'Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything' YouTubers, wiki-users and MySpacers are at the vanguard of a movement that's changing the way we do business.
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'Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything'

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'Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything'

'Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything'

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Scott Simon in Washington, D.C.

Remember the good old days of the Internet, say, just a couple of years ago, when you used the Internet to find an obscure fact to win a small bet about the lyrics of an old song, or try to find the phone number of the girl who wouldn't go to the high school prom with you? Well, it looks a lot different out there now. People log into virtual clubs, they have virtual romances, they buy, sell, flirt, spout and learn, like the explosive interaction you get when you mix Mentos and Diet Coke.

Last November the social networking site MySpace actually, not virtually, inched past the Internet giant Yahoo in U.S. page views. Now MySpace, which bills itself as a place for friends, has become much more than that. It's rising use may signal a vital shift in the whole culture of the Internet where everyone's input is better than just someone's input.

Don Tapscott calls it wikinomics. And in this hour, we're going to look at the economic and creative impact that this new method of mass collaboration may have on the way we innovate, including here at NPR. Later in the hour, we'll also investigate the world of snack food. What makes a snack delicious, or not, sometimes?

But first let's go to Don Tapscott. He's chief executive of the think-tank New Paradigm. He joins us from the studios of the CBC in Toronto. Mr. Tapscott, thanks very much for being with you - for being with us.

Mr. DON TAPSCOTT (CEO, New Paradigm): I'm delighted to be here, as it were.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: And by the way, we want to tell our listeners we want to hear from you. Our number in Washington, D.C.: 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. And the e-mail address is talk@npr.org.

Explain the whole “Wikinomics” title if we could, Mr. Tapscott, because a lot of people know obviously what Wikipedia is.

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Well, Scott, as you were saying, social networking sites like MySpace, or if any of your listeners have a kid in college, they're on the Facebook; 85 percent of them are - these things are exploding into becoming massive sort of teething communities. Do you know that MySpace has 375,000 new registrants per day, and it's well over 200 million people now, on its way to a billion people. And it sort of posses the question, well what's next? Where are these things going?

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Mr. TAPSCOTT: And that's what we do in the book “Wikinomics.”

SIMON: Well, you begin with the example of a Canadian mining company, which I find just fascinating.

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Well, it is. Essentially, this is becoming a new mode of production. It's changing our economy fundamentally. The company is called Goldcorp, and the former CEO, a guy name Rob McEwen - I actually know the guy because he's my neighbor - and he took over a gold mine, and his geologists couldn't tell him how much gold there was or where it was. And he got to the point where he was going to shut down the mine. But it occurred to him, maybe if my geologists don't know, somebody else does. So he did a very radical thing. He published his geological data on the Internet. Nobody does this in the mining industry. This is your most precious and secret resource. It's kept in safes...

SIMON: Maybe it's like Coca-Cola saying here's how you make it.

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Well, pretty much. And he held a contest - the company's called Goldcorp - held a contest called the Goldcorp Challenge: $500,000 for the top three submissions for anybody who could find gold. He got 77 submissions from around the world. Some of them used techniques he'd never heard of. Not just geologists, but he got submissions from mathematicians and computer scientists, people using organic solutions to inorganic problems. And for his $500,000 investment, he found $3.4 billion worth of gold. And the value of the company went from $100 million to $9 billion. And I can tell you, because he's my neighbor, he's a happy camper.

SIMON: So now he didn't hire consultants. He didn't turn to his own research development department, or at least wasn't satisfied with just that. He essentially opened it to the public and said, if you can help me find something, you get a piece of the action.

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Well, that's right. He used some of the principles of what we call wikinomics. First of all, he viewed his human capital, his best people, as being not necessarily inside the boundaries of his company. But the world, in a sense, is his oyster. And secondly, he opened up his company and he shared information that previously would be unthinkable to share. And he essentially reached out to the world to try and find the uniquely qualified minds to solve his problem. And smart companies are now beginning to do this, from Procter & Gamble, that opens up its research department and now within a year will have 50 percent of all its ideas coming from outside the company, to...

SIMON: Well, explain that to us. I know you're a consultant for Procter & Gamble. What do - how do they turn to the public, and what does the public give back?

