Book Review: Here Comes Everybody

here comes everybody.jpgI took a break from fiction last month and read Here Comes Everybody, by Clay Shirky. To explain my interest in this book, I should mention that Bryan once read me an entire keynote speech given by Clay Shirky, from his iPhone, while sitting on a bench as the kids played at the park.

Such is geek love.

The book was interesting, though not as riveting to me as Freakonomics was. I think most people who are interested in reading it will not find anything Earth shattering about it, but I did enjoy the case studies.

“The power of organizing without organizations.” That’s what the internet and all its social media provides the common man. Professionals and institutions and governments are scratching their heads at our ability to create, publish, gather, and move mountains.

We are polite, and exercise rules of etiquette as we collaborate. But if you steal our cell phone, or trap us on an airplane for several hours, or overthrow our government, our collaborations will spread the word faster than a wildfire. And before you can hit ctrl+alt+delete, you’ll have a flash mob on your hands, or a hundred bloggers calling you out, or a customer manifesto enacted into law.

That’s right: if you choose to step on the toes of social media’s children, you will reap the consequences of their collective roar.

Out of all the things I found interesting about the book, I will mention two that hit on Real Life discussions I’ve had. The first comes from the chapter titled, Solving Social Dilemmas. Shirky tells us the most popular group currently on is Stay At Home Moms (SAHM). I know. I KNOW. I’m tired of hearing about us, too. But hear me out.

Shirky points out the significance of SAHMs adapting to media and technology, and what that says about the tools we choose:

Some groups we expect to be technology-obsessed; maleness, singleness, and youth all correlate with technophilia, while femaleness, age and family life don’t. So when a group of mothers adopts a piece of technology, it indicates an expression of preference far more serious than seeing a thirteen-year-old boy go wild over an Xbox. The popularity of groups like Stay At Home Moms indicates that Meetup’s utility in helping people gather in the real world is valuable enough to get the attention of people who are too busy for most new tools.

In other words, do what Mom says.

I found this refreshingly intelligent in light of all the emotional battle cries I hear about the importance of SAHMs on the internet.

The second topic that struck me in light of Real Life discussions comes from the chapter titled, Fitting Our Tools to a Small World. “What a small world!” we say when we bump into a friend of a friend (FOAF). Shirky breaks down the social phenomenon of Six Degrees of Separation, and reminds us our large world is simply a series of smaller world connections. As our network grows it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain healthy relationships, so we must continue to break down our network into smaller groups, remaining connected to the larger network through one or two members of each group.

(are you following me?)

Shirky points out that a network of 5,000 people would require half a million connections – hardly the formula for healthy relationships. So what do you do? –

…dense and sparse connections – at different scales. You let the small groups connect tightly, and then you connect the groups. But you can’t really connect groups – you connect people within groups. Instead of one loose group of twenty-five, you have five tight groups of five. As long as a couple of people in each small group know a couple of people in other groups, you get the advantages of tight connection at the small scale and loose connection at the large scale. The network will be sparse but efficient and robust.

This pretty much sums up the organizational structure of my church, and also closed off any doubts I’ve had regarding said structure.

Our congregation has grown to epic proportions over the years, so our leadership relaunched us into a multi campus structure. I won’t get into all the details of how this works, but generally speaking we have one main campus (HUB) with one main preacher, and multiple campuses spread around the city, each with it’s own leadership (SPOKE).

I had my reservations about this structure for many reasons, the first being my perception of a Starbucks-like taking over of the world. My church on every corner and even in some grocery stores? I think not.

But this new perspective on breaking the “network” down into a smaller, more socially manageable size, makes sense. Our large church of 5,000 now meets in smaller “campus” groups of 100-300, which then have multiple in-home community groups of less than 15 people. All of these smaller groups stay intimate, but they are connected to the larger body. in this way we can teach and meet the needs of many, while encouraging growth and discipleship intimately.

There were many more interesting topics covered. I recommend reading Here Comes Everybody, particularly if you are new to the Interwebs or have any sort of reservations toward social media or enjoy historical case studies on the use of technology.

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