The Lazy and Smarter Web

If you spend a lot of time reading web/tech blogs, you’ll be familiar with the concept of the "lazy web". The idea is instead of doing a lot of work researching/googling, you just ping/spam your social net with a question and get them to do the work for you.

I was accused of doing that in the comments to the peer producing the web 2.0 speech post:

I love when rich guys involved in tech ‘ask for help’ from the crowd
(i.e. get for free what well-to-do businessmen can easily pay for) and
then turn around and tell the audience how innovative and amazing it is
that we can all simply put a call out on the web for a collaborative
web 2.0 speech and it gets done! presto! amazing! I guarantee you that
this will be part of what he tells the audience. What a hustle. What is
this, AOL/Weblogs Inc.??

Write your own damn speech.

City File took the "lazy" meme a bit further with this post. I took the photo that anchors this post from the City File post because it really made me laugh. I think they got that photo from an old post on Gotham Gal’s blog. I am known in my family for being able to grab a 10 minute nap almost anywhere.

But I think the comment and the City File post miss the point. Yes, it’s much easier to post a simple question than do a ton of research and I am doing it more every day. I did it three times today on twitter:

1) where to get a good cup of coffee in new paltz, ny

2) who is a good yoga teacher in curitiba, brazil

3) where to get a good and inexpensive meal in the center of Edinburgh

I got great answers to all three questions (twuestions?) and none were for my benefit. The first was for a car full of tired and cranky people, the second was for my friend’s mom who lives in curitiba, and the third was for my daughter and her friends who are performing in the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh.

When you do these "lazy web" requests in a public forum, everyone can benefit because the answers are mostly public. Check out the web 2.0 speech wiki. I’ll get a lot of value from this, but it will be there on the web for as long as we keep our wiki going and I suspect that’s going to be a long time.

But there’s one other really important thing about the "lazy web". It’s smarter. My friend Vanessa looked at the first response to my question on yoga in Curitiba and saw it was a google result. She said to me "I can do that and have done it. It’s not a good yoga studio. I want a good one."

An hour or so later, I got a name of a person in Brazil who would know the answer. And that’s the direct hit we wanted. Google can’t do that. People can. And do. And do so publicly. And when I get value from lazy web queries, you can bet I’ll reciprocate when I am on the receiving end of them.

That’s all for now. I am off to take a 10 minute nap.

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#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. khylek

    This works well if you’re a highly followed blogger or someone who is heavily invested (in the time sense, not in the money sense) Social Media. I’m not so sure the average Jane or Joe can use their social network to find Yoga Instructors in Brazil.Can everyone benefit? I guess, but I’m not sure why a Summize search is more meaningful than a Google search at this point.

    1. falicon

      I agree – you’ve got to have the listeners before you can ask the ‘lazy’ questions…but the big advantage to popular bloggers (like Fred) is that, even when he takes the ‘lazy’ route, we all benefit…So the trick for the rest of us becomes, how to get someone like Fred to ask our ‘lazy’ questions for us…at least until we can find enough of our own listeners…It seems like open systems like Disqus and Fred’s blog are sort of helping with this too…I mean in theory I could dump a random (but hopefully related) lazy question into Fred’s comments at any time and it’s likely I’ll get a lot of quality and relevant answers…

    2. fredwilson

      Well its true that you need to be highly followed on twitter or have a lotof blog readers for this to work right nowBut, speaking of summize, when people start following places on twitter likenew paltz, edinburgh, or curitiba then things will change. It makes sensethat people will choose to follow the name of the place they live to getlocal news/tweets filtered to them. And when they do that, they will see³twuestions² posed by everyone, even the person with only one follower

      1. khylek

        I know where you’re going with this. And I like the Summize+Twitter combo as well as the efforts of your other hyper local company (forgetting the name at the moment). It’s great for tracking reactions – (I thought it was easier to track reaction to the recent Ribbit/BT deal through TwitterSummize for example).Didn’t really consider the following of placesconcepts on Twitter. It’s like FF rooms, but dynamic. Not as fool proof, but pretty cool. Maybe you have something here.

