Clay Shirky is the author of “Here Comes Everybody”.
He delivered an inspirational keynote on what social media means for the non-profit sector at the April 2009 Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Francisco.
Here are the videos I took from my seat in the front row, using a Flip HD camera - the sound quality is poor, but audible.
Check out Chad Norman's great post "15 Clay Shirky Quotes That Blew My Mind at NTC". Here are some of my notes from the keynote:
- 5-word synopsis of his book - “Group Action Just Got Easier."
- EXAMPLE: Dr. Who Page on Wikipedia. Data shows most active person contributed almost 1000 times. Most others contributed 1 time. Inside every large collaborative effort is a small collaborative effort. Small group of people in there doing the hard work of taking the much larger inputs and turning it into something useful. Trying to find the most knowledgeable person on a particular issue – Wikipedia’s power is in its ability to convene a large enough group so that the most knowledgeable people/person on a particular issue show up.
- We are living in the middle of the biggest expansion of
1. Rise of printing press, movable type, ink
2. Teletype, telephone
3. Moving image - movies
4. Television, radio
5. Internet- subsuming all other media
- EXAMPLE: John Fitch Steam Boat conceptual drawings. Fitch initally built on what he knew but discovered that new technology required creating something new. We are experiencing a changing institutional environment – we need a new set of principles – need to change. We are in the long process of iterating what this means for our organizations.
John Fitch initial steamboat concept,
with canoe-type paddles wasn't the right model for the task.
EXAMPLE: Flash mobs. Started out with random pillow fighting - crazy people. But evolved into using media not just for information, but for coordination. See Andy Carvin's May 2006 post "Belarus, Flash Mobs and the Ice Cream Revolution". These participants brought their cameras. They wanted these pictures. They wanted to take photos to upload to servers as soon as possible – nothing says dictatorship like arresting people eating ice cream. It only took 3 years for flash mob to go from mocking participants to become real world social tool. Figuring out how to use these tools is a big part of what we have before us now. These tools are not socially interesting until they become technologically boring.
- EXAMPLE: Obama campaign organization – the most effective example of a model that said we’re going to set out to adopt an organization from the outside. Obama model of change wasn’t just a political slogan – radically different. First platform candidate. When you understood what Obama was up to, you turned around and relayed that to someone else. Will.i.am "Yes We Can" video was created outside the campaign. The Obama campaign leveraged the convening power of the internet. Horror show - Sing for Change - having children repeat words that adults put in mouth. Republican backlash. Took down from internet. Yeah, right (this "FULL" version is actually remixed version by anti-Obama folks). Famous video response: PyongYang remix. Made a horrendous mistake – but nobody blamed the Obama campaign. 20th century rules using 21st century media. Rules need to change. The fact is they can talk to each other without you and your input.
- Most important message – the loss of control you fear is already in the past. Go after the value this environment makes possible. (Whoohoo! NTEN Applause)
- First Linux, Wikipedia messages were humble messages (this is something I'm working on, I'd like your input). A commitment to fail informatively. Two key lessons for institutions:
- Failure. Impact of failure. Orgs spend a lot of time trying to lower likelihood of failure. We’ve now spent more energy trying to figure out if something is a good idea rather than trying it out and seeing. Internet Lowers cost of failure but only way to take advantage of that is to fail like crazy and make sure people can tell the diffearence between what’s working and what’s not. Find person in institution who will transform org – come up with 10 medium ideas and 20 small ideas. Don’t do just 1 big thing.
- Scale. Start with a system that is small and good and make it bigger. Rather than start with a system that is one bad idea and make it better. And do just a handful, not 100 things. Nobody gets to a working paddle steamboat in one big step.
Added May 11, 2009: Check out Shelley Hamilton's great notes from the keynote -