear Charles Leadbeater's heart or soul in this book but a lot of pussy footing around the subject having tried to accomodate multiple viewpoints.

Contrast Benkler's Wealth of Network's which although available as a wiki the hard copy delivers Benkler's authorship.

Interesting book in the nonetheless in a Cluetrain sort of way!
10 people found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
on 31 August 2008
This book is not a good example of 'collaboration' as it never really gets the reader engaged. The authors ramblings tend to bore and towards the end I just skipped sections when I sensed a 'ramble' coming on. Also on page 155 I can't see how 150 Terrabytes of storage = Billions of Laptops - more like a few hundred and the 'Replicator' was a Star trek piece of kit - not Star Wars... You'd be better off reading Wikinomics as some of the stories mentioned in this book are in Wikinomics and much better described with more depth and useful facts. Avoid!
10 people found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
on 22 March 2010
I can see where the author is going, but he seems afraid to really drill into the issues and state his case with conviction. Either that or he has the attention span of a...... ooooh look - a shiny thing!
One person found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
on 28 February 2008
This is a fantastic book. Let me say I'm a sceptic when it comes to the web: okay, I buy from amazon but I think second life is really dull and I only signed up 3 friends on facebook before I got bored. So when I was given this I thought it would just wind me up. It did the opposite. It explains what `open source' actually means, why it goes way beyond the geeks who support linux or play tedious computer games and could affect us all. It suggest answers to those obvious questions like `if everyone is sharing all their knowledge how is anyone going to make a living?' Charles is also really encouraging about the impact of the new technology on the developing world - I always thought the divide between the `information rich' and `information poor' was just going to widen. And the book is optimistic!!! Read it. It inspires.
16 people found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse