I heard about this book via Forbes top-ten business books list and usually find nonfiction books better on recording. I would definitely listen to a snippet of the book before buying. Unlike some other reviewers, I found the narrator boring and frankly sounded like a computer-automated voice. I'll never listen to another audiobook read by that narrator.
I have only read two hours of this book, and I have no intention of finishing it. During this time, I have been barraged with monotonous examples in which the average answer of the crowd happens to be more accurate than most of the individuals in that crowd. His wordy self-important style of writing leaves me with the feeling that this could instead be a man seeing an enormous number of coincidences, and presenting all the ones that happen to suit his views.
Perhaps the author will decide to get around to some adult level conversation and scientific analysis in the remaining seven hours, but I would not bet on it. And as I still have a splitting headache from the first two hours, I am not about to find out.
This book was well done and informative. I found it a little difficult at times to keep up with all the points the author made (there are many). All are around the same topic--how crowds can be more effective then individuals under certain conditions--but there are many sub points that can lead the reader/listener confused at times. This is one I could see myself listening to again to gain more clarity. The only reason that I didn't give it a 5 was because there is so much going on in this book, and to many I'm sure that's a good thing. For me it was too, but I offer that point as a means of caution to the person who thinks this is a quick and easy book. It isn't, but it is well researched and well thought out.
The book is interesting because the premise is hard to believe. The problem is I think it's hard to believe because it's not true. One of the main examples is how on the Millionaire TV show, the audience lifeline is so much better than phone-a-friend. I've been watching the show a while now to check this out and the author's reasoning is very weak because he's comparing apples and oranges. Usually the constestants pick the audience lifeline first, so they're using it for easier questions which aren't comparable to the harder questions later in the game that they save up the other lifelines for. Very rarely people will use up both of these lifelines on the same question because they don;t trust the lifeline: in those cases that I've seen, the audience was wrong. Also the audience is generally reliable for pop culture types of questions about Britney Spears's baby for example whereas the phone-a-friend is best for soemthing that can be quickly Googled or looked up in the dictionary (although some contestants don't seem to get this). Without controlling for these various factors, the author's conclusions are meaningless. This was something I could check by watching TV. The other examples about lost submarines and whatnot I can't check on my own but if the reasoning is as weak as with this example, it suggests the whole book is wrong.
Letting the rest of the world go by
The book is highly listenable but suffers greatly from events which have transpired in the years since its original publication (2005 vs. today 2013). The financial crisis and stock market crash really do poke holes in a lot of his narrative on how groups out perform individuals.
I would not recommend using a credit today for this book because it is outdated by recent events and we have evolved technologically since those days. I do like the authors main theme that groups out perform individuals but he would first need to rewrite his story to explain recent history and include recent tech innovations.
The narrator is one of my favorites and he will make it easy to listen to the whole book in spite of the anachronisms in the narrative.
USMC journalist, turned Embassy FSO, now USAF Web Chief
This books amazed me by what I learned. While I'm still not completely sure why crowds are wise, I'm definitely convinced they are. And this has major implications for how to do leadership -- by small committee or by collective action. Collectively we are stronger than in oligarchies. Of course, world history is showing this to be true given the strength of truly democratic markets compared to those of centrally controlled governments. In a way, this book explains why the absurd experiment of letting the "common" human have a say in the government is actually working.
This book complements the insights from the social media book crowd sourcing. Together, I think they are slowly making inroads in changing way business models work in the U.S., much for the better.
This book is part of a set of books including Chris Anderson's Free, The Long Tale, Clay Shirk's Here Comes Everybody, The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman and The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick that help to explain what is happening in the 21st century sociologically, economically and politically. These new trends created predominately by the Internet and then radically expanded by human ingenuity and creativity are moving our world in rapid and exciting ways.
I intend to listen to this book again because I source it often at work. It's a good and easy read that highlights the phenomenon of group intelligence. It would have been a 5 if it would address the new threat that too much unfiltered information poses to this; i.e. the internet + anyone with a computer can post something = misinformed public.
This is a very interesting theory and read (though not new any more).
Personally I found the financial markets chapters too long and elaborated and at times even self contradicting.
Nevertheless, it is a recommended read mostly to leaders and people-managers; at least if you can take your lessons out of it. but I also recommend it to others...
#1 book on crowd sourcing. This book was not too technical, nor was it a fanciful notion unsupported by facts. This was an efficient introduction to crowd sourcing
James Surowiecki isn't trying to make a point in this book - he's simply surveying what social scientists have learned about the behavior of groups and crowds over the last 50 years or so. He gives examples of different kinds of problems that groups try to solve, and he explains (broadly) when groups do better than individuals and when they don't. It's very interesting stuff, and told in an extremely accessible, conversational style. Laymen will easily comprehend everything. The narrator is very good, and does a good job of capturing the author's laid-back tone.
Actual social scientists, however, should not expect any radical or revolutionary new insights from this book.