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Chapter 1, Part 2

The house seemed tidy at first glance.  The floor carpeted and lacking any stains.  The living room looked like a page from a catalog; leather couches and recliner, with matching end tables, and even a throw rug to decorate the underside of the coffee table.  The place looked pristine, but at the same time it didn’t look like it had much use.  Everywhere the same white walls were seen.  Not much for decoration, not even plastic plants.  The illusion of comfort was unnecessary to Phil as long as the practical application of comfort could be felt when you sat on the couch or chairs.

Phil didn’t pursue anything in excess.  His bed was a queen that would suit his slightly above average height.  His couch was simple, but long enough to stretch out.  He was a man that preferred the soft texture of cotton rather than luxurious need for leather.

The kitchen was a different story.  This was a room designed for use.  His counter was cluttered with all kinds of appliances; each was known for their hard work.  Phil’s knives could only be found in a gourmet kitchen.  The kitchen also doubled as his workplace.  Phil could be found at his counters day and night with his laptop out and food within an arms reach.  He was a man known for his snacking.  The kitchen’s activities could be seen all over the place, as food was resting nicely upon the piles of dishes sitting in the sink and the tables were lined the sticky trails of food left out a bit too long.  Whatever impression the living room gave off, the kitchen replaced those thoughts with the exact opposite.

Phil wandered over to the kitchen; he was in search of something to kill the current hangover.  First the headache needed to be addressed.  Phil grabbed one of the glasses from the sink, turned on the cold water and gave the glass a quick bath.  No scrubbing necessary, the last thing it held was water, and Phil was content with that.  He refilled the glass and reached for the aspirin, which was always conveniently left out on the counter top.  Step one done.  Next was to find something to eat, and at the same time that something could not make his stomach feel worse.  Bread is always a safe bet, and bread is most useful when constructing a sandwich.

Phil had a typical set of sandwiches.  When he goes to the grocer he buys the specific set of ingredients for those sandwiches.  First is the egg sandwich.  Eggs are always good to have lying around incase of various cooking emergencies, such as baking a cake or making an omelet.  Though Phil did not tend to bake much, eggs were something to keep close by none the less.  Phil’s first thought was that eggs are good source of protein for the stomach after a hangover, but when he got to thinking about a runny egg, the desire faded.  Tuna fish is a secondary staple, but not the kind of sandwich that is required to chase down the previous night’s intoxication.  When he really thought about it, fish mixed with mayonnaise and pickles sounded like a craving for a pregnant woman rather than something to cure what ails of a stomach.  Ham and cheese was the next sandwich to make its way into Phil’s kitchen, but when it is prepared, it has to be done to perfection.  The right cheeses and the right meat accompanied by the perfect set of vegetables resting upon it all.  Often times the ham sandwich can grow larger than one’s own mouth, and that is how it should be when done properly.  Phil understood this and accepted the conclusion that he was not in the proper state of mind to prepare such a sandwich with the respect that it deserved.  Thus he came upon the final sandwich to which he buys the ingredients for, that being the peanut butter and jelly.  Bread should soak up the pain in his stomach, at least Phil was willing to give the bread that much credit, and the peanut butter should show stability to the irk in his belly.  The jelly was simply a bonus, a fruity flavoring of grape to make the experience that much more enjoyable.

This event was not uncommon for Phil.  The waking up outside his front door is, but the desire for sandwiches after a night of drinking was commonplace for Phil on a Sunday morning.  Now it was time to figure out what happened during Saturday night.

If you’ve been keeping up with the recent posts, you’ve noticed that I’ve been reading “Here Comes Everybody” by Clay Shirky. Well now I’m done. Good read. If you have ever wondered about the things that people do, especially within the age of the internet, then you should pick this up.  Read the first chapter while you’re standing in the bookstore, I bet you’ll walk out of there still holding it (while hopefully paying for it).

To wrap up the book, I’ve learned many things.  I’ve learned about the internet and some obscure stories that were interesting and some stories that have affected the lives of millions, if not billions.  One thing I found at the tail end of the book gave a little bit of insight into business and people as well as the business of people.  It was a simple process of analyzing failure.  Failure isn’t something we can just cut out of our lives.  “You win some. You lose some.” “It’s not about whether you get knocked down. It’s about whether you get back up.” “Everything tastes better with ice cream.”  Not sure if last one holds up as well as the first two, but you get the point.  These clichés exists because they’re true (though ice cream could be argued against).  People as a whole have come to terms with failure.  The next step is how do we find the successes?

