Today I watched Clay Shirky presenting at TED (via their excellent podcasts). Clay outlines a number of challenges to the way that we imagine people’s motivation. He explodes the premise that we all love to be “couch potatoes” and highlight a number of examples that demonstrate that as he says:
We like to create and like to share
People don’t just contribute when there is payment at the end, they contribute when they are creating, and with the currently available technology the opportunities for creating are becoming ever broader.
This effect creates a global surplus of cognitive ability of “a trillion hours a year”. There’s a lot you can do with a trillion hours of creativity if only we treat it in the right way. he calls this Cognitive Surplus.
Not only is this concept a huge challenge to the way we approach social projects, but it’s also a challenge to the way we approach business projects.
My perception of many business projects is that they are constructed with the assumption that people won’t want the change, and hence a stick is required to get them to change. If people truly do" “like to create and like to share” then engaging people in a creative constructing way in the change process will turn them from blockers to enablers. It might even get them to invest some of their own cognitive surplus.
The latest example of this, for me, is the location tagging of a Glastonbury picture that is underway. Thousands of people are tagging themselves in a picture taken at Glastonbury. The reward for this is little more than the feeling that you have been part of something. They’re all using their cognitive surplus to create a shared experience.
Coming to think of it – why is it that I write this blog?
I have identities all over the Internet, and internally; blog, flickr, linkedin, facebook, etc. each one of them have some form of a personal profile where I get to talk about who I am and what I do.
There are lots of very clever people working on the problem of how I get to these things without having to authenticate everywhere. But I want more than that, I want to be able to have a single place where I have my profile information.
Why should I need to tell each of these systems the same information? If I change my job it should be updated within the relevant systems.
The emerging identity federation model probably has a lot to tell us in this area. People started from the premise that identities should be stored in one place and every other system should trust that one place. This didn’t work, because there wasn’t trust between all of the systems. The same will be true for profiles. I don’t want everyone to see all of the profile, I only want the people to see the parts of my profile that are relevant to the access that they have and the system that they are using.
Technologies like Facebook Connect go someway towards resolving this problem, but I’m not sure that they have really learnt the lessons from the identity people.
I want to be in control of what goes where, but I don’t want to have to maintain the same stuff everywhere.
I’m sure that I’m not alone in thinking that this is a problem, and as the famous quote goes: “"The future is already here – it’s just unevenly distributed." – William Gibson. So I’m also sure that I have missed some form of amazing development in this area that has the potential to make my winging sound like the ramblings of an idiot.
Anyone else think that this is a problem we need to get resolved?