The folks in my local network are amazing. They are the ones who will babysit for my children, or hang out after work with my family. They are the ones who seem to share a lot of the same values with me. After all, they moved close to where we live for a reason, right? They are really the ones that I should be turning to with my problems and with my questions.
But, they aren’t. In fact, there are so few local people that I turn to on a daily basis, that I am almost scared by it. Other than a few key people (my wife included), my local network is a wasteland of e-mail threads and empty projects. Whenever I have a new idea, I don’t put it out to the people that I work with on a daily basis. I send the idea out to anyone who cares to take a stab. And more often than not, the only people with that inclination are anything but local.
It is counterintuitive to think that people who do not share the same space and time with me (or even have a previous personal relationship with me) would be more likely to join in on a project than their local counterparts. In fact, it is almost unfathomable that my local network would be so silent on some of the issues that I seem to face all of the time.
My local network does not see the value in commenting back and forth. They do not see the value in Twitter or Buzz. They are not plugged into the conversation. They are not ready to avail themselves of crowdsourcing activities. And, I guess that is the difference.
The local is striving to stay local.
The crowd is striving to be a part of the crowd (or, at least, and individual in the crowd).
The only way to stay local is to be unplugged and uninformed. If you are engaging in conversations that are universal, you will become international, even cosmopolitan. If you are striving to connect, there is no choice but to connect with those outside of your local network.
While I would like to bring the local to meet the crowdsourced, the only way for that to happen would be for the people near me to adopt the methodology of the crowd. they must be more public with their work. They must strive to answer passionate questions. They must stop placing so much value on people that they can “have a beer with.”
Being a source for someone’s crowd is valuable because it means that they will be a source for you as well. There is a certain level of reciprocation that we can expect from the crowd, even if it is only a feeling about such things. Again, this is counterintuitive. It should be that the locality will produce more reciprocation because of proximity, but instead it breeds a lot more competition. If you are doing something of value, it will be noticed among the crowd and leveraged to everyone’s benefit.
If we are able to bring more people along from the local to the crowd, we may be able to change the very nature of what it means to be local. We may be able to change the expectations for how much participation is possible and what level of investment is guaranteed. We could change local to mean all kinds of connection, not just face to face.
While, I see a lot of drawbacks to crowdsourcing, when it comes to asking my own questions. I am directing them more toward people I don’t know than people I do. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that the most interesting opportunities and people have always come from outside the local, and not from within. Is that a function of the web, or is that just the way that it always has been?