logo Ming the Mechanic - Category: Organization
An old rigid civilization is reluctantly dying. Something new, open, free and exciting is waking up.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003day link 

 The Obvious Society
picture Britt has an excellent piece on 'The Obvious Society', which is an elaboration on his ideas about a Transparent Society. A Transparent Society is a society where we collectively know as much about each other as did the citizens of a 19th century village, but this time through shared technology. Our transactions and our track record is out in the open. We carry around webcams that can record everything we do. We can easily track where everybody is at any time. We can easily track every item of any kind we have a need for tracking. I know that some people find all of this a horrible thought, but I agree with Britt that if all of this is available in a truly democratic fashion, our society is transformed in very useful ways. Crime would no longer be viable, for one thing. Neither would dishonesty. That is a transparent society. Then what is an 'Obvious Society'?

It is the inevitable conclusion to such transparency. It is when it becomes obvious how to indicate our needs, obvious how to notice the needs of others, obvious how to be rewarded for good deeds. It is where we are seen so clearly, and we see others so clearly that it is obvious what we need to do, and obvious what transactions we should carry out amongst each other. If everything is out in the open, life can become more simple again, as we can focus on the obvious things to do, which are those things we are suited to do, and which need doing. And the value of that will be obvious to others, which translates into an elightened economy.
[ | 2003-02-25 23:59 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

Wednesday, February 19, 2003day link 

 Postmodernism is dead
picture Jon Husband mentions an interesting paper by Samuel R. Smith called "Postmodernism is Dead, Now What? Distributed Culture and the Rise of the Network Age". Nice explanations of how different meta-narratives define different ages. There's not quite widespread agreement about what those ages exactly are, but it is still a very useful thing to examine. So here it goes from Modernism to Post-Modernism to the Network Age. I can go along with that, I think. In this presentation Modernism is the "Age of the Monolith". Big centralized companies and governments and ideologies. Lots of centralized stuff being built and sometimes colliding (world wars, cold war). He dates it from early 20th century to the 1960s. Next would naturally be Post-Modernism, the "Age of Deconstruction". That's more about destruction, tearing down the rigid dominant institutions and morals and norms. No longer can you have the same job for life, and the world is turning into a rather confusing place in many ways. But clearing things out can be a good thing.
"If a society stops building and begins dynamiting the foundations on which it is built, it's safe to assume that society is preparing for something more elaborate than what's being dismantled."
And that next thing would be the "Network Age" since the early 90s. A new distributed social order. The Internet. Electronic bank cards. More focus on individual citizens and customers. More choices for everything.

I enjoy reading big meta stuff like that. But we could certain slice it in a number of different ways, depending what exactly we look at. And what I'm personally most interested in is what comes next. Once a network is ubiquitous and very new things emerge. Social mobs. Direct democracy. Collective life forms. We're still in an age of Confusion and Dis-continuity. I'm looking for the Integration, for what happens when things come together, according to the tune of a higher order.
[ | 2003-02-19 20:51 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Tuesday, February 18, 2003day link 

 To be or not to be chaordic
I'm very fond of the chaordic principles that Dee Hock developed. They are principles for growing self-organizating organizations and achieving a fertile balance between chaos and order. Hock created the VISA organization that way. Now, Mitch Ratcliffe has some excellent insights into where that works and doesn't work. And he knows what he's talking about.
I've been at a board retreat of the Chaordic Commons for the past two days. It has been a study in frustration. The whole point of this organization has been to support and disseminate notions developed by Dee Hock that have already proven they can guide the founding of healthy, democratic shared-ownership and self-organizing organizations. The problem with the Commons, unlike the organizations actually using chaordic thinking, is that in every case, successful chaords form to accomplish some goal or profit (in the form of betterness of a situation as well as financial profit) while the Commons has no shared ends except the propagation of chaordic principles.
Now, there's a situation I personally trap myself in from time to time, so I recognize that. If you put even the smartest and most well-intentioned people together, without clearly defining the agenda, and you expect that a unified course of action somehow will emerge amongst them - you will usually fail. I heard Mitch point it out very clearly on the phone the other day. For chaordic principles to work, it requires a shared goal and a shared set of limited resources. We've got to have a very similar outcome in mind, and there will have to be obstacles and a scarcity of resources in our way, for us to be inspired to self-organize. If we don't agree on what needs doing, or we can do it just as well separately, it is unlikely that we choose to become an organization.

