Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The failures of the online collective mind

There is a nice rant at: On "Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism" By Jaron Lanier. I do agree with it in many points - but I don't agree with the overall diagnosis rejecting the online hive mind as 'too collective'. I would rather talk about particular systems and their failures than rejecting all of them in one sweep. It is not that digital communication forces us for more collectivism or less collectivism - digital communication is the most malleable form of communication there ever existed and we can change it and amend to fit any model we think of. There are more collective trends in it with wikis, aggregators etc. - but blogs composite a completely opposite trend of total autonomy of the individual.

In this vein I created following list of digital media failures:
  1. averaging everything to the mediocre, homogenized pulp - this is the sin of aggregators and very big wikis
  2. Skewing the process of averaging towards people who have too much time or some freaky motivation (this is what I was analysing in One email per day - a moderation scheme and Online Debate (continuing 'One email per day'))
  3. Accrection of information without the balancing force of forgetting it - this is the primary problem with wikis (adding new comments is easy, refactoring is hard), blogs and email lists solve that by 'forgetting' the older content and letting it resurface if it is really important
For sure there are many more of them - but I believe by splitting them into more concrete and better described chunks we can analyze them and then try to fix them in our online communication tools.


Friday, May 26, 2006

Founding Myth and reality

Nick Carr attacked the feasibility of the founding myth of wikipedia others treat it as if it was an attack on wikipedia itself

Can we every have a massive collaborative movement without basing it on a myth? Could wikipedia be successful if it started with a thoroughly thought over policy of balance between openness and closedness instead of the myth of 'encyclopedia that everyone edits'? Would we have The French Revolution if people knew all the consequences that became evident after Thermidor the 9th?

Update: Re: [ox-en] Re: Business opportuities based on Free Software - another critisism of wikipedia.
Update: The Law of Focus - marketing says that you need to craft your message to fit as few words as possible

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The value of nice graphics for software libraries and frameworks

Some time ago I had an idea for a web site and some spare time. I chose the Maypole Perl framework and coded the whole thing. It took me just 2 weeks and I had something to show to my friends. It was not perfect and the framework was a bit constraining, it made some things easy but it was hard to extend it in directions that were not previewed by the authors of the framework, but in two weeks I really had something to show to non programmers. It was so liberating that I did not need to ask some graphic designers to create some skins for the web site or struggle with the graphics myself but I had a nice look out of the box. I am now moving the code from Maypole to the more powerful Catalyst/DBIC frameworks but still I reuse the page design my Maypole app had. I am a programmer, I know how to program but graphic design is alien land to me so to build a nice looking site I need to get the design from someone else.

I think one of the most important advantages of frameworks like Ruby on Rails, Django etc is that they let the programmer program and not worry about the graphic design.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

One note on using Internet for public discourse

Internet does have many desirable qualities as a medium for public discourse, but nonetheless there are also some less attractive features. One of them is the total control the publisher exercises over his message, and that means he can change it over time without any notice of the change or manipulate it to fit a particular audience or even exclude some audience from receiving the message. To make the point more clear I created an example - a simple web page that publishes three distinct messages to readers according to their IP address. One is praising Microsoft the other dissing it and the third I won't disclose here.

This total control was not available for print or wireless media. TV and radio stations emit the same signal to all receivers, the same with printed papers. In the print case the printed paper was additionally a proof of what was really published.

Update: Detecting Cloaking in Web Pages

Friday, May 05, 2006

Notes on online news business models

In "The Wealth of Networks" Benkler two times mentions that newspapers don't rely on exclusive copyrights in their business models. Copying would delay the news too much and readers would not buy it. Online this does not hold anymore - articles can be copied in no time, but still 50 years of exclusive copyrights seems excessive to me.
There should be a Creative Commons license crafted specially for online news - with exclusive copyrights for a much shorter period, let's say 24 hours. This should be long enough to destroy the business of blatant copy-cats but short enough that it has value to those that really want to add something to the articles.
A business model that charges for real time news but opens the archives for commenting and weaving the articles into the public discourse seems a lot more compatible with the Internet economy than publishing current editions of newspapers and charging for the archives that some journals do.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Peer Production and Market

After "The Wealth of Networks" the question if peer production is desirable and viable is answered. What remains is how to mix it with the market economy. If peer production is going to play that revolutionary role that Yochai Benkler predicts it will this shall be a crucial question for all kinds of businesses. And it is not trivial - as psychology shows (see for example: "Effort for Payment - a tale of two markets") monetary reward crowds out other incentives. We need to divide the work very carefully so that the market part does not destroy the peer production. And to make this precise division we need to know more about the psychological mechanism of incentives crowding out and also about the economic feasibility of provisioning a particular work by peer production. Even a nonprofit organisation needs pay some bills - and what are for profit business models compatible with peer production? Some first answers were worked out by the Open Source and Free Software movements (for example
Open Source Case for Business), but I have not found any more systematic treatment of that subject - a framework guiding us when evaluating not yet discovered business models.