  2. shareme

    I think are confusing crowd sourcing of one’s picks with crowd sourcing the unwashed masses. in one you get intelligent answers in the other not so very much. The crowd yo depend upon is only as intelligent as you were to pick them.

    1. fredwilson

      I am not sure what you mean. I was in new paltz and wanted to find a goodcup of coffee. I got a bunch of suggestions and went with the one thatsounded best.

      1. shareme

        Sorry, I should have explained you are one of the people I know who that picks their crowds so that crowd sourcing is somewhat effectiveThan of course there is the indirect choice of someone following you because of a comment on FF which also produces similar dynamic.I am curious of what produces the more reliable info the direct choice or the indirect crowd choice.

  3. oakmad

    I think this has a direct correlation to the five degrees of separation; within five people you will get to the source. Knowledge always eventually bubbles to the surface if you ask enough people, such ‘laziness’ just increases the speed at which you get the result. As an Australian living in Austin TX you would be surprised how many requests questions I am asked about Australia from strangers facilitated through my loose network of friends. They are all like Fred’s: Advice on where to stay, what to visit etc etc.”Yes, it’s much easier to post a simple question than do a ton of research and I am doing it more every day.” Of course, because this puts into result into a context you are looking for from people who you can trust as they took the time to response to your direct question. It like attending a lecture and being able to ask direct questions verse reading a text book.

  4. pollski

    City File seems very jealous, I don’t see how commenting our your “palace” adds to their post. That is, if their intention was to have a legit post about what you’re doing. How are you NOT doing what the web and these new apps were designed to do? It seems to me that if you’re a student or not to rich and successful, then go ahead and do what you like. But if you’re “New York’s most prominent venture capitalist,” then you’re using the system. Well, in this case, the system was designed to be used.

  5. Dan Blank

    Great line: “Google can’t do that. People can.”

    1. brooksjordan

      Yes, you could create a whole business on that one sentence.

  6. Don Jones

    I think if you provide your “community” with a free, online copy of the final presentation they contributed to, then perhaps it’s fair deal.

    1. fredwilson

      I’ll do more than that. I’ll post various drafts of it and solicit commentsand suggestions.So the people who participate shape it and get to see it first

      1. grahamje

        yes, but who gets paid for giving the speech? There’s a real issue of ethics here. For example,hundreds of people put thinking time into Charlie Leadbeater’s ‘We Think’ book but only he got the cash, the kudos and the commissions for speeches and talks all over the world from it…I’m not jealous or bitter, it’s just that what some people have called immaterial labour takes time, and effort. And people need to eat. It’s a web2.0 conundrum that I’m working on a small start-up solution to….. (!)I think the social web is great but there is an issue about which people are in a position to profit the most from it.

  7. Shefaly

    @Shareme:”I think are confusing crowd sourcing of one’s picks with crowd sourcing the unwashed masses.”Surely people tell Fred how they know what they know. I was able to say things about Edinburgh because I have lived there and boy, have I eaten in every restaurant worth eating in. Fred does not know me but if I can explain the source of my ‘knowledge’, which basket do you think he puts my inputs in?Also there is some level of filtering at the consumer’s end too. Like his friend Vanessa did for the yoga place in Curitiba.At the end of the day, what he gets from this crowdsourcing is still data but it is a bit better than random data, bordering on knowledge.

  8. Mrinal

    Weird coincidence or I am not paying attention but your prior blog post recommending Roger Ehrenberg post inspired me to ask ‘What Are Your Top 3 Startup Sins’ on LinkedIn (being an alum) – it got a huge response (78 Answers as of now)…And that also just made me lazy 🙂


    As you said, the difference is people. The machine can only find the best recorded answer. It can’t, however, tap into the wealth of knowledge that has not been recorded. People can bridge to the offline world in a way that machines never will be able to. That said, it’s not about being “lazy,” it’s about listening. Setting listeners (whether it be tweets, rss, or eaves-dropping) is the backbone to idle consumption. Idle consumption is something people do in an incredibly efficient manner. And, making your product or service idly consumable is essential to success. That’s why “free” has gained such momentum, because it is the fastest way to idle consumption.

  10. gruen

    You could also try cha cha (texting 242-242). I’ve asked them all sorts of questions. (eg: I can make my toenails grow any faster? How many calories are in a pint of guiness?)It’s lazy, for sure. I love it.