None of that, of course, stops specific people, within a larger fuzzy group, from getting together and choosing something to do, and organizing themselves around that. But that's a different thing, I think. Like in Open Space. Interesting groups would form, even if there weren't any overall purpose stated. But then I suppose we'd regard it as several organizations rather than one organization. It won't all become one self-organizing entity unless there's a shared purpose and shared constraints. Hm, still something I don't think I've quite figured out here.
[ | 2003-02-18 23:59 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

Monday, February 17, 2003day link 

 Joi Ito on Emergent Democracy
Joi Ito in Tokyo have posted the paper he was working on, on Emergent Democracy. Our online meeting happening was leading up to this, as was inspired discussions over e-mail the last couple of days, which I unfortunately didn't get around to participating in. But it is good stuff, which Joi hopes to make more perfect later on.
"...[T]he tools and protocols of the Internet have not yet developed the necessary features to allow emergence to create a higher-level order. These tools are being developed and we are on the verge of an awakening of the Internet. This awakening will facilitate the anticipated political model enabled by technology to support some of the basic attributes of democracy, which have eroded as power has become concentrated within corporations and governments. It is possible that new technologies may enable a higher-level order through emergent properties, which will enable a form of emergent direct democracy capable of managing complex issues more effectively than the current form of representative democracy."
He gives a fine overview of various principles, models, trends and technologies, and points to how the weblog community shows much better hope for emergence to take place than traditional webpages do. In part because there's a feedback loop taking place. And the current breed of tool builders are quite likely to come up with key pieces that might make all the difference in taking it further. And here's a conclusion I most certainly can stand behind as well:
"The world needs emergent democracy more than ever. The issues are too complex for representative governments to understand. Representatives of sovereign nations negotiating with each other in global dialog are also very limited in their ability to solve global issues. The monolithic media and their increasingly simplistic representation of the world can not provide the competition of ideas necessary to reach consensus. Emergent democracy has the potential to solve many of the problems we face in the exceedingly complex world at both the national and global scale. The community of toolmakers will build the tools necessary for an emergent democracy if the people support the effort and resist those who try to stifle this effort and destroy the commons."

[ | 2003-02-17 23:59 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Saturday, February 15, 2003day link 

 How to get together
picture One of the fields of interest that most captivates me is how people get together in useful ways. That might sound very vague to some, but that is in part because the vital components of 'how people get together' aren't apparently known. There's no widespread technology or fundamental protocol for how a group activity forms from the bottom up. How some people notice that they share a certain *something*, and they then organize themselves such as to allow that *something* to emerge further, and they figure out what they actually want to do, and how. And then they do it.

There is quite a bit of a system for it when it comes to business ventures, companies, or any venture where one party comes up with the money that makes it happen. Even if nobody has the money, there's a pretty clear approach. You write a business plan, which includes deciding what you're going to do, who's going to do it, why it's a good idea, and what resources you need to do it. And then, typically, you'll try to convince somebody to provide the funds for doing it. And, if you succeed, then either you start doing it, or you make a new plan for what you really want to do. Either way, the money flows in a hierarchical way which supports a system of somebody above you telling you what you ought to do, and you feeling compelled to do it, because the money is good and you need it to eat and pay rent. And you use contracts money to sort of tie the pieces together. That system has proven itself to work, even though it has faults.

I don't think what I'm interested in will boil down to business plans and financing and who's the boss. Although maybe some of the pieces are partial answers. What I'm looking for is what will help it happen where there's noone clearly in charge, and no clear source of funding, and therefore no obvious hierarchy. And if hierarchy isn't really desired. I'm looking for how a grassroots group comes together. I'm looking for how free people, who don't feel an urgency to sell their soul, but who have a desire or a passion, or who see a need - how they come together.

