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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Department of Book Reports: Here Comes Everybody

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations, by Clay Shirky (Penguin Press, $25.95)

I really liked this book, it has some wonderfully insightful anecdotes of the new structures of community in an on-line universe. I recommend it to anyone interested in how we cluster these days and why. Using examples of early Flckr groups, angry blogs about a friend's stolen cell phone, to flash mobs using livejournal to organize Belarusian protests, Shirky gives well thought out dissections of the social gathering capabilities and ease of assembly, post Intertubes. He posits we are seeing the initial stages of learning how to use these tools for group effort, and our natural desires to form groups. I especially appreciated chapter 3's history from scribes to bloggers "Everyone is a Media Outlet".

I came across this speech back in May, and promptly titled it "Required Viewing".

I was very intrigued to have finished this just before we traveled down to Portland Oregon to meet up with 5 of our Second Life friends. Virtual people that we've talked to, well, just about every night or so of the past year and a half. I really think this group of folks (the Cafe Wellstoners around the world), and what we're doing there, exemplifies what Shirky is talking about and while I knew he didn't like Linden Labs population accounting methods and initial publicity/hype, this article really saddened me. When your main argument is WOW is better because it's a game(!) and you use a South American River to light up your linkie of evidence, I get kinda cranky.

I was thinking of asking him to come speak at Virtual Jackson Street Books, but I'm scared he'll get out the Windlight carpenter's level and start looking at my bookshelves.

In this telling, games are not just special, they are special in a way that relieves designers of the pursuit of maximal realism. There is still a premium on good design and playability, but the magic circle, acceptance of arbitrary difficulties, and goal-directed visual filtering give designers ways to contextualize or bury at least some platform limitations. These are not options available to designers of non-game environments; asking users to accept such worlds as even passable simulacra subjects those environments to withering scrutiny.

Here Comes Everybody is available at your favorite independent bookstore. Book orders can be placed 24 hours a day at Jackson Street Books.


  1. Yay for meeting up with online friends! Hi Tammy - here's my comment!

  2. SeattleTammy:

    I watched the video, the whole friggin' thing. Nowhere did it say anything about how I'm gonna get my share of the cognitive surplus. I don't got no teevee and ain't had such for over two years. I got some cognitive comin' to me!

  3. check your bookshelves? Shit, don't let him near the Red Zeppelin - if he finds out the only thing keeping it in the air is the procrastination fuel cell -- it will fall out of the sky when it gets around to it, right now it has other things to do - we are all doomed!

  4. WOW is for guys who can't even get girlfriends in Second Life

  5. Jack:

    You can get girlfriends in Second Life? Are they hot?


We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.