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Well, A.G. Lafley, who's the CEO of Procter & Gamble, about three years ago said, within three or four years, I want 50 percent of all of our innovations to come from outside the company.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Mr. TAPSCOTT: So they're looking to be able to print on a potato chip, say, or to find some little molecule that you can stick in a Magic Marker-type-looking pen and dab it on your shirt and it'll take red wine off the shirt. But rather than going to their own R&D department, they go to one of - what we call in wikinomics an ideagora, which is basically an eBay for innovation. It's an open market for ideas and for uniquely qualified minds.

And somewhere out there on this InnoCentive network, which had 70,000 chemists on it. There's a retired chemist in Taipei, or a grad student in Cleveland, or a kid in London who loves chemistry that finds the molecule and P&G pays for it, say $100,000. They save millions of dollars by having their own internal R&D department do it and they come to market way faster. And if you look at the spectacular products coming out of P&G right now, this company is enormously successful. This whole shift from R&D, research and develop, to what they call connect and develop is at the heart of it.

SIMON: Connect and develop. By the way, we invite your calls: 800-989-8255. We hope you have some thoughts on how the world of blogs and wikis are changing the way, have changed, may change the way that you do business. This would entail leaving your computer screen and actually calling us...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: ...at 800-989-8255. But we hope you'll take the time to do it. I'm interested in something called - and forgive my pronunciation, I haven't had to say it on the air before, but it might be one of these words that we'll have to learn - ideagoras.

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Well, that's essentially what I was describing. Conventional wisdom says that what you need to do if you want to build a successful business is you need to get the best people. And those people, you bring them inside the boundaries of your company. And you've heard stuff like, you know, your most precious resource leaves every night on the elevator, and you retain human capital, I don't know, kind of like you retain fluids or something like that. And then they innovate, they come up with a big new idea, and then they - you patent it, and you trademark it, and you protect it.

Well, this didn't work so well for the, say, the record companies that have found themselves sticking with that model and suing their own customers as a result. There's a whole new way of thinking that's emerging, and ideagoras is one of the new business models that we describe. And it's essentially that the world is your oyster, literally.

So somewhere out there on the Internet that thing that you're looking for, be it a way to find gold on your property, or how to get red wine off a shirt, or how to build a faster engine, or for that matter how to build a better 740 - 787 Dreamliner, that uniquely qualified mind is outside the boundaries of your company.

And now essentially what's happening is that the Internet - and I think you correctly pointed out, Scott, this isn't your daddy's Internet; this is not some new platform for looking up stuff. This is becoming a global infrastructure that's basically radically dropping collaboration costs on a global basis. And that means that you can find that person, you can find that idea, you can find that little company, you can find that innovation that can help your company grow and compete.

SIMON: Let's take a call now from Audie(ph) in Bend, Oregon. Audie, thanks very much for being with us.

AUDIE (Caller): Hey, how are you?

SIMON: Fine. Thank you.

AUDIE: I just wanted to ask your guest and you if you're familiar with the book “The Wealth of Networks” by Yochai Benkler of Yale University.

SIMON: I'm not. Thanks for flattering me. No, I haven't heard of it. But, Don Tapscott?

Mr. TAPSCOTT: No. I have heard of it and it's a fabulous book. And it was the first book really to attempt to address this whole new topic. It's written very densely for academics, but it's a book that I think very highly of.

AUDIE: I have to - I should acknowledge that I have a conflict of interest. Yochai is my uncle. But we've been talking about this and he's been thinking about this for many years now. And I think one of the early examples that he gives in the book is that SETI@home is the most powerful computer in the world. And it's all of, you know, millions of users who have signed up to let their computer analyze data to explore extraterrestrial life and intelligence when their computers would otherwise be asleep.

And so this idea of networks, non-centralized networks distributed among thousands or millions of people creating more information and working faster and smarter than you ever could by centralizing most of the inputs of production I think is what so exciting about that. And, you know, Google is even doing the same thing, right? They don't have big mainframe computers. They have collected thousand and thousands of desktops, and that's what we run our Google searches on.