  11. Spencer_Riddering

    These critics are employing classic win-loose thinking. Is Fred’s open invitation to collaborate like Tom Sawyer convincing others to whitewash a fence? of course not. The discussion (in this case a wiki) benefits the participants in a way that the final presentation can’t.

  12. master of none

    who should i talk to for a $20m mortgage?

  13. leafar

    Classy anwser. Slavery 2.0 is been a subject ofr sometimes but it mainly comes from people who don’t get it. They have no notion of any sort of what used to rule older archaic society : the gift economy.I’d rather have my idea used for the better by someone else than having them sitting in a drawer of my desk but that’s for me.

  14. Eben Thurston

    What would a University think about a student using the ‘lazy web’ to write a research paper?

    1. grahamje

      Well, there’s a whole industry out there designed to help academics spot plagiarism. Take a look at But the real question is – where does plagiarism stop and the social web begin? So I guess it’s partly about the intention – i.e. if a student is explicitly expected to peer produce something that’s fine – but passing off other people’s work as your own is tricky. It’s about attribution and reputation. The gift economy is fine but a theft economy is a bit more problematic.

  15. George Nimeh

    Fred, don’t you think there’s a difference between asking people where to get a good coffee in new paltz and creating an original, authentic and individual point of view about the evolution of NYC’s web industry?As a concept, it is cute and catchy … “See how much things have changed … I was even able to use social media to do this”But, it is really your thought in the end, if it has been crowdsourced?For instance, the fact that you don’t like the term “Silicon Alley” is personal, and that’s great. But, what do you do if Kevin Ryan (or whoever) chimes in with how he felt it was an important and defining moment when all those people in NYC claimed the term as their own? Sure, I know that’s a pithy point, but you see what I mean, right? It isn’t about being right or wrong, it is about you.I think the people who have invited you want your thoughts, not a collective viewpoint. I think the people who will pay to see you will also want your thoughts and not some collective opinion.So, yes, I think you’re being incredibly lazy.If you’re looking for a good yoga teacher in Brazil, try Twitter or Yahoo Answers … by the way I think this looks good: … But if you’re doing a keynote for the Web 2.0 Expo, pour yourself a glass of wine, go back though your old Eudora folders, review your own blog posts and thoughts, open up Keynote or Powerpoint or a Moleskin and put pen to paper. Then, come back to us with some original thinking … your original thinking … and ask the folks who read and respect you (like me), and we’ll be happy to share our opinions and help you review/comment on what you’ve done.But I won’t be doing the first part for you, unless you want me to present it with ya.~G~

    1. bernard lunn

      I agree, there is a big difference between a) “please comment on my draft” and b) “here is a blank sheet, write it for me”. The former has long been part of the authoring process and Web 2.0 tools just made it easier. The latter is more like open source ie the result is free and open for everybody. It is not Fred Wilson’s presentation it is the “xyz community presentation”. Presenting the process of getting the “xyz community presentation” now that would make an interesting talk at Web 2.0.

    2. T. Ruth

      Amen, G.Fred has been running on intellectual fumes for more than a few years now — this sad, dated pipe-dream of crowd-sourcing everything is a singing, dancing cliche on wheels.The laziness is off the charts. I especially like the bit about avoiding “a lot of work researching/googling!” Dunce-grade.Can you imagine being a paid attendee at a conference where FW presented his “peer-produced presentation?” Dear G-d, this dude’s FAIL-scale is the 8th Wonder of the World.-T

      1. fredwilson

        i have my dunce hat on now Tthanks for reminding me to put it on

    3. fredwilson

      i can’t just take the wiki and put it in keynote and wave a magic wand and have my talk. it is going to take a lot of time to put all of this together.but in the time since i posted that request, i’ve gotten a ton of great stuffjosh harris, who i haven’t been in touch with in a year or two, saw the alley insider post and reached out to me and offered the entire pseudo arcivenow that is a gold mine and i get to mine it for my speechi think you are mistaken if you think i am asking someone to write a speech for me

  16. Roman Giverts

    this post basically dodged the criticism and just plugged how great twitter is. There’s a big difference between a twitter question and asking people to write a speech… I don’t think he cares if you ask questions on twitter…And the fact that we get value by having your speech online is nice, but the reality is you get 100x more value. It’s like youtube or other UG sites, the value each individual gets by putting up videos for free is peanuts compared to what youtube is worth.So I think the real point is that it’s not about money or value. Users contribute to the speech just because they want to… and most people don’t care who gets more value out of it. it’s that simple.

