“Wisdom of the crowd” is a great phrase, but we’ve had difficulty really understanding what it means. As mentioned by Ross Mayfield, one way to think about it is to break it up into two halves: “collective intelligence” and “collaborative intelligence”. Voting-style systems exhibit collective intelligence. Google’s page link algorithms involve pages voting for other pages; there are authors behind these pages, so implicitly there are people voting for people or people voting on content. Those are aspects of what you might call “collective intelligence.” It involves the averaging of opinions. I think a less buzzy term for it is "collective averaging".
At the other end, we have "collaborative intelligence", in which we see content production being produced in a kind of divide-and-conquer environments. Ross Mayfield said on his blog that the Wiki style of wisdom of the crowd was more “collaborative intelligence” than collective intelligence. For example, the group of people who are experts on World War II tanks will write that part of Wikipedia; the group of people who are experts on politics in Eastern Europe at the end of World War II will write those articles. So there is an implicit self-organization according to interest and intention. It’s not everybody voting on the same thing—it’s everybody collaborating on different areas to result in something, so that the sum of the parts is greater than the parts themselves. That seems to be at the spirit of this kind of collaborative intelligence.
I don’t really like the term “collaborative intelligence”—it sounds too buzzy—so we tend to call it “collaborative co-creation” instead. It is a very interesting production method. There is a lot of research now on, for example, the open source movement—how it’s a collaborative co-creation mechanism, how successful it is, what’s wrong with it, etc.
Wikipedia probably the most interesting collaborative co-creation system right now, and it is unique in the sense that it is all-encompassing; its net has been cast very wide and it has been able to succeed because of that. There is a little bit of a success-breeds-success phenomenon going on there with the feedback cycle.
This feedback cycle is the part we’re really interested in understanding, because coordination is at the heart of collaborative creation. We want to understand how people are coordinating with one another through either self-organizing mechanisms or through explicit organizing mechanisms; we want to understand the principles by which those things happen in these environments but not in other environments.