Social media makes us lazy

You’ve become lazy. You’re no longer smart. You’re a shadow of the clever person you really could be. Don’t feel bad – I am too. We all are. We used to be questioning; now we just ask questions.

Blame social media. Actually, don’t – blame social media and crowdsourcing. Penned by Jeff Howe in a 2006 Wired Magazine article, crowdsourcing does exactly what it says on the tin – allows us to source a crowd for an answer.

Want to know where the best steakhouse in Waco is? Ask Twitter. Need to find a kid-friendly bar for your next day out? Update your Facebook status. Want to find out if G.I. Joe blows? Start a conversation on Quora.

Useful? Yes. Informative? Yes. Necessary? Not always. Encourages laziness? Most definitely.

Whatever happened to good old-fashioned research? Taking the time to satisfy our curiosity by looking up information ourselves? Have we really got to the stage where we’re so dependent on others that we’re collectively wasting our intelligence?

At school, we’re given textbooks to help us learn what we need to know. We can also access libraries, Google (man how I wish I had that available when I was at school!) and numerous other resources. A world of knowledge is at our fingertips.

Yet increasingly we’re asking for others to use their fingertips instead. Who does this benefit?

Do we really learn more by asking someone else to find out something for us? Does our memory retain facts and information if it’s fed to us, or if we hold the spoon ourselves?

There’s no denying that crowdsourcing can offer a valuable and beneficial option for gathering information or opinions on any given topic. Yet just because something is there doesn’t mean it needs to always be used.

Instead of crowdsourcing your next question, try this:

  • Google it. There’s a reason why Google is the number one search engine – people use it to search for things. Try it – it’s fun.
  • Use an online encyclopedia. The website Encyclopedia.com gathers information from 49 encyclopedias and 73 dictionaries and thesauruses. There’s not a lot that won’t be there.
  • Try a relevant resource. If it’s a sports question, try a sports trivia site. If it’s an entertainment question, try an entertainment site. And so on…

Don’t get me wrong – I crowdsource just like anyone else does. But it’s usually for opinion as opposed to information, or for information that I’ve searched for and just can’t find anywhere (yes, even Google isn’t all-powerful).

Human beings are pretty clever by nature. Can we work on keeping it that way?

image: wstera2

150 comments
Jay Pinkert
Jay Pinkert

For me, crowdsourcing provides directional information at best. It's a useful starting point, but nearly always requires additional interpretation or refinement that cannot be achieved by posting a question or searching a term.

Take your example of the best steakhouse in Waco. Unless you include your definition of "best" (Is it taste? Value? Popularity? Funkiness? Organic-ness?), or you know/trust/share the tastes of the respondents, how reliable would the crowdsourced answer be? What if the plurality opinion came back as Outback Steakhouse, but you don't like chains.

Social media types tend to fetishize the "wisdom of crowds" without really questioning how useful it is, or how much additional work will be required to make it so.

In addition to enabling end user laziness, crowdsourcing has encouraged manufacturers to be lazy and deceptive. I know from personal experience that companies will match a feature their engineers had already designed into an upcoming release with a comment or suggestion found in an online community, then cite it as a crowdsourced innovation.

Finally, hasn't crowdsourcing become a hipster marketing hook akin to "artisanal." Zeitgeisty and "on trend," but not necessarily better -- or even as good.

Jay Pinkert
Jay Pinkert

For me, crowdsourcing provides directional information at best. It's a useful starting point, but nearly always requires additional interpretation or refinement that cannot be achieved by posting a question or searching a term. Take your example of the best steakhouse in Waco. Unless you include your definition of "best" (Is it taste? Value? Popularity? Funkiness? Organic-ness?), or you know/trust/share the tastes of the respondents, how reliable would the crowdsourced answer be? What if the plurality opinion came back as Outback Steakhouse, but you don't like chains. Social media types tend to fetishize the "wisdom of crowds" without really questioning how useful it is, or how much additional work will be required to make it so. In addition to enabling end user laziness, crowdsourcing has encouraged manufacturers to be lazy and deceptive. I know from personal experience that companies will match a feature their engineers had already designed into an upcoming release with a comment or suggestion found in an online community, then cite it as a crowdsourced innovation. Finally, hasn't crowdsourcing become a hipster marketing hook akin to "artisanal." Zeitgeisty and "on trend," but not necessarily better -- or even as good.

Tom Cornish
Tom Cornish

Let's not forget the serious business potential that comes from Crowdsourcing. Crowds can be composed of marketing professionals (for instance). Rather than asking where the best steak house in Waco is, you could ask if anyone can meet your marketing brief, design your website, or create a new advertising strategy.

