Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Wedding to Test the 'Wisdom of the Crowds' Theory...

One of the most prevalent theories directing the stream of internet development is "The Wisdom of the Crowds". James Surowiecki published an accessible, if not completely academic, book a few years ago where he argued that "the aggregation of information in groups" results in decisions "that are often better than could have been made by any single member of the group". In other words, he claims that collective, disorganized group decisions lead to better results than decisions made by one or two people who are actually in positions of authority.

While the notion of "crowds" being smarter than "experts" might seem a bit counter-intuitive, the fact is that Surowiecki's argument has unquestionably influenced the development of the Web over the past few years. Think Wikipedia, Digg, Reddit, and other sites classified under the moniker of "Web 2.0".

So how can we test this theory in action? As any good academic and blogger would doubtless do if presented the opportunity... by planning a wedding.

As my own wedding plans are in their embryonic stages, I'm offering myself to the world as a guinea pig. Here are the rules. Shortly, a website will be created in which questions will be posed to the internet public at-large. These questions will be those that any wedding planner must address - What should be the wedding colors? The types of flowers? The music playlist? The honeymoon destination? The menu options? Etc.

The bottom line is that we will stick by the "decisions" that the "crowd" suggests. If Surowiecki's theory holds true, then the result will be a wedding that is far superior than one in which we would have made all of those decisions ourselves.

Naturally, the Nerfherder Gal was a bit resistant to this idea at first. In fact, when I first broached the subject, she gave what I believe is referred to in scientific circles as "the look of death". However, she has acquiesced with the caveat that she can veto "completely ridiculous" group decisions such as a Star Wars wedding complete with Stormtrooper attire, or a wedding location on one of the moon's craters. Naturally, I will remain vigilant in not letting her take an overly interpretive and ever-expanding definition of what meets the "completely ridiculous" criteria. But we are taking this project seriously, and the more input we get, the better.

So... would anyone care to submit a few initial wedding ideas?


At 5:36 PM, Blogger jonathan.sherry said...

I could go so many ridiculous directions with this because I'd like nothing more than to see you walk down the aisle in a pink tutu to the tune of Dr. Dre's "Ain't Nuthin' but a G Thang." But I'm going to take the high road instead: your first dance should be to Phish's "Waste".

At 6:02 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I wish you the best! I hope the Ewok ushers can handle the crowd...

Seriously, I think crowd quality, size and vested interest are also needed for a true wisdom of crowds test. If you don't get critical mass, or the intentions of the target crowd you use are not aligned with yours, your wife will probably end up in a Stormtrooper mask.

At 7:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have a circle theme and use a lot of hula hoops. And make it in a forest so we can all go camping!!

At 9:35 AM, Blogger Robert J. Domanski said...

Another great idea that came in... have all of our friends' kids (most are less than 4 years old) walk down the aisle together.

And to respond to Steve, you're absolutely right about forming a true "wisdom of the crowds" test. Surowiecki defined a "wise crowd" as having the following characteristics: 1) diversity of opinion, 2) independence, 3) decentralization, and 4) aggregation. Basically, individuals have to be acting on their own and not coordinating with other participants, and then some mechanism must exist for turning those private judgments into a collective decision.

The Nerfherder Gal and I would be that mechanism :-)

At 12:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post to my blog ( and sharing your wedding idea. Some may think you're crazy, but I think it will actually be fun. Everyone gets too crazed and wrapped up the wedding, trying to make it perfect. By giving over the ideas to others, you will take the stress off yourselves and maybe actually enjoy your big day.

Hmmmm... so many choices. I'm tempted to see you and your wife-to-be do your first dance to the theme from "Star Wars." You can do it complete with light saber fighting.

I say go for the color black (bridesmaids dresses and cumberbands). It's simple, elegant, and makes decorating easy (accent with red).


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