    1. fredwilson

      i’ll say it again, i am not asking anyone to write my speech.

  17. Hugh MacLeod

    I agree, Fred. I call it “Social Search”. For some things, it works far better than Google.Edinburgh, huh? Tell your daughter to go check out Bell’s Diner on Saint Stephen’s Street. best damn burgers anywhere [I went to high school just down the street from there]….

  18. Bradjward

    I just spent a weekend getaway with my wife in Southern Indiana. My Twitter network chose my destination, hotel, restaurant, and the activities we did. It was an amazing weekend, and the whole thing was planned within 30 minutes. Love it.

  19. Paul Higgins

    Hi Fred,I think there is something here about exchange of value as well. I would contribute to the speech if I had anything to say because you add great value to the community your formed/are part of. In a community sense the non contributors quickly get weeded out in time.cheersPaul

    1. fredwilson

      That’s very true. It’s the reason I get such good comments as well.

  20. Liz

    To tell you the truth, this is what I think when PR/Marketing types post questions on Twitter, that they are “taking the pulse” or getting blog ideas instead of doing their own homework. But I took your request differently in that a) you have a regular group of commenters you are in conversation with about a lot of different issues and b) you were going to both acknowledge the contributions (in your talk, in the wiki) and share what you wrote.I have a bad attitude towards “crowdsourcing” when it seems like someone is benefiting from the work of others and not acknowledging it but I don’t think this charge fits what you planned to do. I think you should go ahead with your original plan but that ‘s JMHO.

  21. George Nimeh

    Hey Fred, did you delete all the comments?What gives?There was a lot of criticism and commentary that has now vanished …If you’ve invested in the comments company, I’d be worried. ;)~G~

    1. fredwilson

      Yeah, I decided to delete everyone’s criticisms!But seriously, I don’t know. I will check out and find out.I took the afternoon and evening off from the web and blogging and had awonderful time with my wife and son.

      1. fredwilson

        it was my fault that i temporarily lost comments. i domain mapped this blog to last night and that messed up disqus. when i told them what happened, they told me how to fix it, which was easy. so the comments are back.

        1. George Nimeh

          thanks for getting them back online, fred.

      2. George Nimeh

        Dude, I know you delete things to make yourself look good. ;-)Glad you had some nice family time.

  22. Jerry Paffendorf

    hehe nice pic. to the side of the lazy web, I reposted it to flickr tagged “geeksleep”. long live the geeksleep meme:Geeksleep: (noun) 1. the act of sleeping during a technology conference or while involved in any geek-like activity. 2. sleep performed by anyone who could be described as a geek. (verb) 1. to capture a geeksleeper on camera and post his/her picture to Flickr with the “geeksleep” tag.geeksleeps so far:

    1. fredwilson

      That would be me, the geeksleeper 😉

  23. kenberger

    “You know marrying money is a full time job; I don’t need the aggravation; I’m a lazy slob!”- Stones, Hang Fire(since the old comments are awol for now, i’ll fill in w/ mindless banter I prev posted to @lotd…)

  24. LazyTweet

    Hey Fred, I myself am fascinated with the twitter + lazyweb concept for getting answers to lightweight questions and finding experts in an area. I’ve been working on, combining twitter search and disqus for a low friction q & a service. Would love to hear any feedback. It’s easy to get questions broadcasted this way, but getting answers will make or break it. @lazytweet

    1. fredwilson

      I will check it out. All I need to do is follow?

      1. LazyTweet

        Cool, thanks. You don’t even need to follow, but you do need to signify a lazytweet request by saying the words lazytweet or lazyweb in the post, which so many people already do and is why I like to say this embraces and extends the q&a concept on twitter.

        1. fredwilson

          Cool. Following now and will try to include lazytweet in all my twuestionposts