Monday, October 12, 2009


I live in Manhattan. But if you can be off the beaten track on our crowded little island, that's where I am. It's a full 20-minute walk to the subway, so if you're tired after work, rather than schlep to one of the hip neighborhoods for dinner, you tend to stay close to home.

It seems nearly every restaurant, every food shop in the neighborhood has a Zagat's placard that almost invariably shows scores in the very high teens or low twenties. Meaning that those restaurants and shops are among the best in the city.

These scores are the result of "crowd-sourcing."

Of course, what crowd-sourcing fails to account for is experimenter bias. If someone in my neighborhood chooses a local Chinese restaurant over taking a trip to one of the really great ones in Chinatown, there's a good chance that that person rationalizes his decision not to travel by giving the local place a high-rating. "Why trek to Chinatown when the local place gets a 24 from Zagat's?" is the way the logic usually works.

I suppose there can be wisdom in crowds, but as with most research you have to be careful reading results. You may remember some Folger's commercials from decades ago in which people were treated to an expensive dinner, then served Folger's coffee (without knowing it was Folger's) and asked to comment on the coffee. That is hardly a testing scenario designed to elicit honest discourse.

My point is really simple. You can get feedback from crowds, that's fine. Just like creative directors can solicit ideas from anyone. But ultimately a decision must be made regarding the quality of the feedback or input you received. To default solely to the wisdom of crowds is an abdication of your own insight and intelligence. It is not "crowd-sourcing," it is "responsibility abnegation."

1 comment:

Teenie said...

I hate it when ad gurus and agency heads say stuff like "even the receptionist can come up with a brilliant ad idea!". Now I've seen some excellent receptionists who perform their jobs like magic, but I'm pretty sure if you gave them a brief and a week they'd still be stumped.

It's kind of why everyone is, you know, an expert at their own dang job.