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Well, that's a great example. And SETI@home is a great example of how computers can, in a sense, mass collaborate to become one giant, global, super computer. But the next step of course is that people can do that, too. And the way we describe it in “Wikinomics” is that this is a new age of participation really that we're entering into. You want to contribute to finding extraterrestrial intelligence? Leave your computer on at night. Or for that matter, find a cure for AIDS rather than…

SIMON: Don, we should explain that. That's kind of passive, the SETI, what happens is that…

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Yeah.

SIMON: …the extraterrestrial telescope can use the spare storage space or disk power. Boy, am I out of my league here. But…

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Yeah.

SIMON: people at home don't have to contribute an idea. They don't say look at Star 27-9, although I suppose they can. They just leave their computers off or leave their computers available at night. But you're talking about the kind of thing in “Wikinomics” where a company says we have a problem, why don't we get a million minds to work on it rather than the 20 in our research and development department?

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Yeah. And people can now participate in the economy - that's the positive side to all of this - in ways that were unimaginable. So rather than just reading a book, you can write a book, you know, or for that matter, contribute to an encyclopedia, which is, what, a dozen times bigger than “Britannica” in many languages and that has the same quality. You can produce the news rather than just watching the news. So this is a very exciting time in human history.

SIMON: Well, thanks very much. Stand by, Mr. Tapscott. What we're talking about is the new world of collaboration on the Web. And by the way, even old media, like radio, specifically National Public Radio, is getting into that game. We'll talk about a new NPR project just after the break.

I'm Scott Simon. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon in Washington, D.C. We're exploring the world of wiki this hour, mass collaboration, all the rage whether you're an independent blogger or a giant like Procter & Gamble.

Our guest is Don Tapscott and his book is called “Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything.” And of course you're invited to join this conversation. What are you sharing on the Internet? Does mass collaboration work in your experience? Do you really want to be part of it? Give us a call at 800-989-TALK. Or our e-mail address - if some of you guys on the Web are more comfortable communicating that way - is talk@npr.org.

We want to go to Neal(ph) in San Francisco. Thanks for being with us. You have a question for Don Tapscott.

NEAL (Caller): Yeah, definitely. Don, I've had the chance to see you talk before and (unintelligible) business blogging, so we've talked a lot of companies about blogging as well. One of the questions that we get a lot and I wanted to get your opinion on it is, isn't this more of an evolution from, you know, new business communication tools - from the phone to then adding e-mail, maybe we added access in between in there. And then all of a sudden now we've got blogs and Wikis. It's not so much of a revolution as this kind of, you know, these baby steps towards an easier way of talking?

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Well, it certainly is an evolution. But there's also something that's discontinuous occurring here that, you know, throughout the last century we've had this institution called the corporation. And we created wealth through this thing and through its hierarchical structures. And now, because the Internet drops collaboration cost, we've got a whole new mode of production that's emerging, and this is to me and my co-author Anthony Williams the biggest change in the corporation in the century. And so, basically companies that can figure this out have the chance of succeeding, and I think that those who don't, well, punishment is already proving to be fairly swift.

SIMON: Let me see - oh, go ahead. Go ahead. Well, Don, I'll let you finish your sentence.

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Well, basically, what happens is that companies view this as a big threat. You know, so the Linux operating system comes along. You've got thousands of people creating an operating system that nobody owns. And Microsoft is views it as being a threat, although they're changing their attitude now. The things that are created by the many as part of the common somehow take away from the legitimate right of corporations to make a profit.

And what we try and show in the book is that, well, no, actually the opposite is the truth. The companies who can figure this out, like Procter & Gamble or IBM for that matter, that embrace Linux gives $100 million a year to the Linux community and saves $1 billion a year in developing and maintaining its old operating system that this can pay off.

SIMON: I'm taking a look at some of the condensed versions of some calls that are coming in. Let me ask you one that I think a lot of people are calling in with. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and want to be part of a company -of helping a company solve a problem, where do you go to find the company that's asking the question?

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Well, we list many of these of course in the book, and they're are also on…

SIMON: Well, buying your book isn't perhaps the only way, is it?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Well, it's definitely the starting - no, seriously. There are exploding communities that you can go to. You can go to - a good starting point is just to Google it. Whatever you're interested in, just go to Google. But also there are great examples of leading companies that are basically seeking out people and tying into networks like Yet2Come. It's pronounced yet2come, spelled Y-E-T-2-DOT-C-O-M, and that's another one of these open markets for intellectual property.

