The World As We Know It Is No More
Chapter 6 through the end of Wikinomics continues to discuss all the ways that people are collaborating to make the world a better and more efficient place.
One of the main points that the author wishes to convey is that businesses are thriving by bringing in external talent. IBM is one such company, which uses Linux software instead of making their own operating system. Companies are now able to work with other entities for less cost to develop equally valuable if not better products. Utilizing contractors versus permanent employees is also proving to be beneficial for companies not only because of outside expertise, but also because an employee with that skill set may not be needed on a long-term basis. Companies are also relying more often on the public to contribute and provide insight, sometimes offering bonuses or rewards, but often these individuals are most pleased with knowing they played a role in the company’s development. In order to receive assistance, a certain amount of company information must be divulged, so companies must know when to keep certain information internal; after all, if businesses gave away all their secrets, there would be no competition.
Outside of business, collaboration is being used by the masses to not for profit, but to help society. After Hurricane Katrina, a group of individuals came together to create central database compiling the information scattered throughout various Web sites in order to help victims locate their loved ones. What I found ironic is that citizens were able to self-organize and create a database before the state or Federal government. It seems that Louisiana should have been able to develop a similar database before a few citizens who were concerned about the diffusion of information. I suppose there is no need to point fingers. Instead I am grateful that technology has enabled people to work just as effectively if not more than our government, which exhibits democracy at its best.
Wikinomics ties in to The Long Tail in the chapter entitled “The New Alexandrians,” which discusses how our society is working to bring information to one place, like the Library of Alexandria, the one place is, of course, the Internet. The Long Tail explains how with this plethora of information, comes increased variety, which continues to shift how our civilization operates. Previously, products were always forced to compete for limited shelf space or air time, but the Internet does not limit either, forcing less popular products out of sight. The variety of products allows people to find more specific products that appeal to them versus the products that were once distributed to appeal to the masses. These small divisions are termed niche groups. Examples of online suppliers include Amazon and eBay, which sell tons of goods that would be considered too insignificant economically to carry in actual stores.
Variety extends past the Internet to theaters, supermarkets, and other stores. This variety lead to stores that follow “Wal-Mart model,” which are stores that carry many items for a low price. Stores such as these are great when it comes to saving money, but I suspect that we may have started the ball rolling that will slowly eliminate “mom and pop” stores to be replaced by WalMart. Of course small stores will exist, but judging by The Long Tail, they may only exist online.
The increased variety of movies and music has also drastically increased thanks to so many tools that allow almost anyone to create their own music and home videos. Songs and videos that are created by the professional are also hit hard by variety. Songs that are hits now would not have even made the list a few decades ago because people are listening to various genres and subgenres that seem to develop almost everyday. Also a factor of the lack of hits is the increase of piracy among citizens. Before albums are released, they are often available through various online sites, which definitely hurts record sales. Lawmakers are now actually working to make piracy a Federal crime.
Collaboration and variety are shaping our future society. As future leaders, we must adopt these trends and learn the best ways to make them work for our businesses.