The Web allows us to marry collective intelligence with expert knowledge. This is an unbeatable combination.I grew up in a small farming community in Ireland. You never questioned the expert. The teacher, the priest and the doctor ruled. The idea that they might ever be wrong was not even an idea.
Well, the teacher, priest and doctor don't have it so easy in the Ireland of today. They are being actively questioned. When they get it wrong, it is being clearly pointed out to them. The good ones embrace this new environment and are becoming better by continuously listening and learning. The bad ones get exposed.
The Web is where ordinary people go to opine, to organize, to debate, and to hear what other people just like them think. The Web is the Global Square in the Global Village. It's very empowering.
The early years of the Web have seen a revolt against the expert. This has reflected a wider societal shift towards the belief that ordinary people have important things to say. We're not just consumers anymore; we're also producers.
"The individual user has been king on the Internet, but the pendulum seems to be swinging back toward edited information vetted by professionals, Tony Dokoupil wrote in a Newsweek article, Revenge of the Experts, published in March 2008.
According to Dokoupil, "the expert is back. The revival comes amid mounting demand for a more reliable, bankable Web." But has the expert ever really gone away?
Wikipedia, on the surface, may seem like the ultimate experiment in the wisdom of crowds. However, as Dokoupil later states, "Last summer researchers in Palo Alto, Calif., uncovered secret elitism at Wikipedia when they found that 1 percent of the reference site's users make more than 50 percent of its edits."
The Web has never been the enemy of the expert. What it ushered in is the ability to find out what "people like me" have to say. What was their experience with this product? Did they like this particular book? Is this as nice a hotel as its website says it is?
The Web has also allowed the up-and-coming experts and artists to state their case for why they have created something interesting and worthwhile. YouTube and MySpace would fall flat if there wasn't a way to allow the cream to rise to the top. (Sometimes just the weird and quirky rises, but that's okay too.)
I like websites like CNET and Amazon because they have both expert and customer reviews. That's a nice balance. As the Web matures, we are thus likely to see "a hybrid approach built around entirely new business models," as experts at Wharton state, in an article entitled "The Experts vs. the Amateurs: A Tug of War over the Future of Media," published in March 2008.
The Web is a network and strength in a network is about connectedness and openness. 200 years ago, an expert could claim to be an authority on a particular subject. Today, an expert is someone who is expert in the network; connecting, sharing, sifting, ordering, and always taking the pulse of the wisdom of the experts and the crowd.
About the Author
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.