If the desire or the need is strong enough, and the situation at hand is clear enough to everybody, self-organization might happen instantly and effectively. If millions of people love watching Farscape on the Sci-Fi channel, and they suddenly cancel it, thousands of those will feel strongly enough about it to do something about it, and the task is sufficiently clear that they can self-organize. And they did.

I suppose I'm looking for tools that will facilitate the clarification of what we're talking about, what we might agree on doing, and how we're open to doing it. If the need is not perceived as an emergency, and the task isn't already very simple, we will have to negotiate each step, and remain in alignment all the time, or each of us will just go back to doing something else we find compelling.

I'm looking for a language or a protocol or a tool or a metaphor that helps a matching process to happen. Kind of like how an antigen has very specific receptors that will make it physically match together with certain kinds of things that it is meant for attaching itself to, and it won't fit with other things. I'd like some ways for people to become more clear on what receptors we have, so we can better fit our receptors together where they fit, and not waste too much energy on where they really don't fit.
[ | 2003-02-15 14:12 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Thursday, February 13, 2003day link 

 Choice or No-Choice
picture It is a widely held value that people can hold different opinions, and it is sort of good to agree to disagree. Particularly if it is political opinions. It is considered noble to respect people one disagrees with.

But there are some qualities of opinions that most people don't notice. It is sometimes like comparing apples and oranges. Two opinions might be of a totally different order from each other, even though they are compared equally.

Let's take a politically and religiously very controversial issue like abortion. The typical way of presenting it is that there are two sides. For or against, basically. The people who think abortion should be legal and those who think it should be illegal. Those are not at the same logical level at all. Comparable choices would be to force all pregnant women to have abortions versus to allow no pregnant women to have abortions. Yes, that is ridiculous, but those would be logical opposites on the same playing field.

Or let's take opinions about whether it should be legal to smoke in public places or not. One side says that one should never be allowed to do so, or one would be fined or arrested. The opposite of that would be that one HAS to smoke in public places, or one would be fined or arrested. Ridiculous? Yes, indeed.

The point is that the choice of forcing everybody to always do something, or to never do something, that's a huge responsibility, and not just a matter of making a good point. You have to be responsible for it always, always, forever being the right choice. That's a real big thing. And it is fairly impossible, because you don't really know if it is always the right thing, because you probably can't imagine all the people and all the situations it applies it. So you probably just make the choice based on your own personal inclination right now, or your religious beliefs, or your idealistic political views, and you might vote for having that choice imposed on everybody all the time. And you sort of ignore the details, hoping that as a member of a government, you probably never have to be faced with those circumstances where that choice wouldn't be the right one.

So, in summary, the option that people are free to make their own reasonable choices based on the situations they find themselves in, that is not on equal footing with the option that they always have to do things the same one way, or that they never can do it a certain way.

People who believe in abortion rights do not necessarily plan on getting pregnant and getting an abortion. People who think there should be somewhere they can smoke, do not necessarily plan on smoking in all the very places that would be the most bothersome for non-smokers. They would maybe just like to be free to make some reasonable choices about it, based on the actual circumstances.

So, they're not equal opinions to have. If your option involves that I will be forbidden by force from exercising my option, but my option only is my personal choice, then our options are certainly not equal. Your option is clearly hostile to mine, but the reverse probably isn't true, even if you have trained yourself to think about it as if it is.

Most politicians don't realize the enormity of a decision to force something to be a certain way for everybody, particularly when we're talking about some sort of personal behavior or lifestyle choice.

To go to war and or not to go to war aren't equal either. They aren't just different opinions, different choices based on personal preferences. One will involve taking away the right to choose from hundreds of thousands or millions of people, because they will probably be killed. Sometimes that might make sense, if even bigger killing is avoided, but it is a very, vary hard decision, based on careful analysis of the facts. It isn't just some opinion to have.

