The Crowds are Watching – and Helping

September 9, 2008 at 12:08 pm Leave a comment

I’m working on a few presentations these days and so any examples of the power of crowds and social media get me charged up like so much Starbucks Viviano with espresso (new drug of choice).

I just started reading Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. It opens with “It Takes a Village to Find a Phone” a riveting, action packed sequence which involves a stolen Sidekick and the attempts to get it back. Briefly, a woman lost her phone in a New York City cab and when she got a new one and had the phone company transfer her information over she also got some interesting images transfered as well: pictures of the new “owner” (Sasha)… When she and a friend contacted Sasha to request the phone back they were met by insults and threats. But a website and the crowds turned the tables – and led to the return of the phone and Sasha’s arrest…

I always take great interest in the power of crowds. The ease of connecting and collaborating is one of the great beauties of the internet. With this power comes the swarm factor which can be both thrilling and debilitating. While hoped up on caffeine, though, I’ll just focus on the good:

Here are some amazing examples of the power of crowds.

Criminals Beware:

  • After a car was stolen from Heritage Auto Sales, the owner posted on an auto enthusiast site its community became a “cyber dragnet”, tracking the thief, car and cornering him…
  • Stealing the Workspace computers was but his first mistake. One of the (alleged) thieves managed to “expose” himself in the worst way possible – by uploading his picture onto the stolen computer’s Flickr account… His mistake worked its way from the victim’s blog and the Flickr stream to other people’s blogs. When it got Dugg the thief’s picture got more views than a Paris Hilton video (OK, slight exaggeration there). (Note: Digg was also instrumental in the example of the Sidekick described in Shirky’s book). The man (one assumes feeling trapped) eventually turned himself in.

Cupid, move over:

  • “You lovely blond woman, sitting across from me on subway Wednesday morning 8am. I smiled, you smiled back. Would love to see you again. Coffee?” How many times has something like this sequence been a part of a film or an I Saw You-type ad. Ah, love… it gets the swarm’s hearts a fluttering… One man decided to take action after seeing the “Girl of His Dreams” on a New York City subway. He set up www.nygirlofmydreams.com to find her – and with the help of the crowds, he did! (Of course even the power of crowds can’t make chemistry happen, but alas…)

Have an examples of the power of crowds that get you excited (or instill terror)?

Do tell.

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