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

Saturday, December 21, 2002day link 

 Manifesto for a New Economy
On the xpertweb site you find a manifesto aimed at providing "Value Chains for the Rest of Us". To explain:
"Value Chains are the means by which originators get rich in a market economy — they are combinations of producers, distributors, middlepeople and retailers.

Value Chains have always been hard to forge, defend, manage and collect from, which is why they're so profitable. The Internet is poised to combine productive individuals into value chains which reward their participants as richly as traditional value chains."
OK, I get it. Anyway, read the actual document. Much good stuff like:
"The Internet is a conversation.

And that Markets are conversations, as described by the folks at ClueTrain.

Work and its Reward is primarily a conversation about quality: money is just the punch line.

The quality of the work-reward conversation, not money, is the best benchmark for a 'New' Economy.

Internet protocols are the best model for a quality-based, more even-handed Economic Operating System.

Establishing a quality-based Economic OS requires no new laws, technical standards or protocols, so it needs nobody's permission..."

[ | 2002-12-21 23:59 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

 The Support Economy
picture The Publishers Weekly review of the book "The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and The Next Episode of Capitalism" says:
"Over the last two centuries, they argue, an increasingly efficient economy, coupled with a rise in democratic thinking and growing access to information, has opened up life's possibilities to increasing numbers of people. Because participation in the consumption-based economy is unavoidable, the general public looks to markets to provide 'deep support' in their quest for individualization, but 'are routinely punished for being complex psychological individuals in a world still fitted out for the old mass order.' This macroeconomic structure treats people as either employees or consumers and inevitably hurts their feelings. Zuboff and Maxmin would eliminate the 'little murders' of customer service interaction by replacing the current transaction-based model with a form of 'distributed capitalism' based on a customer-supplier relationship, so semi-anonymous customer service reps will be replaced by 'advocates' fully emotionally involved in their clients' needs."
I like that. Its gotta happen. The economic value of actually caring about giving people what they want - it must somehow turn out to be higher than the value of tricking or mistreating people into paying too much for things they don't really want. Sooner or later.
[ | 2002-12-21 23:59 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 People no longer work for a living
picture While discussing xpertweb, an interesting system for connecting people with experts through a peer economy, Britt Blaser mentions, amongst several problems with real-world reputation systems:
"People no longer work for a living. They hold jobs for a living, which pays better.
..which sort of got me thinking. That isn't just a flippant thing to say. I have a hard time thinking of anybody who really works for a living. When I have work that needs doing, I have a hard time finding anybody who would like to do it, even for money. And, I must admit, I don't really have time to work either. There's nothing I'm available for that you can just come and pay me for and I'll do it. And, looking around me, a lot of people seem to work that way. OK, I can still go and get a haircut and pay for it, and I pretty much know what I'll get. But that kind of thing is becoming more rare.

The times I have been employed by corporations I was always puzzled by the fact that most people weren't really doing anything terribly productive, and it made relatively little difference what amount of work people actually were putting out. I several times had the task of making a computer system that would automate what a certain company was doing, so I specifically had to study what it was that actually took place. And along the way I noticed how rather little it had to do with doing work and accomplishing finished work. For example, it is with some embarrassment I note that I once hired a guy to document a program I had written. He had an impressive resume, and the company had to pay above the norm to acquire him. After a year he left to join a big consulting company, and everybody shook his hand and congratulated him on his great career move and his excellent service to the company. I and everybody else knew, at least via our peripheral vision, that the tangible product of his 1 year of work was 1/2 written page of a suggested outline for the manual. We're talking about an expense of maybe $70K for 1/2 page of writing, which I could just as well have jotted down in five minutes instead of hiring him. But nobody cared, because none of it really matters that much. The company was busy and the organizational chart looked good and the money flowed somehow. And this guy had great relationships with everybody. He was very supportive. I enjoyed working with him.

It is not all crazy. The point is that it is relationships people want, rather than giving or receiving quantities of work. And in some mysterious way, that's actually working. With the people I work for today, I'm an independent contractor, but I've insisted on arrangements where I get paid fixed amounts of dollars per month, but I don't promise any hours of work, and there are no deadlines or anything like it. If they or I are unhappy, we'll change the amount or stop the agreement. But it is not about work. It is about paying attention. It is about being present for whatever comes along in a certain area.