Certain global choices don't really take anything away from anybody. Forcing all of us to drive in the right or the left side of the street, or to use 110V or 220V electricity, that is a matter of organization, and doesn't make any of us lose anything.

But a choice is a choice. Something an individual makes, or something that the people involved make in concert.

True bottom-up grassroots democracy consists of people making choices, and being quite likely to get what they're choosing. Many people will choose different things, and they will get different things. Enforcing the same choices on everybody should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.
[ | 2003-02-13 23:59 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Categories and Group Forming
picture I have often tried to come up with lists of perfect categories in one context or another. Right now one that works fairly well is the one you might see for example in New Civilization News in the right sidebar. There are more than 50 total, and usually I can find one that fits whatever I'm posting. But the categories I chose for my own weblog here no longer work. Most of the time none of the categories fit, so it is pretty haphazard what I choose.

Part of the trouble with categories is that most of us don't really organize our lives around clinically neat categories. We don't really get passionately excited about sections of the yellow pages. We usually get passionate about more complex memes or about complex feelings we have inside or about specific activities we do with specific other people. I'm passionate about 'Emergent Social Systems', but even if a number of other people were willing to stand under that same banner, we probably wouldn't all agree on what it meant, or what fit under it, or what was really important about it. My own passion is a compass I steer by, which I can't even adequately describe in writing. If I could write it down, it would be pages long, rather than just a couple of words.

At first I thought that categories naturally and automatically would lead to group forming and collaboration and community. They don't. If several people choose the same category, chances are they'd be more likely to form a group than if they were put together randomly, but none of it is automatic. In NCN one of the first things I did was to announce a number of groups based on certain subjects. Alternative Energy Sources, Alternative Money Systems, Social Rules and Ethics, Spirituality, etc. A number of people joined each one, and there was some initial excitement. Then there were interested discussions for a couple of months. And gradually each of the groups died out. More people joined once in a while and sometimes revived them, but nothing much happened. Why? Because all they had in common was a category. They didn't have a shared outcome in mind, they hadn't agreed or committed to anything, and they didn't share any model for how to think about it, or how to go about it. And because nobody took the lead in making it happen, no matter what.

Categories are still very useful, and might help people find what they're looking for, and I'll probably still look for better and better categories to put on things. But when it comes to forming groups, I think we need to find ways of codifying outcomes, world views, and preferences, so that we might help match up people who actually fit together. And we need to turn on the spotlights, blow the trumpets, and roll out the red carpet the moment we notice that somebody actually is passionately driven to do something great. Because that is what the world is really organized around, whatever label we put on anything.
[ | 2003-02-13 16:21 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Wednesday, February 12, 2003day link 

 Emergent democracy happening.
Seb Paquet:
"Took part in a thought-provoking phone conference this evening with Joi Ito, Clay Shirky, Ross Mayfield, Peter Kaminski, Liz Lawley, and Gen Kanai. We talked about emergence in weblogs (is there any? how do we see it?) and its possible impact on democratic processes (could it happen? how?). We plan to follow up on this, with other phone conferences (ask Joi if you want to join us) and complements such as the Emergent Democracy channel."
Hey, don't leave me out, I'll be there.
[ | 2003-02-12 23:59 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

 The Age of Connection
picture Mitch Ratcliffe:
"Individuals need to rise up and sieze the power they have always had and been urged to forget. Beyond voting, we need to organize and actively debate everything, from the sidewalks in our home towns to the bills before Congress and the ad hoc rulings from the executive branch. We need a parallel government that forces the attention of politicians back to the people and away from the monied interests.

Why would this work? Because politicians go where the power is and money is merely a proxy for power and time (because you can buy people's time or their attention through broadcast media). An active populace, a Jacksonian revival, with a thousand Lincolns spinning homely leadership, and a thousand Dr. Kings igniting our indignation toward arbitrary exercises of power by something called "the majority" would erase the proxy power of lobbyists and career representatives of big contributors and drive the return of an American dialog.