What do you think?

www.blurGroup.com

Tom Cornish
Tom Cornish

Let's not forget the serious business potential that comes from Crowdsourcing. Crowds can be composed of marketing professionals (for instance). Rather than asking where the best steak house in Waco is, you could ask if anyone can meet your marketing brief, design your website, or create a new advertising strategy.

What do you think?

www.blurGroup.com

Tom Cornish
Tom Cornish

Let's not forget the serious business potential that comes from Crowdsourcing. Crowds can be composed of marketing professionals (for instance). Rather than asking where the best steak house in Waco is, you could ask if anyone can meet your marketing brief, design your website, or create a new advertising strategy. What do you think? www.blurGroup.com

adnes
adnes

Social Media is fun and exciting that's why everyone is into it right now. All information goes there, business alike. But it doesn't mean it can get lazy, its just an easy way of communication and other business venture. We humans try to build or experiment things that can easy the life that were living. It should be 50/50..cause life can be demanding at times.

adnes
adnes

Social Media is fun and exciting that's why everyone is into it right now. All information goes there, business alike. But it doesn't mean it can get lazy, its just an easy way of communication and other business venture. We humans try to build or experiment things that can easy the life that were living. It should be 50/50..cause life can be demanding at times.

Jamey Burrell
Jamey Burrell

Danny,

I think the laziness that you suggest as being caused by crowd sourcing is actually a symptom of a larger problem. I think there is a great pandemic of laziness rife throughout society and we may very well find ourselves 100 years down the line with a very efficient (with technological means), intelligent work force yet totally incapable of completing the simplest of tasks without deferring to someone else's opinion. But that is another story.

I think to crowd source matters of current opinion (ie restaurants, entertainment, perhaps traffic conditions) is perfectly fine, but the real problem arises when people begin adding a layer of credibility to opinions because they are published with a Twitter/Quora username or high Google ranking.

What is popular is not always true and what is true is not always popular. Just because it was mentioned on Oprah doesn't mean it's gospel fact.

In matters of importance (research oriented), we can't allow ourselves to be an ignorant mob and must hold fast to seek out truth and fact above opinion.

Thanks for bringing this issue to light. Always enjoy reading your posts.

Jamey Burrell
Jamey Burrell

Danny, I think the laziness that you suggest as being caused by crowd sourcing is actually a symptom of a larger problem. I think there is a great pandemic of laziness rife throughout society and we may very well find ourselves 100 years down the line with a very efficient (with technological means), intelligent work force yet totally incapable of completing the simplest of tasks without deferring to someone else's opinion. But that is another story. I think to crowd source matters of current opinion (ie restaurants, entertainment, perhaps traffic conditions) is perfectly fine, but the real problem arises when people begin adding a layer of credibility to opinions because they are published with a Twitter/Quora username or high Google ranking. What is popular is not always true and what is true is not always popular. Just because it was mentioned on Oprah doesn't mean it's gospel fact. In matters of importance (research oriented), we can't allow ourselves to be an ignorant mob and must hold fast to seek out truth and fact above opinion. Thanks for bringing this issue to light. Always enjoy reading your posts.

Jamey Burrell
Jamey Burrell

Danny,

I think the laziness that you suggest as being caused by crowd sourcing is actually a symptom of a larger problem. I think there is a great pandemic of laziness rife throughout society and we may very well find ourselves 100 years down the line with a very efficient (with technological means), intelligent work force yet totally incapable of completing the simplest of tasks without deferring to someone else's opinion. But that is another story.

I think to crowd source matters of current opinion (ie restaurants, entertainment, perhaps traffic conditions) is perfectly fine, but the real problem arises when people begin adding a layer of credibility to opinions because they are published with a Twitter/Quora username or high Google ranking.

What is popular is not always true and what is true is not always popular. Just because it was mentioned on Oprah doesn't mean it's gospel fact.

In matters of importance (research oriented), we can't allow ourselves to be an ignorant mob and must hold fast to seek out truth and fact above opinion.