I have not yet myself learned to be comfortable with that in situations where I'm the person who's needs some work done. I can see how it ought to work, but it just hasn't become intuitive yet for me. The point is of course that it needs to be a mutually beneficial relationship. I pay attention to these things, and you pay attention to those things, and together we're better off somehow. It is not about me forcing you to deliver certain goods at a certain price. The world is changing rapidly and the future is uncertain, so maybe the relationship model is more viable than a transaction model. But, of course, it needs to be a good relationship, not a bad one.
[ | 2002-12-21 23:59 | 7 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Thursday, December 19, 2002day link 

 Reputation Systems
Alex Halavais talks about an experiment with a karma/reputation system in a class he was teaching. The idea being that one had a certain number of points, and one could give them to others for doing good deeds, according to a simple system. But people cheated and the system fell apart.

I've noticed myself that it is rather difficult to make a functional reputation system. There is one in NCN, where people mark others as being 'acquaintances', 'friends' or 'comrades', meaning that they're somewhere on a scale between 'I know them' and 'I would trust them with my life'. Some of the problems I've noticed are:
  • People have different norms. Some people feel they trust everybody unconditionally.
  • Many people feel obliged to be reciprocal, even if they don't quite mean it.
  • Some people try to have several virtual personalities, so they can give each other points.
  • If there is a list of people's reputation ratings as numeric values, ordered in descending numeric order, people change their behavior and get competitive about getting better numbers.
  • If I made the system, and I'm first on the list, people get suspicious.
  • People who are very active get high ratings
  • Some people end up hating reputation systems
Aside from that, it works fairly well. I just think I need to get rid of the comparative listing.
[ | 2002-12-19 03:58 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Tuesday, December 10, 2002day link 

 You can't shut up a network
SmartMobs on Dan Gillmor talking about the future of journalism, and the power of networks:

"The second event Dan cited was the occasion last summer at Esther Dyson's PC Forum, held in Arizona, where Joe Nacchio, CEO of Qwest was, in Dan's words, "whining about how hard it was to run a telephone company these days." Dan blogged this while he was listening, and immediately got email from a reader in Florida who sent him a link disclosing that Nachio had sold $300 million of stock in the company he was helping to kill. Dan blogged it, and another participant in the Forum, Doc Searls, who was contemporaneously blogging the event, took Nachio to task for it, while Nachio was still standing at the podium. Here is Doc's version."
[ | 2002-12-10 17:33 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Wednesday, December 4, 2002day link 

 Dynamic Facilitation
Tom Atlee: Dynamic Facilitation/Choice-creating: "'Dynamic facilitation', created by consultant Jim Rough, is a facilitation style that follows the energy of a group without constraining that energy to agendas or exercises. Using this style, someone can facilitate a highly co-creative process Jim calls 'choice-creating'." Lots of good stuff referenced from Tom's presentation. And see Jim Rough's site and book. The site has this chart on a page about self-organizing change:

Two Models of Change

Manageable (Type 1)
Self-Organizing (Type 2)

e.g. a machine, monarchy, traditional meeting

e.g. a living organism, democracy, dialogue

How order is determined It is organized by someone
(extrinsic forces)
  • Build it / Do it... with no mistakes
  • Closed boundaries
  • Mostly stable with periodic disorder
Order comes from within
(intrinsic energy)
  • Explore / trial and error
  • Open boundaries
  • Dynamic... between chaos and order
Thinking Stay rational
....avoid the unconscious mind
  • Decide on goals ... avoid feelings
  • Discern and analyze
  • Stop things from going wrong
Be creative
....work with the unconscious mind
  • Energy driven... include feelings
  • Generate and synthesize
  • Seek what's right ... i.e. quality
Leadership Manage to get results
  • Can measure progress
  • Emphasize extrinsic motivation
  • Static process... step by step
Facilitate the process
  • Use milestones to reflect on progress
  • Emphasize intrinsic motivation
    ....(mission, vision)
  • Dynamic process... the flow
Orientation Stop things from going wrong
  • There are objective constraints
  • All is measurable
  • Eliminate chaos
Help things go right
  • Expect breakthroughs
  • Measuring can affect the process
  • Some chaos is essential

[ | 2002-12-04 22:54 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

Monday, December 2, 2002day link 

 Online Business Networks
I was checking out Ryze.com today, after Seb Paquet mentioned it. It is an online business network. Mostly entrepreneurs I suppose. Self-motivated people who're looking for connections and opportunities. From what I understand, it is something that is working well and growing quickly. So, I'm looking for the clues on what it is that works. The interface is fairly simple. You create a profile, including categories of what you're interested in, and you can search through others' profiles, and find people based on the interests. You can leave messages for other people in their guestbooks, which can be seen by others, and you can flag people as your friends, or put them on your contact list. And you can create your own tribe, which others can join. All sounds good, but what is it that makes it work for people? The simplicity? The critical mass? The fact that people are trying to do business, so they're motivated?

