April 24, 2013

"[I]f Reddit is actually interested in using the power of its crowd to help the authorities, it needs to dramatically rethink its approach..."

"... because the process it used to try to find the bombers wasn’t actually tapping the wisdom of crowds at all—at least not as I would define that wisdom. For a crowd to be smart, the people in it need to be not only diverse in their perspectives but also, relatively speaking, independent of each other. In other words, you need people to be thinking for themselves, rather than following the lead of those around them.... The problem from Reddit’s perspective, of course, is that this method of sleuthing would be far less exciting for users, and would probably generate less traffic, than its current free-for-all approach."

14 comments:

Methadras said...

Crowd sourcing is like herding cats. It's the idea that somewhere in the crowd that enough people will see the patterns you want them to see, the idea you want them to have, or that something rises from the muck of thought to have some meaning or relevance. There is no consideration for who is in that crowd or what you think you know about them or what you want them to think they should know about what you want them too. It's a brute force approach when you just need the right people positioned in the right places. The glaring truth is that law enforcement dropped the ball and went to a trendy fashion of using a mass of people to help them with their problem to ferret through information rather than using what they were trained to do themselves.

They in effect, tacitly admitted that they weren't up to the task of doing their job and we aren't any better for it. If you were creeped out by the shutdown of Boston, then you know what marshal law looks like now. When you make places like facebook or reddit your resource for information, what does that say about you?

tim maguire said...

As I heard the story, the Reddit crowd ultimately identified the right guy. Is that not true?

The fact that there were blind alleys and false leads along the way is an uavoidable part of the process, not evidence the process doesn't work. Or am I mistaken that police leads don't always pan out either?

Christopher said...

From PaidContent.org: Three things that Reddit did right during the Boston bombings and why that matters

SteveR said...

When it comes to getting to the truth of things this Reddit outfit could learn a thing or two from Twitter

Mitchell the Bat said...

The point of the “find-the-bombers” subthread, after all, wasn’t just to find the bombers—it was also to connect and talk with others, and to feel like you were part of a virtual community.

The point of reading The New Yorker, apparently, is to feel like you're smarter than the people who run Reddit.

mccullough said...

Has the Reddit community solved the JFK assasination yet?

Tibore said...

The problem is that people too loosely define crowdsourcing. When it's done right, there's a semblance of common mission, goals, and order, possibly even a small amount of leadership. It's mostly self guided, but it's not random, chaotic, or spontaneous. The Amish building a barn is a sort of loose example of "crowdsourcing"; so's everyone pitching in meals and support to a family member or neighbor who's experienced tragedy.

What Reddit did wasn't crowdsourcing. It was crowd panicing. It was putting a mob mentality into play. It was basically just a few steps short of lynch mobbing.

When the individuals in a crowd are able to think rationally, clearly, and work with others calmly, then crowdsourcing can succeed. But without that, you see nothing more than mob behavior.

People need to stop thinking of crowdsourcing as being nothing more than a crowd acting for one common cause. Riots do the same thing, yet no one calls that crowdsourcing.

Marshal said...

tim maguire said...
As I heard the story, the Reddit crowd ultimately identified the right guy. Is that not true?


This is not true. However the hyperventilating by the left is misplaced because Redditors believed themselves to be identifying people the authorities should interview, not pronouncing judgement.

Oso Negro said...

I knew that you would get around to this story eventually, Professor.

EMD said...

I was actively reading that particular Reddit thread. I did not comment, and I am not a registered user of Reddit.

Here's the kicker: At one time, that thread had 9000 readers.

How many people were watching CNN?

The idea that Reddit propagated a "witch hunt" overlooks the fact that nearly every other post was a caution against such a thing. A large majority of the communications were civil in nature, and were sincere in their intentions to identify any interactions or people THAT LOOKED SUSPICIOUS OR INTERESTING BASED UPON INFORMATION AUTHORITIES HAD RELEASED TO THE PUBLIC.

And as for the missing Brown student, how many MORE people know now about his situation, and can be on the lookout for him?

That does not absolve some Reddit participants of making assumptions and jumping the gun.

It was speculation, which is what 'real' news organizations do all the time, but draw much less ire overall.

I'm not even a Reddit fan. Heck, I haven't been back since the bombings. There were rich discussions about breaking news and the overall timeline, and there was also the assumption that nearly everything should be taken with a grain of salt.

bagoh20 said...

I still found it very exciting.

People are taking this particular case which has some firsts to it and assuming that whatever happened here is some kind of reliable pattern. Basically extrapolating a single data point. That's dumb.

The Reddit thing could have found the guys immediately, and the lockdown could have lasted days and been unsustainable. This one incident tells us very little about what is good procedure and what isn't, except that giving your little brother the keys is a bad idea.

ken in sc said...

I don't know what reddit did that got everyone so upset. I saw pictures of the two brothers on a reddit link several days before they showed up anywhere else. They were the real thing.

Oso Negro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Oso Negro said...

I'll tell you what Reddit did wrong. They allowed for open speculation based on incomplete information in a nearly instantaneous manner as the event unfolded. This challenges the existing model of speculation based on incomplete information by the established news channels, blogs and less interactive websites. It impairs the ability of the professionals to shape the narrative and inform opinions. It's the future, and it's scary to some people.