Harnessing collective intelligence

Goodreads: harnessing collective intelligence


What does collective intelligence mean? 

Groups of individuals acting collectively in ways that seem intelligent.” 

                                                                                              Thomas W. Malone

History of Collective intelligence:

Collective intelligence is not a new concept rather it has existed since the beginning of human kind. Families, countries, companies, armies, social groups, communities of various kinds are just a few examples of collective intelligence working together as a group in order to achieve collective intelligent goals. 

However, with the advent of computers a new type of collective intelligence has emerged over the last decade or so where groups of individuals through computer systems are linked together using Internet networking technologies and protocols in a way that allows them to harness collective intelligence of groups and individuals in various distinctive ways. Harnessing collective intelligence essentially means that a group of people is able to share their knowledge, expertise and opinions with others. They can connect, communicate and collaborate with others through online applications like Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Wikipedia, Online games and so on.

Now that we have explained what is collective intelligence and how it can be used. Let us look at a real life example of such an online application that demonstrates harnessing of collective intelligence in action. There are many online applications that utilize this concept but for the purpose of this blog I have chosen Goodreads.com as an example.


What is Goodreads?

Recently I ran into a friend at a shopping center and during our conversation she started telling me about this great new book that she was reading. Hearing her description I felt excited and I said to myself “I must definitely read this book. It should be the next book on my ‘to read’ list”. But unfortunately by the time I reached home not only I forgot the book name; I had also somehow lost the excitement. I am sure many of us would have had a similar experience. Well Goodreads.com is exactly addressing such issues. With Goodreads you won’t lose the excitement because all you have to do is simply add the book to your ”to-read” shelve. In addition Goodreads also allows users to recommend books, compare what they are reading with others, keep track of what they have read and would like to read, find their next favourite books and so on. It also allows users to form book clubs and much more.

How does it work ?

When people add books on Goodreads.com all their friends and followers can see their reviews and know what they thought of it. People are more likely to get excited about a book when their friends recommend it, rather than a stranger. Besides Goodreads help you find other books based on what fellow members with similar tastes have enjoyed reading. Ultimately, the members can also create trivia about books, lists the best books, post their own reviews and form groups and book clubs.

The benefits of Goodreads:

Personally this website has been a great inspiration for me to read more. I have always wanted to go and buy couple of novels but wasn’t sure at all what to choose from. Goodreads.com helped a lot. I could read my friends’ opinions on particular books that I was interested in buying and was therefore able to make a better decision on what I really wanted to read and if it was worth spending money on.

If you are into reading Goodreads.com is definitely worth checking it out. In our fast paced life we don’t want to spend time reading book for hours only to find out it was a total waste of time.

The drawbacks of Goodreads:

  •  Some members write negative review about books that maybe of an interest to you. So relying on other’s opinions can sometime make us lose on reading some of the books just because couple of the other readers didn’t like it.
  • Some opinions can contain some spoilers specially on the novels ends and that something I don’t want to know about it.

At the end I would leave you with an interview with Professor Thomas W. Malone about collective intelligence and I hope you enjoyed reading my post. I would be happy to know your thoughts on Goodreads? Also let me know your Goodreads account if you have one so we can check out each other’s favourite books share book names that we have read and liked.





13 comments on “Harnessing collective intelligence

  1. Hi Danah, Thanks for the post. You have inspired me to join Goodreads. I liked the information you shared about the user-content and other functions like book clubs. I would be interested in your opinion on how this site compares to others doing a similar thing – if you know of any.

    • Well , I have used a lot of reading website it all were just to read ! Non of them helped me to decide WHAT to read other than this one ..
      Because it makes you look to other users account (who like the same books as you , or same theme & authors ) And get to look at their opinions on books before you read it ..
      thank you for your delighted replay

      • OK – I’ll use your advice and stick with Goodreads. I might even analyse it against some other Web 2.0 pattern in the near future 😉

  2. Hi Danah

    Goodreads has an interesting concept. Normally when I decide to buy a novel I would look for the writer, synopsis, or may be some award that this book has. I doesn’t get good book all the time with just these criteria. The writer that I like might have some book I don’t like. The synopsis is not enough to judge the quality of the book. Also the award winning book might not be my taste at all. Being able to see others people opinion especially from people who have similar taste in book is a nice thing to have. I believe Goodreads is a good Web 2.0 site.

    Prapat W.

    • Totally agree, Prapat. I do the same as you but don’t always have the time and give up. I think this site is very useful – which makes it compelling for me and ticks the “context” requirement of the Harnessing Collective Intelligence pattern. This site has hooked me!

  3. Dear Danah
    Your information on harnessing collective intelligence is very nice. You have talked about Goodreads website.
    Goodreads website is a free website for book lovers. Imagine it as a large library that you can wander through and see everyone’s bookshelves, their reviews, and their ratings. You can also post your own reviews and catalog what you have read, are currently reading, and plan to read in the future.

  4. Hello Danah,

    Thank you for your elicit blog participation with this interesting top of Goodreads, in relation to Collective Intelligence in web 2.0. I agree with Prapat on how to find books. And now, after the explanation of how Goodreads works, I think of setting up an account on Goodreads. Moreover, I hope that I will find my next favorite book after applying both strategies that eventually get me to read more books that I would enjoy.


    Abdulkarim albany

    • Dear Abdulkareem
      Thank you for your nice replay , I hope that you’ll find a lot of new books to read , if you want tell me the book theme that you like I can recommend one of my own favorite books .

  5. I don’t think I’ve never learned anything like this before. So good to find an individual with some authentic thoughts on this subject. I really thank you for beginning it. This web site is one thing that’s wanted on the net, somebody with just a little originality.

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