Thanks for bringing this issue to light. Always enjoy reading your posts.

will novosedlik
will novosedlik

Obviously a topic for vibrant discussion! I think the volume and tone of responses is a reflection of your readers' instinctive reaction to the more sinister effects of not just crowdsourcing, but the social web and the web as a whole. It's the judgment of Thamus all over again - Thamus, the mythical Egyptian king who, when presented with the invention of writing, worried that those who relied on it would cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful. This myth has been recounted by social critics from Marshall McLuhan to Neil Postman, and most recently, Nicholas Carr, whose book 'The Shallows' makes a very convincing argument that we are outsourcing our memory to the internet, and losing our ability to research and analyze data by ourselves. Resonates with the 'we know less and less about more and more' comment. Good post Danny.

will novosedlik
will novosedlik

Obviously a topic for vibrant discussion! I think the volume and tone of responses is a reflection of your readers' instinctive reaction to the more sinister effects of not just crowdsourcing, but the social web and the web as a whole. It's the judgment of Thamus all over again - Thamus, the mythical Egyptian king who, when presented with the invention of writing, worried that those who relied on it would cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful. This myth has been recounted by social critics from Marshall McLuhan to Neil Postman, and most recently, Nicholas Carr, whose book 'The Shallows' makes a very convincing argument that we are outsourcing our memory to the internet, and losing our ability to research and analyze data by ourselves. Resonates with the 'we know less and less about more and more' comment. Good post Danny.

Jay Palter
Jay Palter

I agree. For me, the laziness factor is the point here.

When I have a question, I usually do my own research first. If Google doesn't present an answer quickly, it will certainly help me frame my question more precisely, more intelligently. And that's important to me. When I go out looking for a crowd-sourced answer or opinion, I want to look like I've at least done some of my homework. In my experience, people appreciate that you've at least checked out the low-hanging fruit first (i.e., the first few screens of Google search results).

Jay Palter
Jay Palter

I agree. For me, the laziness factor is the point here.

When I have a question, I usually do my own research first. If Google doesn't present an answer quickly, it will certainly help me frame my question more precisely, more intelligently. And that's important to me. When I go out looking for a crowd-sourced answer or opinion, I want to look like I've at least done some of my homework. In my experience, people appreciate that you've at least checked out the low-hanging fruit first (i.e., the first few screens of Google search results).

Jay Palter
Jay Palter

I agree. For me, the laziness factor is the point here. When I have a question, I usually do my own research first. If Google doesn't present an answer quickly, it will certainly help me frame my question more precisely, more intelligently. And that's important to me. When I go out looking for a crowd-sourced answer or opinion, I want to look like I've at least done some of my homework. In my experience, people appreciate that you've at least checked out the low-hanging fruit first (i.e., the first few screens of Google search results).

Kneale Mann
Kneale Mann

We are slowly becoming a generation of um, what was I saying? Oh yeah, forgot. Hang on, I know we look for something and take the first answer which is why search has become such big business. We like short pieces of information and lose interest, um, what was I saying?

Kneale Mann
Kneale Mann

We are slowly becoming a generation of um, what was I saying? Oh yeah, forgot. Hang on, I know we look for something and take the first answer which is why search has become such big business. We like short pieces of information and lose interest, um, what was I saying?

Chris Eh Young
Chris Eh Young

Crowdsourcing is most effective when you've built a community of people whose opinion you trust. I source many things to my community as I know the majority of their tastes.

I will Google most research that either has no opinion or contrasting opinion. I like the hard facts in order to make an informed decision for myself.

I have crowdsourced business names, domain choices, movies, restaurants, car rentals, hotels, books to read, logos, designs, and many other things to my social community.
I always get great responses, perhaps that's because i've built and invested in a great community in which to source from.

Chris Eh Young
Chris Eh Young

Crowdsourcing is most effective when you've built a community of people whose opinion you trust. I source many things to my community as I know the majority of their tastes. I will Google most research that either has no opinion or contrasting opinion. I like the hard facts in order to make an informed decision for myself. I have crowdsourced business names, domain choices, movies, restaurants, car rentals, hotels, books to read, logos, designs, and many other things to my social community. I always get great responses, perhaps that's because i've built and invested in a great community in which to source from.

Keith Davis
Keith Davis

Hi Danny
Quote I heard recently was...
"We know less and less about more and more."

Looks as though we are losing any depth to our knowledge, we learn the buzz words and sound knowledgeable but it's all a sham.

Everyone wants to learn the tricks of the trade... nobody wants to learn the trade.

What's to become of us Danny? LOL

Keith Davis
Keith Davis

Hi Danny Quote I heard recently was... "We know less and less about more and more." Looks as though we are losing any depth to our knowledge, we learn the buzz words and sound knowledgeable but it's all a sham. Everyone wants to learn the tricks of the trade... nobody wants to learn the trade. What's to become of us Danny? LOL

Joe Hackman
Joe Hackman

Hi Danny, this is not really a disagree/agree article as you stated you are pointing out alternatives and your suggestions are very useful and thought provoking.

