Collaborative crowdsourcing the Boston Marathon bombers, and more

For me, the response to the marathon bombings has been a fascinating example of the new open and empowered world we live in today.  I am fascinated by the collaboration between expert groups and the public at large in putting this story together.

As these two young Chechen terrorists discovered, it’s hard to hide nowadays.  Multiple security cameras documented much of their movements at the bombing site and many more personal digital cameras, both still and video, covered other aspects of the event, and much of their movements afterwards.

More importantly, tweets, Facebook pages and other social media, along with more traditional television news , kept massive numbers of both local and distant observers up to date on what was going on minute by minute.  A lot of the early reports were wrong, but gradually the wisdom of crowds phenomenon, along with dogged reporting by professional journalists kept putting the pieces together and got it right.   Despite strong criticism from the FBI and some older professionals about the out-of-control speculation that would damage reputations of innocent people (“leave the police work to the professionals”), it is hard to argue against the fact that public participation, and collaboration, substantially shortened the time frame to capture and understanding why and how it happened.

Just as important and amazing was the extraordinary leaderless collaboration from hundreds, maybe thousands, of individuals, including runners, observers and total strangers who rushed to help the wounded at the site and in the hospitals.   They knew what to do without guidance.  Area hospitals were well coordinated to share treating the wounded.  Hospital personnel, many off duty, heard the news and returned to help staff their team in preparation for the arrival of a rash of ambulances.   Others organized fund raising drives to help the families whose lives had been so disrupted.

Perhaps the greatest outcome of this outpouring of caring and constructive assistance is the positive culture of this community that comes from recognizing they can all contribute to overcoming tragedy.

I’d like to think every community can do this.

This week’s Kingbridge knowledge gift is a suggestion for creating a climate of collaboration.  And it is to practice random acts of kindness.   You might say my “knowledge gift” is to share knowledge gifts.   If you give something away with no expectations of getting something in return, you can create a “pay-it-forward” mind set.   But, there is a delicate balance and a bit of a paradox.   It can’t be seen as selling.  That will be viewed as a hidden agenda.   And it shouldn’t be seen as sympathy, or just kindness.   That can come across as disempowering or condescending.   Ideally it should come across as sharing a passion or a lesson that shows caring and respect.