THINKING OUT LOUD:
How Successful Networks
Nurture Good Ideas

Maybe not to you, but to me these DAILY stats came as a shock:

154.6 billion emails
400 million tweets
16 billion words on Facebook
52 TRILLION words on email and social media*
(*equivalent to 520 million books)

Said stats appeared in the October issue of the Wired written by Clive Thompson: "THINKING OUT LOUD: How Successful Networks Nurture Good Ideas." I was captivated from start to finish. I admit a positive bias toward the value of social media, gaming, etc. On my lengthy list of recent reads you'll find at the top: Steven Johnson's Everything Bad Is Good For You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter and Jane McGonigal's Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. Thompson suggests that our social publication mania also yields extraordinary benefits. Here are a few quotes (which, of course, I also turned into a micro-PowerPoint presentation):

"Before the Internet, most people rarely wrote for pleasure or intellectual satisfaction after graduating from high school or college. ... The fact that so many of us are writing—sharing our ideas, good and bad, for the world to see—has changed the way we think. Just as we now live in public, so do we think in public. And that is accelerating the creation of new ideas and the advancement of global knowledge."

"Having an audience can clarify thinking. It's easy to win an argument inside your head. But when you face a real audience, you have to be truly convincing. ... Studies have found that the effort of communicating to someone else forces you to pay more attention and learn more."

"Brenda Clark Gray, an instructor at Douglas College in British Columbia, had her English students create Wikipedia entries on Canadian writers to see if it would get them to take the assignment more seriously. She was stunned at how well it worked. 'Often they're handing in these essays without any citations, but with Wikipedia they suddenly were staying up till 2 a.m. honing and writing the entries and carefully sourcing everything,' she tells me. The reason, the students explained to her, was that their audience—the Wikipedia community—was quite gimlet-eyed and critical. They were harder 'graders' than Gray herself."

"Once thinking is public, connections take over. Anyone who's Googled a favorite hobby, food, or political subject has discovered some teeming site devoted to servicing the infinitesimal fraction of the public that shares their otherwise obscure obsession. (Mine: guitar pedals, modular origami, and the 1970s anime show Battle of the Planets.) Propelled by the hyperlink, the Internet is a connection-making machine. And making connections is a big deal in the history of thought. ..."