We should use the connections to establish parallel governments at every level, until the governments adopt the dialog by default, which they will do, because American government is still by people and for people at its roots. There are good people in government, and a lot of snails and weasels, too. Give the dedicated civil servant and the earnest legislator a constituency and they can change things in weeks, even days. Decisions can and will be made based on the will of the people through informed and open debate."

[ | 2003-02-12 21:13 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

Sunday, February 9, 2003day link 

 Negative Effects of Workplace Net Monitoring
From Slashdot:
Business2.com reports that while many corporations have monitoring tools and restrictions on Internet usages for non-work related activities, these can have negative effects on the productivity of the workplace. The report notes that people have to take days off from work to deal with personal business that could have been done in a few minutes or hours from a work net connection, and that employee morale is generally down when net controls are in place. A related study suggests employees spend more time doing work from home than playing at work.
I quit my last 9-5 job-job when they started implementing an oppressive central monitoring scheme. Their loss. I won't work for somebody who covertly sits and reads my personal e-mail.
[ | 2003-02-09 21:34 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

 Group Jazz
picture Lisa Kimball's site Group Jazz is about empowering groups to collaborate better. I share her excitement about groups that work really well.
" When I think about the times when I have felt most creative, most alive, most energized I think about times when I've connected with other people. A lot of times it's when I've been in a group that is in the zone. That zone is sometimes called high performance, excellence, or high productivity. I bet everyone can think of experiences you've had with groups like this.

I've always been fascinated by the dynamics of these great groups. What is it about the relationships, the context, the environment, the task, the leadership, the facilitation, and all the other factors that makes the difference? What if we could live and work like this more of the time? What can we do as a member of any group we're in to turn up the dial on the energy, passion, and fun? What do people with sponsorship, leadership, and other key roles need to do to create the conditions for these groups to grow and thrive?"
And, yes, Jazz is a good metaphor for it. It involves shared purpose and structure, but most importantly, somehow enabling individual creativity and freedom.
[ | 2003-02-09 17:18 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Friday, January 17, 2003day link 

 The Moral Internet
David Weinberger says some good things about how the structure of the Internet mirrors some qualities we need in a shared world.
"The Internet was created to move bits around without knowing anything about what the bits encode: porn bits look exactly like biblical bits. So, at its heart the Internet values a non-partisan, unfiltered exchange of information. It is decentralized. It is permission-free. But these are exactly the characteristics required for the pursuit of truth in a diverse world.

The Web, built on top of the Internet, brought us pages, browsers and links. Of these, links are the most important because without them you only have a set of disconnected pages, not a Web. The Web thus begins with connections, not individuals. This mirrors the human context in which morality is possible: we find ourselves first in a world we share. Connections come first. If you start with the individuals instead of our connection, you can never build up to a moral world."
Important point there. If we start with the assumption that we're in a world we share, or that we're all connected, or all one, or some variation of that - the answer has to be that the right things to do are those that make things work for the most possible people, including ourselves, and for the planet. But if we start with the assumption that we're all separate, and that others maybe don't even exist, you can without impunity hurt them or exploit them. The words get a bit in the way, but it is a very clear distinction if we get beyond them.
[ | 2003-01-17 23:58 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Proactive Money
picture Below is an article I wrote eight years ago, which sheds some light on how different waves of societal evolution need different kinds of money, and which calls for a more forward looking kind of currency.
We probably need a system where anybody who creates or perceives value also creates money, and the money is not a loan to be paid back, but a gift to be passed on.

In such a system new projects would be financed, not by borrowing money, but by gaining the trust of others who will believe in the project and voluntarily give money to it, because they want to see it happen. Or by producing value that people will feel like rewarding, thereby funding further production of value in the same vein.

That is not possible with scarcity money, but only with money that people can freely give without experiencing a personal loss from doing so. Money that gains value from being used on something desirable, and that retains no value from being kept.

