Getting Communal With Books

It’s always hard to explain to people why sharing stuff online is so powerful. For one thing it’s getting easier, with del.icio.us etc. But the real power is in being able to harness the wisdom of others in finding stuff. Simply put, it’s the online equivalent of asking among your most knowledgeable acquaintances for helping in finding things — from a good barber to a good book, a good CD to a good funeral home. Anyone who has read The Tipping Point will know the importance of mavens (or was it connectors?) so it’s not rocket science that this is an amazing use of the Internet’s leverage. Why some people remain hostile to it baffles me.

Anyway, here’s another great communal sharing thing, written up well by Jim Regan: Do your own LibraryThing | csmonitor.com:

Book clubs and English classes notwithstanding, reading tends to be a predominantly solitary pastime, and truth be told, not many of us have ever considered listing the contents of our ‘personal libraries’ for either our own or anybody else’s entertainment. But the Internet keeps finding new ways of changing our habits, and LibraryThing appears poised to turn the cataloging of books into a form of communal recreation.

Definitely worth a read.

News: Six Degrees Reborn

 I think Friendster is probably a more dynamic version of this experiment, but it’s interesting anyway. Duncan J. Watts, author and Associate Professor of Sociology at Columbia, has launched an experiment to update the 1967 findings of social psychologist Stanley Milgram who coined the phrase ‘six degrees of separation’ by testing the hypothesis that members of any large social network would be connected to each other through short chains of intermediate acquaintances.
 
 
The test is basically to give folk a package and ask them to pass it onto someone who could deliver it by hand to the addressee. They then hand it onto someone they know who may be more likely to know that person, or someone who knows that person, etc etc. As Watts points out, Milgram’s experiment was flawed, and didn’t really prove the hypothesis. So it could be interesting. Sign up if you want to participate.
 
My tupennies worth: As Malcom Gladwell’s excellent “The Tipping Point” points out not all people are equal. Some folk know no-one (me) and some know everybody (my friends Grainne and Ditta) so in my case I’d just give the package to them.