10 lessons from Conficker Working Group

The successes and failures of the Conficker Working Group (C.W.G.) led to a series of conclusions (“lessons learned”) that anyone considering this type of collective intelligence initiatives should take into account. These lessons are included in the document that analyzes their performance and are highly relevant since they reflect again that the Collective Intelligence is not a magical process, but needs a suitable environment.

In particular, the C.W.G. groups its “lessons learned” into 6 different categories: strategy, group structure, operations, use of data, communication with the government and communication with stakeholders.

In spite of covering different areas, in many cases these “lessons” are logical organizational aspects (e.g.: have clear and consensual rules from the beginning, use the appropiate type of communication according to the situation, etc.) that seek the creation of an agile and flexible group.

Below I summarize in 10 points the lessons I consider most important:

“Whack a Mole” Arcade – Image retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9NzhAZoDdo
  1. Raising a long-term strategy based on the problem from a global perspective, not on each incident individually. C.W.G. it’s very graphic when opposing a global strategy against a “whack-a-mole” approach (which translates to “hunt the mole”).
  2. It will be necessary to adjust the group size, the technology used, etc. to the level of the threat. In this case, what is sought is to try to balance forces.
  3. Have a group of manageable size that allows to work effectively. Of course, without leaving anyone out (nobody said it would be easy). In fact, they recommend including those directly affected in the group. It is not a simple aspect, and it will also depend on the group and its attitude. In fact, in order to have as many people as possible, the creation of subgroups with specific tasks using among them a high level of communication is recommended.
  4. Create a leader team, with a formal and clear decision making process which implies a consensus model not dependent on the existing hierarchy. The objective is to allow the group to adapt in an agile manner to the changes that (surely) will occur.
  5. The responsibilities of the different groups should be clear and rotary. Decisions, situations and results must be recorded in order to get an adequate feedback.
  6. Apart from the leading subgroup, it is convenient to get the participation of key organizations (which will depend on the type of problem to be addressed): government institutions, private companies, etc.
  7. Use an infrastructure with a central core of resources (i.e .: mailing lists, shared data, etc.) that allow clear and effective communication. This will avoid the creation of redundant information niches that can lead to misunderstandings.
  8. Establish clear the rules about sharing and using data and information, including who will communicate news to the public and when. It’s also important to establish mechanisms to verify that these rules are met.
  9. Maintain a direct and formal communication both with the government and with those affected, avoiding social networks for this type of communication. About govenment communication, early warning mechanisms should be included.
  10. Promote interaction among all those involved: government, private company, working group, affected, etc. always leaving clear which is the role of each one and what kind of relationship should they maintain between them.

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