[ | 2003-01-17 01:19 | 5 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Friday, January 10, 2003day link 

 What lawyers can learn from comic books
picture In Copy cats and robotic dogs Lawrence Lessig talks about a Japanese phenomenon that lawyers all over the world could learn from. Lessig is a U.S. law professor currently staying in Japan. The phenomenon is dojinshi, which is a type of comic book that forms a huge and growing market in Japan. But, technically speaking, it is founded on copyright 'violations'. Amateurs are copying and incorporating original art, and everybody benefits, including the original artists who experience more demand from their work. And so it is in many areas. People and companies who create something unique and useful will often benefit from all the creative uses and tweaking and copying that the customers come up with, if they're in a mind to realize it. The lawyers are often the ones who put a stick in the wheel, and make everybody lose, except for themselves.
"Lawyers (save those from Chicago) are not typically trained to think about the business consequence of their legal advice. To many, business is beneath the law. When a Sony lawyer threatened a fan of the company's Aibo robotic dog, who had posted a hack online to teach the dog to dance to jazz, he or she no doubt never thought to ask exactly how making the Aibo dog more valuable to customers could possibly harm Sony. Harm was not the issue, a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was: consumers should be banned from hacking Sony dogs, whether or not it was to Sony's benefit.

Management should begin to demand a business justification for copyright litigation. How does this legal action advance the bottom line? How will it grow markets or increase consumer demand for our products? Will calling our customers criminals increase consumer loyalty?"

[ | 2003-01-10 23:59 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

Friday, January 3, 2003day link 

 Leaders and Followers
From Future Positive, an article by Dee Hock.
"Leader presumes follower. Follower presumes choice. One who is coerced to the purposes, objectives, or preferences of another is not a follower in any true sense of the word, but an object of manipulation. Nor is the relationship materially altered if both parties accept dominance and coercion. True leading and following presume perpetual liberty of both leader and follower to sever the relationship and pursue another path. A true leader cannot be bound to lead. A true follower cannot be bound to follow. The moment they are bound, they are no longer leader or follower. The terms leader and follower imply the freedom and independent judgment of both. If the behavior of either is compelled, whether by force, economic necessity, or contractual arrangement, the relationship is altered to one of superior/subordinate, management/employee, master/servant, or owner/slave. All such relationships are materially different than leader-follower.

Induced behavior is the essence of leader-follower. Compelled behavior is the essence of all the others. Where behavior is compelled, there lies tyranny, however benign. Mere behavior is induced, there lies leadership, however powerful. Leadership does not imply constructive, ethical, open conduct. It is entirely possible to induce destructive, malign, devious behavior and to do so by corrupt means. Therefore, a clear, meaningful purpose and compelling ethical principles evoked from all participants should be the essence of every relationship, and every institution."
Lots more there. Great stuff. For those who don't know, Dee Hock was the guy who created VISA, which is an example of a 'chaordic' organization. Non-hierarchical, all participants are relatively free to act on their own.
[ | 2003-01-03 17:39 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Wednesday, January 1, 2003day link 

 Digital Reputation
Andre Durand knows a lot about digital identities. In Anatomy of a Digital Reputation he gives a good overview of issues around digital identity and reputation. Like, on why we even should care about our reputation:
"1) our reputation is often tightly coupled with our sense of self-worth, serving as an external reflection of who we are, or who we wish to be and
2) our reputation can precede our physical being, serving to 'open doors' or generally make our lives more convenient or to close doors, in which case we are blocked from doing something or going somewhere, and we might never know why.

At any moment in time, our reputation is nothing more than a snapshot of our historical interactions with others. If the snapshot supports what we say about ourselves, then our reputation is positively amplified (R+1). If the snapshot contradicts what we have said about ourselves, then our reputation is diminished (R-1).

As reputations bearing any weight and credibility are only built over time, it’s difficult to truly circumvent their creation. This is often why we learn early the value of 'borrowing' a reputation. Namedropping is nothing more than an attempt to place oneself in the positive glow of another’s positive reputation, hoping that it will make our life easier in the process or gain us access to something which we would not normally have access to on our own. How many times have you specifically gone someplace with someone who you knew was bearing the credentials and reputation of being 'well-connected'. (e.g. 'I'm good friends with the owner and he always let’s us in for free.')

