What I Know Is

Changes Everything? Not sure about that.
Changes Everything? Not sure about that.

What I Know Is this book took me almost a year to finish but in actual days, I only spent a week or so reading it. Wikinomics by Don Tapscot and Anthony Williams was published in 2006 more or less as a study of this new emerging business model that surrounds most of Google’s free products, social tools like Facebook and Twitter as well as other more business-oriented networks where mass collaboration is used to produce products, free or commercial.

The book definitely isn’t an easy read and after reading the first half of the book I got pretty sick of the fact that the authors were merely packaging the case studies into different categories of models and repeating their theory of how mass collaboration is going to change the way goods are produced all around the world. That explains the gap of so many months before I picked the book up a week ago and continued from where I left it. The case studies were mostly fascinating, like the story of Goldcorp Mining and InnoCentive but others seem to be overly used, like for the case of Second Life and that makes the author seem like they’re overhyping the phenomenon.

As the Wikipedia entry for the book quoted from Harvard Business Review, “like its title, the book’s prose can fall into breathless hype.” Indeed, the hype over mass collaboration seems a little overwhelming and when one is more of the skeptic the book becomes quite a disaster, especially when the book was first published in 2006 and 3 years on, you don’t quite see how the subtitle ‘How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything’ manifest itself in the real world at all. Yes I know mass collaboration did help people and changed things but then it wasn’t that breathtaking and mostly, life just went on as usual. Perhaps more important was the fact that this Subprime Financial Crisis seemed to be the working of a ‘mass collaboration’ of stupid people. In other words, Tapscott and Williams thought nothing of the risk of Groupthink in mass collaboration.

The prose is rather academic, starting with their ‘hypothesis’, which is the subtitle of the book somewhat and then the authors goes on to show how mass collaboration is being played out in different sectors, industries, different markets and such. To be fair, Wikinomics is a business sort of book, it focuses on the methods to harness the benefits of mass collaboration, possibly the mechanics of motivation that drives this phenomenon and discuss the success of these various means. It’s the business sort of academic compared to what I generally prefer, the intellectual sort of academic. I believe students of A Levels would be way more intrigued by Wisdom of the Crowds by James Surowiecki, which I gladly finished almost a year ago.

The book discusses Coase’s Law, which is basically an explanation of why firms expand to organize transactions within the firms. The Nobel Laureate for Economics in 2009, Oliver Willamson got his prize through his study and refinement of this theorem by Ronald Coase.

Wikinomics is definitely a book for business students and businessmen interested in working on projects that involves profiting from mass collaborations and setting up of networks. It is likely that some projects are more adapted to mass collaboration than others and some products will forever be provided by traditional manufacturing or services.

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