One Decision That’s Not Crowdsourced

If you’re a regular reader of the IdeaScale blog, you’re aware of the enormous popularity of the crowdsourcing trend. Every savvy internet marketer, business head, and government agency has turned their attention to the value of crowdsourcing, as if it’s a fountain of actionable knowledge. And for the most part, it is. Crowdsourcing is speeding the plow across the board—whether it be improving customer experience, the creation of new government initiatives, or the flash-funding of emergency relief.

Like any trend, however, crowdsourcing is not the cure-all or universal answer to decision making or getting things done. This was made refreshingly clear to me yesterday when listening to Binah, a radio program from KALW in San Francisco. The show featured our Poet Laureate Kay Ryan reading from and discussing her work at the SF Jewish Community Center. During a Q/A session towards the end of the program, an audience member asked “What is the process of selecting a Poet Laureate?” The answer was… the opposite of crowdsourcing. And pretty fascinating, really.

First, let’s answer a few questions you might be curious about. What exactly is the Poet Laureate? The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Librbary of Congress serves as a kind of national spokesperson to raise awareness and create a greater appreciation of poetry in America. We have our national Poet Laureate, and other countries and each of the U.S. states have their own laureates.

Our national Poet Laureate, who serves from October to May, is appointed each year by the Librarian of Congress—a single individual. The Librarian’s decision is informed by his/her appointees, the current Laureate, and by a community of critics close to the Librarian, but it’s a decidedly individual decision, which is obviously uncommon in our often bloated democratic process.

I might eat my words (or delete this post) when the Library of Congress decides to turn the process of selecting a Poet Laureate over to IdeaScale, but for now, it’s refreshing to know that some decisions are confidently left to the power of one. Agree or disagree? Feel free to leave a comment below.

If you’re not familiar with the work of Kay Ryan, you may want to click on a few of the links below. There are also a few links for you to learn more about the post of the Poet Laureate.

More info:

  • About the post of U.S. Poet Laureate
  • About Kay Ryan
  • Kay Ryan on KALW radio program Binah
  • Kay Ryan on
  • Kay Ryan on Wikipedia
  • John Basile · Idea Scale blog contributor

    Based in Oakland, California, John Basile is a regular contributor to the IdeaScale blog. He is also the founder and CEO of Scraster Professional Screencasting.

    One response to “One Decision That’s Not Crowdsourced

    1. Astute observation, and thanks for the history/background on the Poet Laureate position. I see a direct parallel with the “outrage” at a single person (Vaughn R. Walker, the chief judge of a Federal District Court) being able to overrule the crowd-sourced error that was Proposition 8. Some things, like civil rights and justice, rightly depend in part for their protection on the decisions of a small number of individuals with specialized knowledge and experience. Helping to educate a media-bombarded populace that the majority doesn’t necessarily rule is a challenging task, and you present a helpful analogy. Thanks.

      Fred Mindlin
      Associate Director for Technology Integration
      Central California Writing Project
      “Intelligence is knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do.” — John Holt