Reputations are likely the most important quality enabled by identity and I believe that digital reputations will likely become the core and central reason why individuals will choose to have a digital identity in the future."

[ | 2003-01-01 18:52 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Reputed Identity
Seems to me that the purpose of digital identity would be that others, also others' websites, will recognize WHO I am, so they can respond appropriately to me. Both for their sake and for mine. And that WHO structure will inevitably be some sort of simplified representation. The task would be to make it a useful and fairly truthful representation, both for me and others.

I can think of several sections of that, off the top of my head:
  • A. How to identify and maybe locate me, like a finger print or a GPS tracker. Making sure there is one and only one of me.
  • B. How my various public facades and/or credentials are stored
    1. The, possibly several, masks I personally put on. Aliases, interests, contact address, website, preferences, etc
    2. The credentials I have from membership in various groups. My IDs, my job titles, degrees, credit cards, driving record, etc., which I can't directly change, but I can withdraw from a particular group.
    3. What various agencies collect about me without my explicit permission. Search engines, quotes, articles, credit reports, mailing lists, etc.
  • C. How my actual reputation is represented. How well regarded I am, what I've actually accomplished, and how much people trust me.
A would be a binary thing. Is it me or isn't it me? B would be mostly a quantitative thing. How many so-and-so are recorded on me and where are they. C would be qualitative. What does it really add up to?

I am most interested in the problem of how to best approximate a truthful picture of my reputation, and that is probably the hardest part. There is no way around it, but that it has to be assembled from what other people think, not from what *I* think. Maybe there are automated algorithms that can help constuct it from incidental information, but I feel strongly that it has to mainly be from a record of personal relations and transactions, not from a frozen public records, automatic logs of my behavior, or from titles and memberships I hold. What is important is that there are some actual, real people who trust me, and that they themselves are trustworthy. Not whether I wen't bankrupt 10 years ago, or whether I visited a lot of pornographic websites last year, or whether I'm a Rotarian and a Ph.D. In some contexts those things are important, but as a universal index of my character, they're flawed.

I know a person who killed somebody else in a fight and who spent years in prison for it. He is now one of the warmest and most trustworthy people I can think of, and I wouldn't hesitate to trust him with my life. I'm sure he has many friends who would vouch for him, but he's a very low-key person.

I knew somebody else who killed another person in stupidity, but didn't go to prison, as he was a minor at the time. He was still a volatile person many years later, and I would not turn my back with him in the room. He had no friends, and it would be hard to find anybody who could say anything about him.

I knew somebody who was rich, and a respected leader for many people, who would probably have many people around who would vouch for what a stellar person he is, because they depend on him for making a living. His credit record is impeccable and he probably has no criminal record. But I think he wouldn't hesitate long to pay for having somebody else killed if they crossed him in a business deal.

Public records and credit reports would point me towards staying away from the first person, would probably tell me nothing about the second, and would tell me that the third would be somebody to get to know. If we went by testimonials from other people, the third would have the most, because he's known and admired by more people. The first person would have some, and the 2nd would have none.

So, a task is how to organize a system of personal relations and reputation, without having it be affected by peer pressure or large amounts of money. And it needs to remain current, so that we're talking about the situation now, not 20 years ago. People change.
[ | 2003-01-01 18:31 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