I think the power of crowd sourcing depends a lot on the crowd. For instance when you asked for help naming your Sunday Q&A feature you had the perfect audience to help with some very creative suggestions. Does that make you lazy? Yes, but it also makes you very smart because leveraging your readers assets and involving them in a piece of your blog is a great way to build on your already thriving community.

There is a higher level of crowd sourcing that does not often get utilized. I had a great chat with the CEO of Spigit last year and learned a bit about how their product works. It is fascinating to hear the stories where the janitor comes up with the great new idea for a company. There is a level of crowd sourcing that things like Quora, Twitter and Blogs do not reach. It is a fascinating evolution of idea generation.

Thanks for the though provocation :)

Joe

Danny
Danny

"Finally, hasn’t crowdsourcing become a hipster marketing hook akin to “artisanal.” Zeitgeisty and “on trend,” but not necessarily better — or even as good."

Like anything, it all boils down to being as good and useful as the source.

Cheers, Jay.

Danny
Danny

"Finally, hasn’t crowdsourcing become a hipster marketing hook akin to “artisanal.” Zeitgeisty and “on trend,” but not necessarily better — or even as good." Like anything, it all boils down to being as good and useful as the source. Cheers, Jay.

Danny
Danny

Hi Tom,

Agreed, crowdsourcing does have its uses for sure (and the post states that itself). Professional crowdsourcing is a great example of this.

I'm just against the bone-assed lazy approach that many take, when just a little brain power and work would get the result themselves. :)

Danny
Danny

Hi Tom, Agreed, crowdsourcing does have its uses for sure (and the post states that itself). Professional crowdsourcing is a great example of this. I'm just against the bone-assed lazy approach that many take, when just a little brain power and work would get the result themselves. :)

Danny
Danny

"What is popular is not always true and what is true is not always popular. Just because it was mentioned on Oprah doesn’t mean it’s gospel fact." That statement sums it up perfectly, Jamey. I've seen bloggers with a large audience have everything they say taken as gospel, when clearly the advice (to anyone with business acumen) isn't very good at all. But because the numbers are there...

Danny
Danny

"What is popular is not always true and what is true is not always popular. Just because it was mentioned on Oprah doesn’t mean it’s gospel fact."

That statement sums it up perfectly, Jamey. I've seen bloggers with a large audience have everything they say taken as gospel, when clearly the advice (to anyone with business acumen) isn't very good at all.

But because the numbers are there...

Danny
Danny

Interesting thoughts, Will. So would you say there's an inherent danger with any research of the crowd, where you could have competitors of you or your clients trying to deliberately feed false information?

Danny
Danny

Interesting thoughts, Will. So would you say there's an inherent danger with any research of the crowd, where you could have competitors of you or your clients trying to deliberately feed false information?

Danny
Danny

Now that's a great approach, and similar to Bob's point earlier in the comments that bad search terms will result in bad search results.

Cheers, Jay.

Danny
Danny

Now that's a great approach, and similar to Bob's point earlier in the comments that bad search terms will result in bad search results. Cheers, Jay.

Danny
Danny

I'd reply but I forget what you were talking about. Let me ask someone what I should say, and get back to you on that. ;-)

Danny
Danny

I'd reply but I forget what you were talking about. Let me ask someone what I should say, and get back to you on that. ;-)

Danny
Danny

For sure, Chris, if you have a solid community that you trust and whose opinions you respect, it makes sense that you throw the question out to them.

But often that's not the case on Twitter or, more recently, the likes of Quora. Instead, it's simply a matter of getting a ton of answers back (many from folks you may never have spoken with up until that point), and then using that information to make your decision.

To me, that's the type of crowdsourcing that seems to bypass common sense. ;-)

Danny
Danny

For sure, Chris, if you have a solid community that you trust and whose opinions you respect, it makes sense that you throw the question out to them. But often that's not the case on Twitter or, more recently, the likes of Quora. Instead, it's simply a matter of getting a ton of answers back (many from folks you may never have spoken with up until that point), and then using that information to make your decision. To me, that's the type of crowdsourcing that seems to bypass common sense. ;-)

Danny
Danny

When I passed my English degree in University, my grandad said, "Congratulations. But you know that having a degree just means you're more qualified to talk about bugger all than the next person - doesn't mean you're smarter."

Kinda rings true with your less and more example. What's to become of us indeed... ;-)

Danny
Danny

When I passed my English degree in University, my grandad said, "Congratulations. But you know that having a degree just means you're more qualified to talk about bugger all than the next person - doesn't mean you're smarter."