SIMON: OK.

Mr. TAPSCOTT: But also, it's just kind of happening around the world. I mean you look at something like the Chinese motorcycle industry. This is now the biggest motorcycle industry in the world and there's no company. There's no Yamaha. There's no Harley. It's basically thousands or little tiny companies that have kind of bumped into each other and they're now cooperating on the Internet and meeting in teahouses. And you make, you know, a distributor and somebody else makes a carburetor, and I do final assembly, and somebody else does marketing. This is now the biggest industry in the world. Well, so…

SIMON: Don, let me bring someone else on, OK?

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Okay.

SIMON: Because NPR is building its own new motorcycle. We have a new collaboration going here. We're joined at Studio 3A by Michel Martin. She's an NPR host and her new talk show is set to launch in April of 2007. My gosh, that's this year already, isn't it? Now it's being develop in a “Wikinomics” kind of way.

Michel, thanks for being with us.

MICHEL MARTIN: And Happy New Year, Scott.

SIMON: And Happy New Year to you. And how are you building the show?

MARTIN: Well, we decided to do something different. Normally when you're part of a start up, you kind of close the door. You know, it's like building a car in the garage and you don't open the door until the car is finished and it's ready to see the light. You know, you're familiar with those ads when you lift the curtain and ta-da, you know, and the girl on a bikini is like leaning across and you think ta-da, this is my new thing.

SIMON: Yeah. You have engineers working in secret.

MARTIN: Exactly.

SIMON: They can't take the plans home.

MARTIN: Can't take the plans home. This is my fourth start-up. I mean I've worked on, you know, obviously I came from television worked on three television start-ups, and we always did everything in very privately. You know, you'd show your work to very, very few people, always in-house, and that's what you do. And then you do the big ta-da.

SIMON: The pilots are just played for a few people.

MARTIN: The pilots are all placed for your in-house audience, maybe sponsors, but I never had that experience because I was never involved in that part of the business.

But in this case, we decided that we'd do something called open piloting, which is that we are doing our segments - and we're going to eventually move to whole shows - and we're making them available as their development. And I'm writing a blog describing the process by which we came to the decision to do this particular segment, you know, talk about why did we pick this topic. You know, why do we go to this particular person? And we're letting people, you know, listen in as we go along. And you find us at npr.org/roughcuts.

And, you know, there we are. We've posted two podcasts already, started before the holidays, and we're going on. And it's a little scary, I mean I have to tell you. This is my fourth start-up, and I love start-ups, but it's a little like getting dressed in public.

SIMON: Yeah.

MARTIN: OK? Because you're, you know, I'm hoping I'm a little easier on the eyes than - but it's a little like letting people see your mistakes. I mean, hopefully they're not egregious, you know. We wouldn't expose ourselves to something, we wouldn't put on something that we thought was journalistically wrong.

SIMON: Yeah.

MARTIN: But some of the segments are literally rough. And we're inviting people to talk to us about it, you know, what do you think, do you find this interesting? Is there something you would want to hear? And if so, why? if not, why not? Does this appeal to you? Now I'm not going to lie to you. I've asked people to be a little gentle. But I'm prepared to take it.

SIMON: Yeah.

MARTIN: And it's been really fascinating how seriously - Don, I'm sure this doesn't come as a shock to you - how seriously people take it?

SIMON: Yeah.

MARTIN: They have offered us extremely thoughtful critique. They have given us ideas about stories. But I have to tell you, Don, I'm curious about whether you've had this experience too. And I think it's because we're all human. Initially you look at the data as confirming your existing opinion. You think, I thought that too. You know, you really are searching out the people who agree with you already.

SIMON: For the public - they're brilliant, aren't they?

MARTIN: And the people who aren't loving you, well, you know, they didn't really understand me.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. TAPSCOTT: That's especially true for geniuses, Michel, like you and me.

MARTIN: I assume that. Thank you for telling me.

SIMON: Now I think what you're doing is really in the spirit of where the world is going, but it is a little unnerving because, you know, you make yourself naked. And if you're going to be naked, well, fitness is no longer an option. You know, you better be buff, meaning that you better have good value. I mean if they're really lousy episodes that you've got, people are going to tell you. But you also need to be prepared to accept the input that people are making. And if you don't, then there can be an intended consequence and things can really backfire.