Business had failure down to a science.  Business has to do it that way in order to avoid it.  Maximize success while minimizing failure.  That sounds like as good a slogan as anything else.  But what do we miss out on while trying to minimize failure? Minimizing failure takes priority over maximizing success.  It’s too expensive to have big failures.  And that is where the solution laid.  Business was afraid of the rate of failure.  Too many for too long and you get no where, except broke. If you can’t affect the rate of failure, because failure happens, then maybe something can be done with the cost of failure.  That was the method of the internet: free collaboration.  And the internet is big enough to have everything happening at once.  There is lots of room for failure, lots of room for success too.

Another point of interest is the communities on the internet.  Three are communities that are strong enough to control the programs they exist within.  There were a few examples, but they all showed one thing.  Social capital can and does exist in the internet.  It showed how members of a community see themselves as that, members.  As such, certain members can be showed a higher level of deference by others.  Inside jokes can form and bond these members.  Also, many people find themselves within these niche corners of the internet finding people they just like talking too.  These niches expand to cover the members rather than just the topic.  People come together under an idea, but they stay because of the people there.  This allowed the people to control the programs.  The community was more important than the topic.

Here comes everybody.  Everybody seems like infinity. It has a meaning, but it can’t really be conceptualized.  But once you realize all the things that exist, and all the things that people do.  You start to understand that “everybody” is a whole hell of a lot of people.

Clay Shirky proposes a lot of interesting concepts through his book “Here Comes Everybody.” The latest one to pique my interest is the ultimatum game.

The ultimatum game establishes a scenario where two individuals are given with an option. The first is given the sum of $10 to be separated in any fashion between the two. The second has the choice of accepting the first’s offer or rejecting the offer where neither would gain anything. The simple math is that the first person would maximize his or her gain by offering $9.99 to him or herself, while giving $.01 to the second person. The second person should be happy with anything since anything is better than nothing and accept the offer. That isn’t what happens. People don’t like getting the short end of the stick, even if it is better than having no stick. Fairness is a simple concept. Children go around claiming the fairness of things, and getting 1 cent of 10 dollars isn’t fair. So the second person rejects this offer. The experiment presented by Shirky goes on to state that people are willing to take some degree of unfairness if the gain is better than the rejection without being too insulting. The experiment he referred to stated that people were more willing to accept offers around $7 to $3. 70%-30% split is enough to satisfy the unfairness if a person has nothing invested. Good to know.

There is a reason why men don’t go to the bathroom in groups, at least while it is unavoidable.  Because men’s bathrooms smell like men’s locker rooms.  The location does not encourage gathering.  Unlike women, no guy wants to stand in the bathroom any longer than he must.  The place has a constant funk.  A scent that lingers, and lingers, and lingers.  Pretty sure you can’t febreeze that.

So ladies, please understand that men do not understand why the group adventure to the bathroom is so appealing.

A little more than halfway through Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody.” The book has been very interesting up to this point, and anyone wishes to learn and understand more about the internet and social media should definitely check it out.

Just learned how Wikipedia came about. It was a drawn out process that culminated into the website that everyone knows. The development was fascinating as the original concept was to take experts in various fields to build an internet accessible encyclopedia. It would have a similar setup to the current incarnation, in that it wouldn’t pay these experts, but simply request their knowledge. Turns out experts don’t care to put their expertise to work on these pro-bono cases as often as the creators hoped.

So the creators took a different approach. They actually learned the wiki method from another person, but they managed to take it to a new level in a new direction. Open up the editing capabilities to the entire world. Anyone interested would be allowed to add, remove, and edit the articles. Know a little then add a little. Know a lot then add a lot. Crazy to think that the community at large could come together to produce such a network of ideas, let alone collectively build upon one another’s thoughts.

By now, most if not all, have experienced Wikipedia. The one component that draws my attention most is reinforced by its setup in the belief that anyone can contribute. Over time, I have come to the realization that everyone is an expert. Expertise may be a relative term, but bear with me as I try to explain my position. Everyone has knowledge about something. We’re not talking “leading expert,” but enough knowledge to surpass the general populous. Let us take the child sitting at home listening to music as they rage against their parents. I would bet that child possessed a set of knowledge in music that their parents would not know and could not grasp. Why should that appreciation be neglected? The kid that sits at home and plays video games knows a lot about those video games. The learning is happening, just aimed in a different direction. Should we not encourage learning in all its forms? Perhaps we can direct it towards more pertinent interests, but the first step is to understand.

