Fast Company, The Mob, and Influence
I’ve recently received a flood of strange emails. They were regarding the Fast Company’s Influence Project (check it out). At first, it seemed like a great noble endeavor. An experiment in discovery.
Here is the premise: You get invited to the project and the person that invites you gets points. They can then create their own link and get points, etc, etc. In a perfect world, the person with the most influence would yield the most points. The fun part of the project is a very well done user interface that visually shows you all the people involved. You can navigate through connections and influence points.
I want to thank John Sumser for creating the post that influenced me to review the Project.
After I clicked on John’s influence link I had a blast reviewing the site and then went back to my work. Enjoyable experience.
Then the mob took over.
Emails, Twitter direct messages, even a phone call. People were asking me to use *my* influence to help promote them so they could be near the top of the list. Influence? It is no secret that Broadlook, the company that I founded, develops list generation technology. People wanted “my list”. One individual even offered to purchase a list on behalf of their chief executive.
If you are reading this and you are one of the people on LinkedIn or Twitter or some other social disaster and you want be at the top of the list, (1) you can’t have my list and (2) think about what Edgar Allan Poe said:
The nose of a mob is its imagination. By this, at any time, it can be quietly led.
-Edgar Allan Poe
In reality, the Fast Company Influence Project will not come near to predicting real influence online. What it will do is spotlight some people who desperately want to be leading the mob. Guy Kawasaki, while well respected, also seems to want to be at the top of the mob. He talks about it in this article. I think it would be more fun to pick a person of total obscurity and put them at the top. Similar to the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) initiative that pointed the search for “Miserable Failure” to George W Bush.
I would welcome human suggestions as to the most influential person online. How about the web master at Google? What if Google posted a single link on their home page “Vote for Sergey”?
Overall, I am disappointed, it would be nice to have seen a scientific study. I’m somewhere on that list, but shouldn’t be. Thanks John ;(
Caveat: My friend, John Sumser did influence me, but did not ask. Big distinction from the “help me be influential” contingent.
More mob quotes
The nineteenth century lynching mob cuts off ears, toes, and fingers, strips off flesh, and distributes portions of the body as souvenirs among the crowd.
Ida B. Wells
The vision that the founding fathers had of rule of law and equality before the law and no one above the law, that is a very viable vision, but instead of that, we have quasi mob rule.
There can be no such thing, in law or in morality, as actions to an individual, but permitted to a mob.
There is no logical reason why the camel of great art should pass through the needle of mob intelligence.
There is no necessity to separate the monarch from the mob; all authority is equally bad.
There is nothing more foolish, nothing more given to outrage than a useless mob.
We grew up as kids watching those movies and we were exposed to themes of civil rights, unfairness, bigotry and fathers struggling against the kind of mob of the town, so you remember how you felt as a kid being taken seriously, that you are part of the human drama.
When the theater gates open, a mob pours inside, and it is the poet’s task to turn it into an audience.