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Crowded Wisdom

How’s this for “The Wisdom of Crowds” in practice: LivePlanet and Microsoft MSN cooked up a deal with the Schaumburg Flyers, a minor-league baseball team in Illinois, to have the fans act as the manager for the second half of the season. Before each game, fans can go online and vote on what players from the Flyers’ roster should play in each position, and where they should be in the batting order. Rather than an exercise in the theory of two-heads-are-better-than-one, it’s more of an exercise in self-promotion.

As this article in the LA Times and this column by Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly (registration req’d) point out, some things are best left to the experts. Before this promotion started, the team was 31-17, leading their division. Since then? 15-33, and in last place.

I feel sorry for manager Andy McCauley, who’s had the indignity of having to play his center fielder at first base, a backup catcher at third, and benching one of his better players. Managing partner and team president Rich Ehrenreich may think he’s channelling Bill Veeck but he’s looking more like Bill Buckner.

Where else does the wisdom of crowds fail? When is it best used?

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