Here Comes Everybody

I have a confession to make.

Most of Web 2.0 leaves me cold. All this hype about Wikipedia, social networking solutions that will magically sustain themselves and revolutionize the world (Facebook, I'm looking at you) is generally just so much marketing bullshit, frankly.

So I tend to yawn a bit about books that yammer on about harnessing social power. But after reading the Ars Technica interview with author Clay Shirky as part of a review of Here Comes Everybody, I had to revise my opinion.

Possibly this interview is more interesting than the book, I don't know. But his idea of a Coasean floor is fascinating:

[The] Coasean floor [is the point where] a set of group activities [would] create some value but it isn't worth forming an institution to create ...

Flickr photo streams are a perfect example of something that's beneath the Coasean floor. The costs of being an institution are too high to make [photo sharing on obscure topic X] worth pursuing that way. But if you can get people to do it for themselves, you can create that value anyway. And that value, the value that's under the Coasean floor, is I think one of the really big surprises of the current era, which is: now we've got places where we don't need institutions, necessarily, to take on large or complicated tasks.

Great concept. Incidentally, this also explains the origin of a lot of Knowledge Management activities. Now that the collaboration of arbitrary groups doesn't require time-coordinated meetings or even face-to-face contacts, businesses can unlock value from informal collaboration environments that make no financial sense using a traditional group structure.