Wikipedia set Neutral Point of View (NPOV) as the standard for user generated content a few years ago. Much of the Wikipedia community is ideologically opposed to self-interest in any form. While obviously not ideologically opposed to originality or creativity, Wikipedia makes it clear that its role is to summarize accepted wisdom, not to break new ground. Wikipedia is an ideologically collectivist organization built around creating reliable reference content. Capitalists like myself must tip our hats to them, because they’ve done a fantastic job creating a great resource that delivers great benefit to many people.
But the social norms of the Web have changed, and Wikipedia is now the outlier. The Age of Anonymity has ended. Most people now log on to the Social Web with their real identities and build their real reputations.
The golden rule of the Social Web is Serve the Community, Then Serve Yourself.
The Web rewards originality, creativity, and individuality. The younger generations don’t seem to flinch from the ideas of self-interest, self-promotion, or profit. It just has to be done in good taste, and while serving others first. Wikipedia was about the collective. Social Media is about individuals being themselves and coming together.
The Social Web has moved past post Gordon Gecko (“Greed is good. Greed works!”) capitalism and collectivist visions. It’s developing more along the lines of what Adam Smith (the moralist often credited with being the father of capitalism) called enlightened self-interest. The Social Web has also largely moved past the dichotomy of Express Yourself vs. Conform. It’s about being the best version of yourself, respecting others’ individualities, and coming together.
This is good news for you if you’re trying to use the Social Web to grow your business and reputation. It’s good news if you’re trying to be your best self and to bond with others. I think it’s also good news for society.