MARTIN: Well, can I just tell you that one of the concerns I have about this process is the mechanism by which we're distributing this content, meeting the audience that we most want to hear it. For example, because we are distributed, you know, through NPR on our site, you know, you link to our site and because, you know, this is - we all are interested in exclusive content, you know, we all want people to listen to us and not to our competitors. You know, it's not like people are going to go to competitor X and they're not going to advertise.

So I guess the question I have is, does this process help you grow your audience? Does it help you find the people who are already in the tent who don't already like your brand, who aren't already acculturated to listen to NPR? And that's the question I have about it. Does it reach the diversity of the audience?

SIMON: Don, any reaction?

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Well, I think the answer is that that's absolutely true. And what you're describing is a whole change in the modus operandi maybe of how a broadcaster - and for that matter, any organization - works. And the old model was really plan and push. And you described it aptly. You create something great and then you flog it. The new model is, and what all of these examples I've been giving you, is that you engage and co-create, you co-innovate. And it's not impossible to do that because of the Web. And when you do, you A, get a better product. And B, because you've engaged people, you become more influential and more people get involved.

SIMON: Well, let me ask you a question. Don and Michel, is there some danger at the same time that you receive so many conflicting opinions you don't know what to do and you put on a show that doesn't have a sense of direction at all? Not all at once.

MARTIN: Or that your feedback is skewed.

SIMON: Yeah.

MARTIN: You're just - you're not expanding your universe of ears. You're listening from the people who are already listening to you who are trained to hear a certain kind of voice and a certain kind of story in a certain kind of way.

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Correct.

MARTIN: And that if you are different, you are by definition wrong as opposed to different. So that's…

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Yeah. I think there are many different models that we're talking about here. Essentially, you're opening up. You're kind of undressing for success, right? You're trying to get input and engage your listener audience. In some ways they're not just listeners now, they're sort of co-creators…

MARTIN: Co-collaborators.

Mr. TAPSCOTT: …with you. Yeah. But that's just one of the models. There are many. Like what we're doing with “Wikinomics,” actually, the final chapter is being actually written by the readers. And we're launching this in a couple of weeks; we're actually beta testing it today on Wikinomics.com. And what we're asking people to do is to actually create the chapter in the same way that Wikipedia's done.

And that can be something that can result in all kinds of unpredictable consequences. Like, for starters, you can have factual errors like Wikipedia does at certain points in time. Like right now I can go say Michel Martin is the world's leading accordion player on Wikipedia if…

MARTIN: How did you know?

SIMON: We've got to have you - can you play “Lady of Spain” before we go?

MARTIN: How did you know?

SIMON: Come on (unintelligible) bring that accordion here. I think we all want to hear it.

MARTIN: It would be more like “Atomic Dog,” but.

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Yeah. Well, I'm guessing this is not a true statement, but that's going to get (unintelligible) real fast.

SIMON: Vicious stereotype isn't it, Don, that Michel doesn't play the accordion? Yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: News people can't (unintelligible) both hands. Yeah.

Mr. TAPSCOTT: I didn't picture her doing the polka somehow, but I could be wrong. But that's going to get corrected. But first of all the world's greatest - there's going to be like hundreds of people all over that within a minute. And then there are going to be accordion players that are going to be saying who the heck is Michel Martin, you know. She doesn't even have any CDs, accordion CDs. So that's going to get corrected, too.

But in the meantime, you know, for a little while there this factually incorrect statement is going to exist up there. So it's sort of the art and science of trying to figure out what's the best model to achieve the outcome that you want.

SIMON: Michel, at some point an actual gifted show producer or series of show producers will make the hard decisions among the wealth of suggestions, right? As at Proctor & Gamble, at some point an executive has to decide this is very interesting, let's go this way and let's leave some of these other ideas behind.

MARTIN: Absolutely. I mean - and I think - and that's the way it should be. I mean - journalism - that's the difference between sort of journalism and other jobs. Journalism is not just pointing a camera at something. It's not just pointing a microphone at something. Journalism is about the process of decision, about what is to be heard or listened to or seen.

