The Crowd Knows

(Ref Id: 1346894510)

It started with a gate change. The good and patient passengers at LAX gate 84 were first rewarded with the loss of their gate sans any form of announcement. Don't be fooled -- there was a perfectly able airline employee standing at the gate, a tenured one no doubt from the looks of her. She nonchalantly looked back at the board behind her that had unexpectedly switched from the friendly and welcome 'Chicago' to the foreign, red emblazoned 'Boston' and returned to her task on her monitor. No announcement. Nothing. What a shame, I thought, as she missed the muted and confused expressions of the passengers entirely.

Then it began. A few people started lining up to ask about the strange predicament. Another went off to check the electronic bulletin boards. In short order you could hear the name of the new gate. People, bewildered and looking a bit dazed, rose from their chairs to follow and discover if the new gate was real; if it was not just another ruse. A missing plane, a mysterious gate changes, and a departure time slipperier that an oiled cat on a pole had made them recalcitrant. The airline employee offered no help. They had to follow each other; they had to seek out their own way to their next destination.

The surprising thing to note about this experience was that, purely by word of mouth and a full ten minutes before an official gate change announcement over the public address system, virtually everyone at gate 84 on that flight bound for Chicago found their way to the new gate. How did this happen? How could they operate, largely without talking directly to one another, and achieve this result?

It is a study in human nature. People, given a common goal and enough impetus to achieve it, will overcome obstacles. They will produce informal networks. They will follow eachother's lead. They will locate the benefit that others have found before them and exploit it for their own purposes. This is the nature of the DIY LIMS practitioner. There are problems to be solved. Others have gone this path before and they are still around. They've left breadcrumbs, whispers, hints, and systems lying around. Intelligent and motivated people pick up where they left off.

The point here is that there is no movement in the classic sense. There are no speeches; no leaders. There is no one to point to and say, there -- that is the responsible party. No. When organizations are building their own LIMS and making those systems available for others they are following their own human natures. Experience shows us that human nature is nigh irrepressible. You can try to confound it with fear like in that M. Night Shyamalan movie, the Village. You can try to ignore it like the airline employee. Ultimately all of these attempts to repress it will fail. Your best bet is to try and facilitate it or, if nothing else, get out of its way.

I'll leave you with a quote from Eric Raymond's The Cathedral and the Bazaar. Although Eric is talking about the Linux operating system I think it is applicable here:

Linux is subversive. Who would have thought...that a world-class operating system could coalesce as if by magic out of part-time hacking by several thousand developers scattered all over the planet, connected only by the tenuous strands of the Internet?


Go Back

Citation: The Crowd Knows. (2012). Retrieved Thu Mar 23 00:12:52 2017, from;iid=readMore;go=1346894510