The book begins with an intriguing story of a girl who found a cellphone that was forgotten in a cab and later refused to return it to the owner. It happened in New York in May 2006 and was reported widely on the Internet as well as in New York Times. Surprisingly, I have not noticed this story even though I was living on Long Island at that time. Moreover the house in which I rented a room was receiving New York Times every morning.
Anyway, that story demonstrates the power of Internet crowd. They are powerful enough to change the course of action of government. A mere 10 years ago such things were impossible.
The book is full of such examples. In other chapters it describes the story of Wikipedia and its unsuccessful predecessor Nupedia, the story of Linux, multiple political riots, as well as unusual cases from American life. Thus it is possible to think of this book as a series of case studies. But the author goes beyond that. Being an NYU professor, the author find out what made such things possible.
He discusses multiple historic examples, for example how McCallum have thought of an org chart when he was working at New York & Erie Railroad. Another example is the invention of the printing press. Before that, the books were copied by hand. No matter how many people were doing that the literacy did not spread. It was impossible to teach people to write using book copying. What was needed was a vast increase in the number of books being read тАУ and only after that people began trying to reproduce what they were reading themselves. The invention of printing press increased the literacy significantly.
The author studied the distribution of number of contributions to Wikipedia. It turned out that most people did very few short contributions. For example, many people attempted to start an article but were not competent enough to write the whole thing. Thus they left after writing only an introduction. But such small contributions when accumulated build a solid encyclopedia.
IRC was mentioned as one of the most convenient means of communication but it is probably the hackersтАЩ paradise. But the author mentions an Internet company Meetup almost in every chapter. I have checked out this website. In Helsinki there are fewer than 5 groups with as many as 100 members. Well, Meetup did not take off everywhere in the world. The author describes other companies that his students have developed.
Well written, with lots of examples, thought provoking, this book will entertain IT professionals and non-computer people alike. The book greatly benefits from the fact that the author is a professor and teacher as the clarity and structure of the text is of very high quality. To me it is an invaluable historical evidence of present day changes which people will keep analyzing for a long time.