Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Spent part of the day at Disney Sea with Mizuka for her birthday. There were lots of lines and lots of crowds. When we encountered crowds I realized that my behavior was a bit different than most of the people, but obviously not unique. I would avoid crowds and try to go in the opposite direction of crowds. If I noticed I was near the front of a crowd or ahead of a crowd, I would accelerate and try to stay ahead. Otherwise I would change course or go the other direction. If there were lines, I would choose the shortest one.

I saw some people doing exactly the opposite. Even though there were ticket windows open, they would go to where people were lined up. If there was a crowd, it often attracted more people. Even if people were ahead of the pack, they walked slowly and were engulfed by the crowd.

I think investing and business development is a bit like a theme park where new rides are opening and various things changing, with the crowds rushing from one area to another. I think you should focus on trying to find cool things to do in less crowded spaces. Don't be worried because there's no one there yet. You should try to stay ahead of the crowd if the crowd is headed in the same direction. If you see the crowd coming your way, get your business done quickly.

The social software space is starting to feel a bit crowded. ;-) I think we're still near the head of the crowd, but pretty soon it's going to feel like a crowded Disneyland ride I think... This doesn't mean I'm going to start running in the opposite direction, but there are lots of things we need to do before the follow-the-pack'ers all arrive.


Yeah, whatever, Joi, but did Mizuka enjoy the birthday? ;)

Isn't this just part of the new Japanese culture? You see it everywhere you go in Tokyo. People crowd into restaurants BECAUSE there is a line in front of it. I almost never see people "wait for the next one" when it comes to crowded trains or elevators. I've become convinced that modern Japanese PREFER crowds and lines. Just look at the typical Tokyo clutter barn that most people live in and I am convinced that Tokyo has bred a type of agoraphobia. People would freak out if there is not something within reach on all sides. I used to laugh when I saw someone in a nearly empty train car standing with his nose half an inch from the door. It's so common though now it just gives me the creeps. This closness gives a sense of safety and security. You can't go wrong if 400 other people are doing exactly the same thing, you can't be in the wrong place if there's already a family of 6 in your boxers.
As part of my personal rebellion I conciously try to go against that. I wait on the platform for a train I can ride on that isn't a sardine can, wait for an elevator that doesn't have people falling out of it everytime the door opens, try the restaurant with no line in front. Of course my coworkers just think I'm a wierd eccentric.

BTW I hope you did not spend your wifes birthday at Disneyland commenting to her on weird social phenomenon. (I've been busted for that before) Weather was awesome today, a great time to be outside.

joi, is this post supposed to be:
[a] an observation about disney sea's crowds?
[b] a personal introspective observation?
[c] an analogy?
[d] a motivational talk?

there is safety in numbers. if i'm in a new neighborhood looking for food, i go for the place that looks the most packed. if people are fighting to get in, it's gotta be good! :)

i'm one of those people that always complain about how something was so "kewl" before it became mainstream... ;)

Ado: Yes. I think Mizuka had a good time.

Kakyo: I didn't discuss this idea with Mizuka. But I did put "stupid mobs" in my cell phone memo so I would remember to blog it later.

Andrew: Actually, it's an attempt to turn a random observation on a day off into something that might look like a blog entry. ;-p

Safety in numbers? As in lemmings? Or investors in tech stocks? ;-p I guess if you know very little and don't have confidence (which is true if you are in a new neighborhood) this might be an OK strategy, but why not take risk? But I guess you wouldn't be at Sony if you wanted risk... ;-)

Joi, if you want to stay ahead of the crowd you better start running to your desitination. I'm somebody that stays with the crowd, always at the leading edge. Not that people are following me, but I have a sixth sense for picking up on what the leaders are doing. I only do the mainstream, and I'm quickly aparoching where you are. So you better RUN if you don't want the masses catching you.

i am moving in the opposite direction, the crowd is totally blind

When doing something mainstream (going to an amusement park for a birthday), you want to be a little unconventional by not getting trapped by crowds, mobblogging it (hope the disney copyright police don't come after you :) etc.

But if you're out on the fringe , you're grasping for people to support you. Now I bet if you took Mizuka on a helicopter to the top mt. fuji with a couple of military grade segways to fly down at 200 km/h for her birthday you wouldn't probably be thinking about ways to stray from the norm. Rather you're probably thinking on some level to take the path closest to civiliation, first aid and cell phone coverage.

I got a chance to hear Ryan Mathews speak about the fringe ( a while ago and he concluded that being completely away from the crowd has great possible rewards but more often leads to social banishment.