So at the end of the day, yes, we are the final editors and arbiters. And, you know, we invite the public to participate and add their voices, add their information, add their content, but we are responsible. That's what we do. That's what people are asking us to do. That's what they're paying us to do.

But I love it. I must tell you, I love it. I love the sense of connection you get with people who have taken the time to listen to you and are talking to you and they've found you. It's almost like you're finding each other. It's like you're looking across - it's like you're on this big dance floor, and instead of just being there by yourself, the people who want to dance with you are looking for you too. And it's amazing.

SIMON: I hear the accordion music already. By the way, you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

We're going to go to a caller now. Andrew. Andrew in Atlantic City, you still with us?

ANDREW (Caller): Yes. Yes.

SIMON: Thank you. You had a question. We have a network executive in the control room. He is what you might call expert opinion just sort of hanging around looking over our shoulders, but Michel certainly will have some input on your show. What about the roll of expert opinion? Andrew, what do you have to say?

ANDREW: Well, I just wondered if this crowd sourcing is going to lead to, you know, less jobs for people who are, you know, traditionally retained by one employer. Are they going to have look around for a lot of freelance little jobs or, you know, will the net result be, you know, a harmful economic impact? And I'll take my answer off the air. Thank you.

SIMON: OK. Thanks very much. Don?

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Well, the starting point is that companies that embrace these new ideas are going to grow and they will hire more people, as P&G is doing. The people in the research department of Proctor & Gamble are not losing their jobs. It's just that P&G is growing.

Having said that, there's absolutely no question that there will be a growing part of the economy that are sort of either little companies or freelancers that now have an opportunity to participate more fully in the global economy where they couldn't before.

There are all kinds of social - and for that matter, political - implications of that statement. You know, when the economy changes, it does cause changes to many other institutions. And we're in the early days of really understanding what this huge change in how you innovate and orchestrate capability in society is going to affect our society overall.

On the question of expert opinion, I couldn't agree more, Scott, with both you and Michel, that people will still read The New York Times because they trust the judgment of the editors. And especially if The New York Times changes its model so that young people will interact with it, and it'll have to - the form that it takes of course will have to be much more digital and interactive and online and it'll have to find ways that engage people.

But what Michel could do, actually - and this would again be a riskier thing -rather than her just making the final decision on things, she could actually do what they do on YouTube and you could have a rating system.

You know, Current TV, Al Gore's cable television network, shows you how to go and create a news clip. You know, how to do the lighting and, you know, how to have a good end and structure it and everything. And then you put your television news clip on the Internet and people vote for it. And if it's highly rated, it gets broadcast on the cable TV network. Fifty percent of all of their news comes this way.

Now, do you get a bias? Yeah. But if you get enough people, you get a bias in favor of what, you know, what the population is interested in. Again raising all kinds of issues. National Public Radio, maybe your responsibility is not just to talk about what people are interested in, it's to talk about what you and your considered opinion thinks is important.

MARTIN: Exactly. I mean that - you know, I can just sort of feel my blood pressure rising as you were saying that. Because obviously coming from commercial television as I did, ratings are a very complicated issue. I mean ratings as they are currently - how can I put this? Ratings have almost no statistical significance in the real world. Their only function really is to apportion ad dollars.

And so the question then becomes - and if you think about how we talk about a ratings system, if we talk about politicians who maybe make policy by the polls, we don't have a lot of regard for them. I mean part of our added value is to bring judgment to bear about what's important, not just popular.

SIMON: Michel, thanks for being with us. ROUGH CUTS on the NPR Web site if people want to participate.

MARTIN: Thank you.

SIMON: Don Tapscott in Toronto, please stand by with us.

We're going to take a few more of your calls when we come back from a short break. We're going to talk about your snack bowl, too.

I'm Scott Simon. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: We're talking about “Wikinomics.” Don Tapscott, the author of “Wikinomics,” joins us from the studios of the CBC in Toronto. Don, I want to take some phone calls. So why don't we go to Louis(ph) in Phoenix.

LOUIS (Caller): Hello.

SIMON: Thanks for hanging on with us for, my gosh, 24 minutes Louis. What's your question?

LOUIS: No, no. You're certainly welcome. It's just a fantastic show, so I want to thank you first of all. I am a marketing MBA student at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State. And in our program, which is very much a services oriented marketing program, we're very attuned to figuring out how to use these types of social networks for competitive advantage in the marketplace.

