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Quoth Jeremy Zawodny in criticizing Slashdot's editorial model, "Haven't we figured out that the crowd is generally smarter than any one individual in the crowd?"

No, it isn't. I don't know where he got that ridiculous idea, let alone why he thinks it's true, when centuries of history have shown that it's not. It is, after all, the reason we have a republic here in the U.S. and not a democracy: we don't trust the fickle whims of the masses. Nor should we.

Raise your hand if you really think the Perl community is better suited to make the design decisions for Perl 6 than Larry Wall is. The community can, should, and did have significant input, but in the end, someone who is smarter and wiser and so on should make the decisions.

The question is not whether the individual can be smarter and better suited to doing a certain task than the crowd is, because it's obviously true. The only questions have to do with which individuals we're talking about, for which crowds, and so on. The specifics matter.

So I'm not saying the Slashdot editors are necessarily better than the crowd, just because they are the Slashdot editors. It's a given that this isn't true. But it's also a given that they *could* be.

That's also not to say that crowds should be ignored. To stick with the government theme, most politicians think well-conducted public opinion polls are useful tools for providing effective government, but, as Edmund Burke said:

Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

Maybe there's more room for "public participation" in the editorial process, but the public should never serve as a replacement for the personal editorial process.

At the end of the day, though, he has a point, though he doesn't bring it out very well: if the crowds don't get stories they want at Slashdot, they will stop reading Slashdot. It's quite simple. There are other reasons to stop reading Slashdot too, of course, but if Slashdot really doesn't post the "right" stories, Slashdot will die. Conversely, if Slashdot remains alive and prosperous, then it obviously is posting the "right" stories.

The problem with Jeremy's argument is that this is all true regardless of whether those stories are chosen by a crowd or by individuals, and as someone who's been in the story-posting business for many years, I can confidently say that -- depending on who they are -- you've got a much better chance with the individuals than the crowd.

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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