(personally, I'm probably pretty mainstream but I'm not bothered with whatever is someone wants to pigeonhole me as :)

Some people are confortable being in 'sheep' mode. Others prefer the 'wolf' mode. Both have their pros and cons. I guess I'm the latter. I'm a cartoonist. I just do what I do. I don't care if other people are doing what I'm doing or not. That being said, cartooning is a very crowded market- there's lots of us. What keeps most cartoonists from succeeding is not the work, but the the unoriginality of the business models. They see a cartoonist in the paper, and say 'I want his job', then start copying what he's doing. Which is why the world is awash with second-rate Far Sides and Dilberts. Oh, dear.

When i arrive, crowds run away.

Am I a Nerd?! :-D

Hmmm, seems crowds are the same everywhere. Or at least at ever Disneyland type amusement park.

I can't stand crowds myself because it feels like sheep herding and that is something I loathe. That and people naturally lose intelligence the more people they are around. The phenomenon is disturbing.

Funny won't see a Scrooge McDuck statue in such a predominate style anywhere at the California Disney parks...

I'm quoting the third paragraph for good luck.

Some people get confused when there are no lines, or assume that the ticket window is closed if there is nobody else there.

Some people think there is only one window.

Others know there are more than one window, but the risk is if nobody else is in the line, how do you know the ride is good?

There is your risk/reward assessment.

Where did I hear the story about waiting in line at the DMV?

Some comedian or something complaining about the huge line at the car registration window. A huge long line that moved so slowly. Next to it there was a much shorter line and just had a few people in it.

You take the risk, maybe everyone is just to scared to take the shorter path because there is safety in numbers.

Of course maybe the shorter line is shorter becuase it is for registering farm vehicles only ;)

Still, do you want to live you life risk averse, unable to do anything for because you are afraid of what might be, or take the risk, and accept the consequenses if you choose wrong?

Look at how many people miss out on great opportunities just because there is a risk they may look bad. The reward may be great, and the risk may be low, but I think most people prefer to keep the bland life they have and avoid risk just because it is more comfortable, it requires less thought, and people don't like being embarrased.

Nearly everyone I've eever met(myself included) fall into this trap. The ones who didn't are branded fools by all around them (myself includedd), but I can't help but admire them.

If you are patient, betting against (or before) crowds is especially effective in markets.

Crowds distort prices going up -- there isn't enough supply and everyone wants to buy -- and going down -- everyone is trying to dump something they don't really need/want and there are no buyers, 'cause everyone already bought.

So investing must be easy, right? The nasty part: often even mavericks are part of a crowd that is too big and generalized to recognize as a crowd. For example, Joi was in the short lines at Disney, but he was still at Disney. And he was amidst a crowd of 12.3 million people in Tokyo.

Getting caught in a big crowd isn't dangerous when it comes to birthday outings -- nobody goes bust riding rollercoasters, even in Tokyo -- but when everyone makes the same underlying financial assumptions, the unravelling can be unhappy. Imagine everyone trying to flee Disney (or Tokyo!) at once.

On the other hand, while the social software space may seem crowded now, perhaps the real crowd (6 billion people) is still 30 years away and tomorrow's newcomers will still be regarded by historians as pioneers.

Taleb's quirky book Fooled by Randomness makes some interesting arguments about how little we know (or are willing to admit) about our own ultimate positions relative to the crowd/market.

Joi, it goes without saying that I agree with you 100% on this one. But that is because I am and have always maintained that I am an individualist and a prime mover. So are you but you have always sought comfort in trying to also be part of the crowd. Look inside yourself and ask yourself whether all your talk about open standards and "emergence" is consistent with who you really are - which is a unique and special individual out in front, who is destined never to be part of the crowd. Read some Ayn Rand books like Atlas Shrugged or the Fountainhead and you will see a glorious portrait of the forces at work within the individual and the collective.

Joi, you say that with the "new rides various things are changing." I am studying IT at Cornell University now and I am curious to hear how you think these social software changes are effecting the future of hospitality and the fundamental structures of corporations. Are there apparant correlations between the two?

Interesting thoughts and analogy. Disney is a great place to observe social behavior.

Could these observations have anything to do with being more highly aware?

Social technology tools were not initially designed by lemmings for lemmings. They are created out of fresh thinking. But because this medium is "social" it adapts to the "follow me" thinking...

How many people stop and ask who they're following if they actually know where they're going?

Does social software still have evolutionary leap potential or will we all just go over the cliff? :)