Just getting back from DevLearn08 I've decided to jump into the Twitter thing. You can follow me @WillWorkLearn.

Before I fully begin my Twitter experience, here's a thought experiment regarding Twitter. If I could talk to God (or some other all-knowing entity), would it be useful for me (if I'm interested in gaining knowledge) to give up a minute of that precious time to talk with the multitudes?

No it would be foolish to give up a 100% chance of gaining true knowledge in a quickly-efficient way for a lesser chance at learning from the mulititudes. I'm assuming of course that neither God nor any other true-knowledge entity is following me on Twitter. What information-gathering entity has time for that?

Of course, knowledge is not everything I might desire. I might want to feel part of a community. I might want to make friends. I might want to do an ethnographic study of The Tworld just for fun. If this all-knowing entity was a bore or decided to use its wisdom to politely keep some personal distance from me, I would be better off talking with the multitudes. But since this is a blog that focuses on Learning, not Relationships, let's get back to the knowledge-gathering question.

Since it is unlikely that some all-knowing entity will have time for me, I will have to rely on entities that will provide me with less than 100% knowledge. If I find a 99%-true-knowledge entity, wouldn't I be better off talking with it, than talking with the multitudes? Yes, I would think so in most cases, though I suppose it depends on its knowledge gaps, and how fast I need the knowledge.

So, where is the breakeven point where I'm equally likely to get true knowledge from a true-knowledge entity and from the multitudes? Is it an 80%-true knowledge entity, a 50% true-knowledge entity, or a 20%-true-knowledge entity? 

Here's the point I think I'm making: If I have access to relatively good sources of information, how do I decide to forsake those sources for the multitudes, where information may be less valid or slower to access?

In other words, would Twitters be better off reading a non-fiction book, an article, or a trusted website?

I suppose we ought to divide our knowledge needs into categories.

  • Deep knowledge, gained over significant amounts of time, requiring a subtle understanding of a topic area, its contingencies, its boundary conditions.
  • Shallow knowledge, gained from one or a few experiences, not weaved tightly together with a network of knowledge.

If we need deep knowledge, we ought to go to a true-knowledge entity (if we know of one). If we just need shallow knowledge, we may be just as succcessful going to the multitudes.

I don't know, what do you think oh wise one?

And then there is the matter of the time horizon. I may learn small things quick or build big understandings over time by interfacing with my multitudes.

And then there is the matter of truthiness. What risk is there in getting information from the multitudes? Probably depends on the query.

I don't know, what do you think oh wise one?

WINK.