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Business - Written by on Monday, March 9, 2009 10:13 - 2 Comments

Denis Hancock
NBA Team Ranker: The wisdom of crowds revealed through micro polling

For most of the last year there’s been one major point in relation to wikinomics that I’ve been trying to make more than any other – that while it’s often seen as synonymous with the “wisdom of crowds“, more often than not wikinomics-enabled strategies focus on finding (and leveraging) “uniquely qualified minds“. This is a subtle but important difference that is most obvious in the first story presented in the book – GoldCorp. Rather than being a tale of how a crowd of people came together to “mass collaborate” and create value, it was an excellent example of using transparency and the web to find those few uniquely gifted individuals that know how to find gold.

However, this line of argument isn’t meant to say that “wisdom of crowd” applications don’t exist – and I continue to look for examples that I find compelling. One that I find quite interesting right now is the NBA Team Ranker. If you launch the application, you are presented with a simple question – “Which team is better?”, from two options (say, the Raptors and the Lakers). It takes only a second to toss your opinion into the ring. But as the application does this micro polling over and over again, rotating through the 30 NBA squads in a series of binary choices, it adds up to a “collective wisdom” – a ranking from #1 to #30 for the entire league.

What’s interesting about this, in my opinion, is the micro-polling component. An alternative for gathering collective wisdom would have just been asking people to rank the 30 squads, than averaging it out – but this is a very time consuming process for individuals which would limit participation. The question, of course, is how “good” the results are that roll up from the micro polling process.

Now it’s hard to create a definitive answer to this, but if you are an NBA fan and scan the list you are almost certain to say it’s at least close – teams like the Lakers, Cavs, Celtics, Spurs and Magic at the top, and teams like the Wizards, Clippers and the Kings at the bottom. In fact, it’s very similar to Power Ranking lists like this one from NBA.com. The only big argument people may have is the Spurs position at the top – but given recent history (the Spurs winning the NBA title in odd years – 2003, 2005, and 2007), this might just turn out to be pretty smart.

So at minimum, it looks like an interesting approach. I wonder how many other micro-polling possibilities – where you ask simple, binary questions to a massive audience, rather than a detailed question /poll that each person must answer – are out there?


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Stuart Berman
Mar 9, 2009 13:18

As a fan of Wisdom of the Crowd (as well as Wikinomics) you have to wonder whether these polls can measure how good a team or player is rather than how popular or well loved one is.

Take the case of Shane Battier of the Rockets, it seems that few outside of his ‘boss’, Daryl Morey, and Moneyball author, Michael Lewis seem to appreciate his contribution despite dismal stats. See the NYT article for details at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/15/magazine/15Battier-t.html

This kind of analysis might be just what you are loking for.

Differences between organization, mass collaboration, and crowds « PublicOrgTheory
Mar 10, 2009 9:54

[...] Denis Hancock at Wikinomics makes an important point almost as an aside and as an introduction to a post about something else: For most of the last year there’s been one major point in relation to wikinomics that I’ve [...]

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