Over at nerd herd Slashdot, at least one reader has figured out that individualism is the root of the human inability to be effective as groups:
The number of people who don’t help at all with problems but rather butt into threads with unhelpful comments like “Why would you want to do that in the first place?” or “why don’t you look at X poorly written documentation page ” was staggering. One forum user with 1,500+ posts even posted “you are such a n00b if you can’t figure this out” in my question thread, even though my tech question wasn’t one that is obvious or easy to resolve…
The original submission claims the ratio of unhelpful comments to helpful ones was 5 to 1.
This seems baffling until you look at the social economics of this situation. Every person wants to participate, because they must do this in order attract attention, which is what they need to have any social rank or capital at all. Hilariously, many forums give users privileges based on how many posts they make, so there is an incentive to make posts that look good but do not create any particular controversy.
Next, look at how someone can participate. It is not efficient to research and type out a lengthy answer, since chances are that your answer will not be perfect and thus someone else will gain points off you by criticizing you. The solution, then, is to offer nothing except criticism, as criticism takes little time and effort and cannot be criticized because it has negative content value, and is issued in defense of the herd, therefore will always be socially acceptable.
The same is true in all Crowdist situations. When negative effort is equal to positive effort, there is no reward in undertaking positive effort unless it is both easy and nearly certain of being 100% correct, so that others have no critique to offer. Equality means mediocrity as a result, but for the individual, the way to exploit this situation is to criticize and offer nothing that can be criticized.