Small vs Large Groups

Topics: Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, English Wikipedia Pages: 5 (1658 words) Published: April 30, 2012
In the article "Committees, juries and teams: The columbia disaster and how small groups can be made to work" James Surioweicki outlines the potential problems and solutions small groups face. He brings up dilemmas such as diversity, group polarization, leadership and overall structure. After comparatively reading Marshall Poe's "The Hive" I feel these problems are not ones small groups face, but in fact problems the small group creates. Poe's text supports the theory that all types of groups face similar problems. Be that as it may, using Wikipedia's extreme programming structure he continues his argument; implying that when transferred to a large scale group all problems are hindered, if not completely eradicated.

In other words, when Jimmy Wales created Wikipedia, (a website that allows multiple users to create. edit and hyperlink pages), he simultaneously set a new standard for group structure. Wales based his website off the idea of extreme programming, which pushed the public to get involved and create something revolutionary. "The premise of standard software is that you plan, and plan, and plan then you code. In contrast, extreme programming advocates going live with the earliest possible version of new software and letting many people work simultaneously to rapidly refine it" (Poe 270) This idea single handedly, was the breakthrough point for Wikipedia. The format worked because it gave a certain "power" to the individual. The power to be part of something larger then themselves.

Despite this groundbreaking feature, Wales points out that the structure of letting the community be the central power has one flaw. The amount of time when false information gets corrected can be an issue. This is the compromise of extreme programming vs. standard software engineering. However, "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow; his point was simply that the speed with which a complex project is perfected is directly proportional to the number of informed people working on it" (Poe 269). As is the case with Wikipedia, having so many members in it's arsenal the complications of false information can be limited. Alternatively, if Wales was working with a small group, this practice would not work because there wouldn't be enough people to keep things moving.

In his text, Suriowiecki shows us one critical point for the eventual success of a small group. "An important thing about these studies is that there is no point in making small groups part of leadership structures if you don't give the group a method of aggregation opinions of it's members" (Suriowiecki 450). To elaborate, when a major company CEO uses a small group to get advice but instead opts for his own opinion, the benefits of said group are lost. The whole point of using a small group decision engine is because statistically, it is more profound then the decision of one. Also when the members believe they're important it creates a sense of self worth, in turn making the group work more effectively.

Evidently, importance is also a reason the large group works so well. Again, large groups give the individual a means to become something greater. Wikipedia's members, or "Wikipedians" seem to have "no interest other than the truth in doing all of this work" (Poe 277). When stating this Poe forgot to think about member's self interest. Members get to create and edit all pages on whim, making them the most defining factor of the structure. In return the Wikipedians get rewarded for their entries. By contributing, members feel accomplished; not only did they provide a service but get to share their knowledge with the masses. This alone is enough to make people want to be involved in large groups. It is apparent that for wikipedia to work successfully (as it does) the basic guidelines of a small group are relevant and should be considered

Another complication in small groups is the dilemma of becoming more than just a sum of its parts" (Suriowiecki 442). When...
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