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, written by Jeremy. Read the commentary.

While I’m busy fooling around with book lists, Dave Pollard’s dropping gems. He’s not only framed-up my initial idea but already started putting on the drywall. I guess that’s what you get for sharing ideas with bright guys.

I wasn’t going to write about it here, you know — manage the brand, rah-rah. But since it’s out there, might as well get busy.

Like Dave said, I was thinking about how to make blogging sustainable and how to leverage it’s potential. I mean attempting to focus all the brilliance of the blogging elite and their audiences on some really interesting questions. There’s a huge potential that’s largely untouched.

I know these words (sustainable, leveraging, productivity) scream capitalistic subversion. That’s not the intention. These sinister sounding words help describe what seems to be a very interesting opportunity to do great things.

We (humanity) face some fairly majestic problems and most bloggers (while being very funny or caustically critical) aren’t broaching solutions. They’re busy (and I’m right there too) ladling out great dollops of individual wisdom but these ideas are short-lived and lots of the value gets forgotten. I think we could do better.

So, now that Dave’s thrown it out there: What do you think? Between him and these guys the ball’s already in play. Might as well get the game started.

Commentary

Here’s a comment I added on Dave’s blog:

I want to jump in too. I was excited (and surprised) to see this rolling and hope I don’t get left behind.

I think Dave’s right that this idea needs more direction, but I still think “debate” is the right context. The deliberate consideration this involves is important. But I think Chris Corrigan has much to say on framing the environment for such conversations.

I agree that people need to have a stake in it. That’s why I started out with cash in mind. But again, I agree with Dave who said (in email, not here) that on topics sufficiently engaging and with writers carefully chosen, the reputation aspect might be sufficient.

See, the fulcrum is this: You invite (that’s key) bloggers to write on issues they are passionate about (this is key too). In this way you engage both the writer and the writer’s audience on issues they’ve already self-identified with. All the drivers of passion, pretige, open-conversation — they still live in this setting.

I like the questions Chris and Dave are asking. They’re key. A few more to add include: Who cares? How do we use the information or ideas generated from this conversation? Who translates the ideas into applications? I think these are the kickers and this is the underlying reason I was thinking along these lines.

We face two challenges: First, getting people to pay attention and focus on something. Second, using the products of their focus. I think that’s where we’re falling down hardest as bloggers. We pump out great things all the time, but who’s using it to make a difference? The threat of the echo chamber that Dave mentioned is significant.

Dave’s biggest concern on debates seems to be the exclusive nature of that format and the competitive context. He leans toward James Surowiecki’s Wisdom of Crowds instead. I haven’t read Surowiecki’s book but Kathy Sierra just summarised a talk she heard him give. She says she had (and Dave has) his perspective (mostly) wrong.

Surowiecki says more interactions among humans equals dumber behavior. When we come together and interact as a group seeking consensus, we lose sophistication and intelligence.

His book’s premise (wisdom of crowds) comes with qualifiers. The wisdom of crowds comes not from the consensus decision of the group, but from the aggregation of the ideas/thoughts/decisions of each individual in the group (key here: aggregation — challenge #2 above).

At its simplest form, it means that if you take a bunch of people and ask them (as individuals) to answer a question, the average of each of those individual answers will likely be better than if the group works together to come up with a single answer. Kathy’s favorite Surowiecki line: “Paradoxically, the best way for a group to be smart is for each person in it to think and act as independently as possible.”

This is why I support the debate format. Debate asks us to think as individuals — group hugs don’t.