Knowledge in various fields, even those that are not regularly reflected upon in a positive light by society, is expansive. If we can appreciate knowledge in all forms, we can encourage knowledge for knowledge sake. That is something that is falling apart within our society. Scholarship is falling to the pragmatism that society is requiring. People don’t go to school to learn knowledge, but to learn a skill. How do we get back to wanting to learn knowledge?

Chapter 1, Part 1

To say something is different is simply to recognize change.
“Well that’s different,” Phil uttered as he gazed up at the brown stained ceiling above him. The fact that he realized anything as he came out of his drunken stupor was almost as impressive as the fact that he could recognize his ceiling, or better yet, that this ceiling was not his ceiling. It was odd because the walls were too close to one another. The problem of how anyone could fit a bed into a room with walls so close became the next issue to enter his mind, which was directly followed by the solution; he was not lying on a bed. As it turned out he was lying on the ground, and though carpeted, it was still very hard. Whoever paid to carpet the floor beneath him did not care for the simple luxury of a quality carpet to cover this back breaking floor. Phil started to feel the pain creeping into his hip from sleeping on his side. While the uncomfortable resting place had managed to enter his thoughts, his main focus was still on why the ceiling was not the one that he would expect upon waking up and still why the walls were so close.

Then struck the epiphany, he was in a hallway. He turned his head slightly to the right and realized he was at a door. The brass numbers 312 could be seen through the haze that still filled his morning eyes. This means that he was at his door. He also noticed that his keys were in his door. Phil doubted that many other people would have the exact same keychain as the one that his niece gave him two years ago, an ugly thing, but better to always have it than to see her one day and have to answer the questions of why he doesn’t. It was a loving gesture; therefore, it had a purpose beyond the subtle way that it would remind him of its presence by jabbing his thigh with its antennae. Thoughts of the ornament were replaced by another unusual sight, his door was open. Phil simply thought to himself and came to a pleasant conclusion: someone must have been kind enough to bring me home and after wrestling away my keys, opened the door, and assumed I could do the rest. Friends might help a drunkard change out of a soggy, beer drenched shirt, but for a stranger opening the door is about the best you can hope for. Well anything above murder and mugging was a pleasant outcome given the possibilities.

Thoughts of the stranger stretched his mind from side to side, though the alcohol tended to interfere with the memory, and trying to put a face to the stranger was not an easy task. Phil quickly gave up on the notion that he might come to the sudden conclusion that he knew who the stranger was, but instead decided to move his thoughts inside his home.

While reading, Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody,” I came across an example using the Birthday Paradox. It explains how relationships within a group are much more complicated than the individuals within the group. Shirky uses the scenario of 36 people in a room allows for a greater than 80% chance that two people will share a birthday. How does that work?

My thoughts lingered on this topic for the next few days. I would wake to my mind trying to grasp the setup. Instead of singing in the shower, I found myself attempting to work out this scenario. How could 36 people have a greater than 80% chance of sharing birthdays? 36 people cover about 10% of all possibilities. The so called paradox explains that each person has a relationship with each other and thus allows for greater chances than you can see on the surface. Huh? I sought out Wikipedia for an understanding, and it explained through lots of mathematical formulas that Shirky was indeed telling the truth. But it still just didn’t make sense to me.

Every opportunity I get to poll 36 people within a room, I will. Birthday Paradox doesn’t sit well with me. Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe I just can’t wrap my mind around this. Maybe I’m right and the world of academics and mathematics are wrong. That last one probably isn’t correct, but hell, why should I start doubting myself now.

Have you ever read something that came from someone with a long list of credentials and think “duh?” It’s understandable. Social sciences focus on human beings and their tendencies. I’ve been a human being for over 26 years, and within that period, I’ve interacted with a lot of other humans beings. I might not be an expert, but I’m not any form of novice either. That statement can be spoken by almost anyone and everyone who has ever looked at those around them with any kind of intellectual observation.

Which leads me to my conclusion that social sciences like to state common sense in such a matter of fact way as to allow the readers to witness some kind of eureka event. The epiphany is an illusion. Not because the message doesn’t have some validity, but because it is common sense wrapped up in a fanciful selection of words. So the next time you read a passage from a person of implied importance within a field, take a hard look at the message and decide if you knew that before he said it. Maybe you knew it, but never thought about it before in that manner. I guess that holds some value.

Perhaps I’m just in a cynical mood, but those are my thoughts for the day. I hold the right to admit that I’m wrong and change my opinion. But, first I need a reason to believe that I’m wrong.