Mass Collaboration

From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Mass Collaboration refers to collaboration in very large groups, enabled by the internet.



From an article by Kevin Thompson, based on the [ Power of Us article in Business Week.

Typologies of Internet-based mass collaboration

"There are three types of internet-based “mass collaboration" which I would characterise as:

1. Give and Take - for example creating shared distributed computing capacity

Example: alllowing Skype to use some spare computing, in exchanging for using the service

2. Needles in Haystacks - connecting to other like-minds through shared interest rather than personal relationship

Example: How Innocentive use 80,000 self-selected problem solvers

3. Participation through Passion - co-inventing with others based on passion rather than money as the motivator

Example: Free Sofware and Open Source projects

Ken Thompson also identifies four different degrees of collaboration:

1. Solowork - members doing same things at different times

These can be completed by single individuals without help. There is no division of labour and no concurrency.

2. Crowdwork - members doing the same thing at the same time

These tasks require multiple team members to do the same activity concurrently. Crowdword has a place in organisational teams such as team review meetings, brainstorming and team social gatherings. There is concurrency but no division of labour.

3. Groupwork - members doing different things at different times (sequential)

This is where a task is split into two or more subtasks that can be organised sequentially. Example: working on shared documents. There is division of labour but no concurrency.

4. Teamwork - members doing different things at same time (concurrent)

Requires multiple individuals to perform different tasks concurrently. Different individuals must do different things at the same time. There is both division of labour and concurrency. This is real 'Teamwork" and requires the most complex co-ordination between team players.

Advantages of Scale in Mass Collaboration

"Scale" enables some particularly useful characteristics in nature’s teams, such as:

Reduced vulnerability to individual member failure

Individual member actions are unlikely to alter the overall group outcome due to the sheer numbers involved.

Swarm Intelligence

Simple individual behaviours can produce amazingly sophisticated collective results. Examples of this include bird flocking, schools of fish and ants amazing scheduling and routing capabilities.

Emergent Behavior

Swarming and school formation is a known as Emergent Behavior. An emergent behaviour can appear when a number of simple entities (agents) operate in an environment, forming more complex behaviours as a collective. The property itself is often unpredictable and unprecedented, and represents a new level of the system's evolution. The complex behaviour or properties are not a property of any single entity, nor can they easily be predicted or deduced from behaviour in the lower-level entities." (


'Principles enabling mass collaboration:

Anthony Bradley and Mark McDonald from Gartner Inc. give precious insights in their book “The Social Organization”, on how to develop a strategic approach to community collaboration.

According to Bradley and McDonald, the implementation of social media without displaying the following 6 core principles, won’t enable mass collaboration:

Participation: without the contributions of the community (ideas, comments, etc) there is no collaboration.

Collective: community members contribute to a collective effort, constantly being created and expanded through a multitude of independent contributions.

Transparency: all contributions should be visible by everyone, in order to allow the community to apply content more intelligently. Without transparency there can be no collaboration. Independency: each member can collaborate independently: anytime, anywhere updating, commenting, editing…

Persistence: what information should persist, be held and kept for others to view, share and increase? This should be taken into account when choosing a solution/platform.

Emergence: it’s what emerges over time within the community in terms of ideas, solutions, expertise, innovation, around a common purpose." (

More Information

  1. Anderson , Carl, Franks N., 1989. "Teamwork in animals, robots and humans", Advances in the Study of Behavior, pp. 1-27. Publications of Carl Anderson are at
  2. Ken Thompson's website is at
  3. PhD thesis by Mark Elliot, at
  4. Specialized wiki at
  5. Benefits of social software for enabling mass collaboration: