/ Strategies for a discontinuous future / Selected work 2004-2009 /

2007 Markets, Networks, & Communities
2008 The Macropocalypse & Edge Competencies
2009 The Great Compression, Smart Growth & Constructive Capitalism

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Monday, June 27, 2005

Search 2.0: Search and Peer Production

Every once in a while, you come across a new idea that hits you like a bomb. I'm sure most of you know what I'm talking about.

I don't have much time to blog these days, but I got that feeling when I recently came across Wondir thanks to Jeff C.

Now, before I begin, lemme note that this is a great example of what I call coordination arbitrage - smart entrepreneurs making it easy for people to coordinate. The point is that this is another nice data point for my hypothesis that peer production is a disruptive mode of production, and one that is going to be used in many, many domains. So strategists across should start thinking about how to leverage peer production.

OK. Wondir, I think, is a radical innovation in the classic sense. It can offer a discontinuous, order of magnitude shift in efficiency/quality/value. In this case, by scaling up on the demand side, Wondir achieves a huge search cost (and possibly quality) advantage over traditional search engines, for whom search is a (relatively) capital and fixed-asset intensive business.

That means achieving speed and scale economies, and leveraging them to build a knowledge pool - in plain English, getting enough users to ask enough questions, and storing them - to achieve increasing returns, as new users are attracted to the growing knowledge pool.

The most interesting thing, to me, is that I don't think Wondir's really got this yet. For example, you can check out the most prolific users, or the highest-ranked users, but I don't see evidence of a knowledge pool anywhere. For example, I can't quickly search archived questions for possible answers.

But if they get this strategy right, I think Wondir has massively disruptive potential across many spaces and segments of the Media 1.0/1.5 value chain. Publishing, search, social networking, classifieds, and personals are just a few of the spaces/segments that Wondir can threaten - at the limit.

What does at the limit mean, in this case? Well, Wondir's positioned to become what I've termed a reconstructor in my media ppt - a player that reconstructs new casts/streams/micromedia from the most valuable bits of the micromediaverse. Reconstructors offer a significantly more powerful value prop than dumb or smart aggregators, which are their predecessors - in this, case the dumb (semismart, if you like) aggregators are search engines. If all that sounds obtuse, just think about the relative signal-noise ratios.

How can Wondir achieve this? If it were me, I'd think about striking deals with other players whose fortunes depend on speed economies and knowledge pools. Technorati comes to mind, as does LinkedIn. Deals like this could significantly lower the acquisition cost of an answer for Wondir. For example, they could hinge around some kind of open standard for questions/answers - XML wrappers or otherwise - to create liquidity for both questions and answers.

I also think it's important to note that the Wondir has opportunity to build an especially valuable knowledge pool which will realize increasing returns fast, because transactions between users are almost costless, and the relative expected value of a transaction is really, really big. (Dynamics outlined in my peer production presentation).

How can I put the intuition - Wondir, I think, has the potential to be an eBay for knowledge. Uhhh...not to sound like shades of 1999 or anything :)

That said, I think Wondir needs to hire a designer or two, because it's interface is also kinda 1999. I'd also be thinking about what, IMHO, is gonna be the big problem: adverse selection (lo-value questions get asked most/first/select themselves into Wondir). For example, many of the questions on the VC channel are nice examples of adverse selection: they're low-quality questions which most investors wouldn't spend time answering, because entrepreneurs in the know would already have figured this stuff out (I know, I know, that makes me sound like a git...sorry!!).

-- umair // 8:38 AM //


Thanks for taking the time to really dig into what we're all about and what challenges and oppportunies lie ahead. I responded in some detail on the Wondir blog here and look forward to having an ongoing dialogue with you as we grow and morph in new directions.

Btw, you mentioned Technorati. We've met with Sifry a couple times, and I posted about our latest meeting here.



Allen Searls
VP Community
Wondir, Inc.
// Anonymous Allen Searls // 7:29 PM


Came across your page about Wondir.com and had to read it.

I'm what I guess you call one of the prolific users, currently #3 out of over 125,000 registered Wonderites.

I like several points you make in your post...and if you have the time stop by my blog and add anything you like to my post about Wondir's future, its a suggestion post and I think you'd come up with a few good improvements.

One thing you said that first got my attention is this:

"The most interesting thing, to me, is that I don't think Wondir's really got this yet. For example, you can check out the most prolific users, or the highest-ranked users, but I don't see evidence of a knowledge pool anywhere. For example, I can't quickly search archived questions for possible answers."

Wondir does offer you a selected number of possible questions that match yours (or as close as the program allows, based usually on phrasing and language problems.) and you are free to choose to read those posts or post the question as you have it phrased.

I'd love to see a perfect copy of answers already given on Wondir, but I'd also like to see a "Dragon-Dictates" type of program which has no "issues" with language or accent. Often times how we speak and phase things is how we type.

You also mentioned "social networking" on your page.

To me, especially, this is a HUGE part of Wondir. Not the daily chit-chat that goes on in some categories like the "Mature" page, but the interaction of a lot of the regulars, like myself, who take time out of their own lives to answer simple posts about homework, relationships and populations of various counties....

But we do a lot more. You see, a lot of posts are of a personal nature. People looking for an outsiders viewpoint, ideas and suggestions.

To a lot of us Wondirites, its the "personal touch" that makes Wondir a site worth visiting and posting to.

That said, I do agree a site design team needs to make something of the Wondir site itself. While simple and plain may be in, it jsut seems to be missing something with a little *kick* to it....all things in good time though.

All in all, I really liked your page, with you being in the VC area, I can see problems though because most Venture Capitalists aren't going to be "hanging out" on Wondir and will never get to see what the true Wondir of Wondir is...it's the personal one on one question/answer - problem/advice/counseling approach that Wondir allows people.

As an entrepreneur your looking at dollars, but those of us who supply most ofthe answers on Wondir don't. We look at the results, the homework question answered, the business problem solved...or more importantly, the personal lives touched...thats where Wondir's strenght is..in the people it helps.

Please stop by my blog and post anything you thing would be helpful. I'm fishing for ideas to improve the quality of service on Wondir as opposed to the bottom line, but either way its all about the answers...thanks for the page

My blog is located at http://bondhunter.blogspot.com/ and my email is [email protected]
// Blogger Bond Hunter // 6:25 AM
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