And, you know, historically, companies like Cisco have used these things, for example, to enhance service delivery. So a bunch of their - they create a network out of several of their - out of many of their customers, who then can go in a (unintelligible) fashion to solve troubleshooting problems, right?

But I'm curious, when you think about what the next evolution of service enhancement is that uses these sort of social networks, what would that be? And then also, what happens as this platform moves from essentially an emerging platform to one that's more mature where companies, you know, as we've mentioned several times on the show, are essentially undressing in public? And how do you maintain your competitive advantage when everybody else is in the marketplace essentially trying to emulate this sort of user-generated network?

SIMON: Don Tapscott?

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Well, they're both great questions. On the first one, we've concluded that marketing as we have known it is changing quite fundamentally. And if you think about where this is going, that the customer is not just somebody out there sort of outside your company, but they can now co-create value with you.

So I'll just give you an example. Lego has this product called the “Mindstorms,” OK? Kids build robots. They're real robots using artificial intelligence and so on. But because kids know so much about technology, the kids hacked the code and they started sharing all these Mindstorm applications on the Internet, created a Web site and so on.

So Lego had a choice. They could kind of be like the music industry and decide to sue the children or - don't get me going on that - or they could open the whole thing up, which is what they did. They opened up all of their specifications and you've now got thousands of software engineers between the ages of 60 and four developing these Mindstorm applications.

But they're really viewing their customers not as somebody outside of the company, as somebody who can co-create value with us. And that's what we call prosumers. The gap between consumers and producers starts to blur. And you can see this in all kinds of growing sectors of the economy, everything from software to automobiles.

SIMON: Let's go to another call while we have the chance, Don. Mimi, in Portland, Oregon.

MIMI (Caller): Hi. I've had much experience with the Internet and have found it frustrating over and over because of the lack of primary - excuse me, I forgot - resources. You get information so often that is so removed from the initial research or source that you end up running this race around.

I'm wondering - my question is if there's been any research about the breaking down of local communities because everyone's staying inside on the computer instead of knowing their neighbors? And then also, what might happen to communities if there would be like a global breakdown of this network? All of a sudden people don't know each other and their resources are less available. And I'll take my call off the air. Thank you.

SIMON: Thank you for calling Mimi. You know, people have pointed out, Don, that when a company that talks about having a mobile workforce and people working at home become successful, one of the first things they usually do is build a great big headquarters.

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Well, I think if you want to understand this issue, the place to start is by looking at young people today as they come into the workforce and figure out how they are and how they're different and how they work and what the impact is. Basically, we've got the first generation ever to grow up sort of bathed in bits, if you like - 80 million of them in the U.S. alone between the ages of 13 and 29.

And these kids, rather than watching TV, have been interacting, and they actually think differently. But the most important thing is that time online for them has not taken away from hanging out with your friends or playing and learning soccer or learning the piano or talking to your parents or doing your homework or something. Time online has taken away from TV.

And their parents, the baby boomers, watched 24 hours a week of television. These kids watch less TV, and they watch it differently. They come home, and rather than turning on the tube, they turn on their computer. And they're in three different windows, and they're talking on the telephone. They're listening to their, quote, “stereo,” you know, MP3 files, and they've got three magazines open, and they're doing their homework. And yeah, the TV may be going on in the background.

But what's happening is that the whole experience of youth is different, but there's no evidence to suggest that this takes away from community. If anything, these kids - rather than being the passive recipients of somebody's video for 24 hours a week - are interacting and they're building communities online. And these communities appear to be enhancing the development of actual human communities.

You look at something like the Facebook, and if you've got a kid in college or university, just go and get them to show you what the Facebook is like. It's an extraordinary thing.

SIMON: Don, do you have…

Mr. TAPSCOTT: My…

SIMON: Don, we have a whole other subject to get next to.

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Yeah, okay. All right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: On snack foods. You're welcome to stay on with us if you want, but we have a guest standing by. I want to thank you for all the time, and in particular your grace with callers.

Mr. TAPSCOTT: Okay, my pleasure.

SIMON: Don Tapscott, who is the co-author with Anthony D. Williams of the book “Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration” - including in pronunciation - “Changes Everything.”

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