Tuesday, December 31, 2002day link 

 Digital Identity and Reputation
picture There is a discussion on digital identity happening among several prominent webloggers: Eric Norlin, Doc Searls, Mitch Ratcliffe, Britt Blaser and more. There seems to be general agreement that there needs to be a basic level of a person's public identity which the person himself will control. But aside from that, it is a bit fuzzy. Norlin outlines three tiers of identity, where the part the individual controls would be T1, but it doesn't sound like he's quite getting the other two right. I agree with Ratcliffe that the next level (T2) would be where one grants some kind of community the right to compile some kind of reputation information on you. Like in eBay where one can see how many trades people have done, and how happy the other parties were, or like in NCN where one can see how active other people are, and how well other people trust them. But one should be able to revoke the right to be tracked that way, in case one would rather be anonymous or start all over. And, of course, others would have the right to not deal with you because of that. Doc Searls calls T1 MyIdentity, T2 OurIdentity, and T2 TheirIdentity. The third tier (T3) would then be the composite guesswork made by marketers based on some demographics and public history. Ratcliffe and Searls relate Andre Durand's idea that "When T1 identities have real customer relationships with T2 partners, T3 goes away. We will have the final defeat of Marketing as Usual." Ah, yes. Correct and useful collaborative information will out-compete the sloppy one-sided centralized guesses. This whole discussion arises in part because there are big corporations who would much prefer if THEY own and control your identity altogether. So, this is a grassroots attempt of coming up with something better. Britt Blaser points out correctly that an individual never will own every aspect of their own ID, because it is our collective sense of a person that matters, not their own. People will interact with you based on their idea of who you are, and what you yourself tell them is only one part of it. Your history with them is more important. Overall, I think the task is to come up with something that as correctly as possible represents people's real reputation, which they obviously can't be allowed to construct on their own; and that has some built-in accountability, so that one can't easily run away from transactions without paying; and that can't be thwarted by the person himself entering false information; and that isn't either controlled by big heartless corporations who could care less if you're branded as a loser for the rest of your life. And fundamentally you need to be free to choose who you are in life, and how much of yourself you want to share with the world. It is a hard puzzle to solve well, but very important.
[ | 2002-12-31 16:55 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

Sunday, December 22, 2002day link 

 Commence habitation.
Doc Searls, answering Eric Norlin who was ranting against all the new agey hippie webloggers who think that there is something inherently free and socially just and evolutionary about the Internet, and who himself seemed to think the Net is just like anything else: about making money and whatever other self-gratifying activities people are already into.
Doc: "Well, I guess I'm one of those NewAgers, but I'm an OldAger too, and the crank in me agrees completely. The Net is a new world. You can do all kinds of stuff on it, and with it. ALL kinds. Exclude nothing, because it'll happen. Worlds are like that.

About making money. Ever asked yourself what the business model of rocks is? Of dirt? Of trees? Of rotted plants? Of reproductive urges? Last I looked the building, concrete, lumber, oil and porn businesses were doing pretty well. The difference with the Net is: its resources are infinite. They don't need to be renewed, because they're not scarce. You mine and harvest them by processes like duplication. Take all you want; just don't buy the illusion that you "own" any of it. You don't, any more than you own the air you breathe or the jillion-ton wedge of rock and lava between your yard and the core of the Earth. Deep down, it's a commie kinda place. Deal with it.
Think of the Net as a laboratory for human nature, because it's the first world entirely made by human beings. And as Craig Burton says, we've only begun to terraform it. It's like we created a parallel planet, occupying the same space and time as the one we already inhabit. We're there already and have to make the most of it. Including the fact that some of our founding dreams were wet."

[ | 2002-12-22 23:56 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Saturday, December 21, 2002day link 

 An economy for giving everything away
Andrius Kulikauskas and David Ellison-Bey have many thoughts in this paper about economies based on giving.
"Wealth is relationships. In what sense is this true? If you have relationships, then you can get a loan, an education, a job, timely ideas, opportunities. Whereas knowledge is worthless out of context. Even money is worthless if there is nobody to take it, that is, if there is no web of relationships to back up the currency.

If you are poor, then you lack relationships, you must be 'out of the loop'. But if we can bring you 'into the loop', help you form social connections, integrate you into the economy, then we are creating wealth. This suggests that a business might sustain itself, fight poverty and create wealth by integrating people into the economy...

[ | 2002-12-21 23:59 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

<< Newer stories  Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8   Older stories >>