Kinda rings true with your less and more example. What's to become of us indeed... ;-)

Danny
Danny

When I passed my English degree in University, my grandad said, "Congratulations. But you know that having a degree just means you're more qualified to talk about bugger all than the next person - doesn't mean you're smarter." Kinda rings true with your less and more example. What's to become of us indeed... ;-)

Danny
Danny

See, now THAT's the kind of creative crowdsourcing that I love, Joe.

One of the things we always do with clients is ask them who their most important employee is. More often than not, they'll come back with the CEO or VP of something.

We then ask them, "Okay, now - what would happen if the guy that keeps your data systems clean suddenly disappeared? Or the person responsible for training new employees wasn't there. Or, (and it fits in with your example), the mailman didn't deliver your mail?"

It usually opens their eyes a little bit to how a company is run, from the (true) ground up. Everyone has a part to play - it's how you meld these parts that makes the magic.

Cheers, sir! :)

Tom Cornish
Tom Cornish

Hi Danny,

Yeah I take your point - 'Crowdsourcing' covers a lot of activity, some of it less than productive!

Have you checked out the site to see how we operate? It sounds like it might be something you're interested in.

Thanks

Tom

Tom Cornish
Tom Cornish

Hi Danny,

Yeah I take your point - 'Crowdsourcing' covers a lot of activity, some of it less than productive!

Have you checked out the site to see how we operate? It sounds like it might be something you're interested in.

Thanks

Tom

Tom Cornish
Tom Cornish

Hi Danny, Yeah I take your point - 'Crowdsourcing' covers a lot of activity, some of it less than productive! Have you checked out the site to see how we operate? It sounds like it might be something you're interested in. Thanks Tom

will novosedlik
will novosedlik

Absolutely not, Danny. I just launched a mobile brand (WIND Mobile) entirely based on crowdsourcing ideas from anyone who had a mobile account with the Big Three incumbents. We had a year-long conversation with mobile users, and the data from that conversation provided us with (almost) all the raw material we needed to design both the products and the experiences that customers would have when interacting with us at any point in their journey with WIND.

Sure, we had competitors trolling our open forum, but the beauty was that by the time they jumped into the convo, we already had a strong community of support which actually turned out to be self-policing. They spotted the trolls right away and openly shamed them. Of course the trolls still turned up because they were getting paid to. But it was a it had minimal impact on our launch.

It was a textbook case of collaborative marketing, or co-creation. Amazing learning.

will novosedlik
will novosedlik

Absolutely not, Danny. I just launched a mobile brand (WIND Mobile) entirely based on crowdsourcing ideas from anyone who had a mobile account with the Big Three incumbents. We had a year-long conversation with mobile users, and the data from that conversation provided us with (almost) all the raw material we needed to design both the products and the experiences that customers would have when interacting with us at any point in their journey with WIND.

Sure, we had competitors trolling our open forum, but the beauty was that by the time they jumped into the convo, we already had a strong community of support which actually turned out to be self-policing. They spotted the trolls right away and openly shamed them. Of course the trolls still turned up because they were getting paid to. But it was a it had minimal impact on our launch.

It was a textbook case of collaborative marketing, or co-creation. Amazing learning.

will novosedlik
will novosedlik

Absolutely not, Danny. I just launched a mobile brand (WIND Mobile) entirely based on crowdsourcing ideas from anyone who had a mobile account with the Big Three incumbents. We had a year-long conversation with mobile users, and the data from that conversation provided us with (almost) all the raw material we needed to design both the products and the experiences that customers would have when interacting with us at any point in their journey with WIND. Sure, we had competitors trolling our open forum, but the beauty was that by the time they jumped into the convo, we already had a strong community of support which actually turned out to be self-policing. They spotted the trolls right away and openly shamed them. Of course the trolls still turned up because they were getting paid to. But it was a it had minimal impact on our launch. It was a textbook case of collaborative marketing, or co-creation. Amazing learning.

will novosedlik
will novosedlik

Anytime, Danny. Lots of free timr - I am no longer with the company.There's a story behind that too.

I live in Toronto and so not too far away. Look forward to it.

Danny
Danny

You were behind Wind? Would love to have a chat with you about that, and the obstacles faced by a little guy trying to break monopolies, if you're free sometime?

will novosedlik
will novosedlik

Anytime, Danny. Lots of free timr - I am no longer with the company.There's a story behind that too. I live in Toronto and so not too far away. Look forward to it.

Danny
Danny

You were behind Wind? Would love to have a chat with you about that, and the obstacles faced by a little guy trying to break monopolies, if you're free sometime?