In chapter 4 I need to bring the book back down to earth for the reader. The previous chapter left the reader thinking that there’s no bottom to the worldwide disagreements the worldwide web is making apparent. There’s too much difference. So, I’m beginning Chapter 4 with some rules of thumb for scoping diversity — that is, getting the right amount that a group can work together and make itself smarter, as opposed to either falling into groupthink or falling apart because people just disagree too fundamentally. I seem to have four heuristics, although, as always with such sets, that there are four and not three or fifteen is more arbitrary than any of us would like to believe.

1. Get the right type of diversity. I make heavy use of Scott Page’s The Difference here. What counts is a diversity of ways of thinking and skills, not races or ages (unless race or age are markers for the relevant differences). (BTW, Scott and I have the same editor.)

2. Have just enough in common. In order for people to even carry on a conversation, they have to have almost everything in common, starting with a shared language. It’s important to get the amount of variance just right.

3. Just right? That doesn’t help at all! But there is no fixed amount. That’s why the third rule of thumb is: Use human moderators both to find the commonality in overheated differences, but also to add differences when the conversation becomes complacent.

4. Fork it! Forking is a powerful tool.

If you have other rules of thumb for getting the right amount of diversity into a group or a conversation, please let me know.

By the way, I do realize that three of the four pare down what we deal with, which is what I said was the old way of dealing with knowledge, not the new way. I plan on facing that issue in the second section of the chapter.