Incidentally, a couple of hours after I signed up for Ryze, Scott Allen called, and he happens to be working on a book about online business networks, including Ryze. And actually he wanted to ask me if I could come up with some success stories from NCN. I've planned for a while to develop some more organized way of gathering feedback on successes and failures. So, maybe I should get moving.
[ | 2002-12-02 23:21 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

Saturday, November 30, 2002day link 

 Power-law distributions on the web
picture Jon Udell is talking about 'power law distributions', in part in reference to the book 'Linked' by Albert-László Barabási. 'Power-law distribution' is a condition that means essentially that small occurrences are extremely common, whereas large instances are extremely rare. Or, if we're talking about the Internet - there are a lot of sparsely connected sites and a very small number of highly connected sites.

The way that websites or in particular weblogs are inter-connected and referring to each other is working like the 6-degrees of separation model between people. Except for that on the web in general, studies have shown that webpages are an average of 19 clicks away from each other. And weblogs are an average of 4 clicks from each other.

So, you can get from one person or one weblog to any other in very few jumps, but you'll probably go through certain core nodes or core people that 'everybody' is linking to. That is useful, but there is also something unequal and possibly unfair about that. There's a 'rich-get-richer' pattern of clustering going on, in that people tend to go and link up with the people who are already most linked-up with everybody. The networking isn't entirely free-flowing.

I've certainly noticed that in any setting where you provide a list of people, sites or whatever, in order of popularity by some measure. Most people will concentrate on what they see at the top, and those people or sites get much more attention than they necessarily would deserve if the playing field were completely even.

Personally I would intuitively find it quite natural that a smaller number of sites are more connected than any other. But it bothers me if the system would be weighted in favor of reinforcing the sites that already are getting the most attention, rather than the ones that are of the highest quality.

Other good links on this:
Internet navigators think small,
Self-organized networks, Notre Dame University,
Clay Shirky
[ | 2002-11-30 23:59 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

 People Tour
Seb Paquet is providing a tour of some of the people listed in the sidebar of his weblog. That's a good idea, and I was thinking about doing that too. Otherwise it is just a list of names, many of which are unknown to many of the readers. Knowing what and how and why breathes life into the network of people.
[ | 2002-11-30 23:59 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

Friday, November 29, 2002day link 

 Compliance or Creation
Peter Kaminski via Seb mentions:
Whoosh: Business in the Fast Lane,Tom McGehee on what makes a company suck or rock:

Compliance CompaniesCreation Companies
Policy drivenPrinciple driven
Rule basedRelationship based
Conducts training

Allows for structured and unstructured learning

Forced organizationSelf-organizing
Good of organization over good of individualGood of organization through good of individuals
Measures activityMeasures outcome
Closed systemOpen system
Internal focusExternal focus
Risk avoidanceOpportunity creation
Confuses models with realityUnderstands modeling
Tries to re-create past successTries to create new successes
Methodology basedModel based
Expert's mindBeginner's mind
Tolerates diversityThrives on diversity
Seeks equilibriumSeeks progress
Deficit focusedPositive focused
Creates burning platformsCreates compelling opportunities

Application to national governments or revolutionary organizations is left as an exercise for the reader.
[ | 2002-11-29 16:01 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

Tuesday, November 26, 2002day link 

 The State of Grace Document
picture Tom Atlee mentions the State of Grace Document, which is an innovative alternative to contracts in various kinds of relationships, including businesses and personal relationships. It was conceived by Maureen McCarthy. As opposed to contracts, which usually have the premise that the other party quite likely will try to screw you, the State of Grace document has the premise that the parties both want to remain in or return to the state of grace that they started out with, where they're aligned and things are just flowing naturally. So, when a time of transition arrives, where it is no longer working, the point would either be to find the way back to that state, or to revise the agreement, or to realize that it is no longer there, so the relationship is ending. Maureen says:
"The State of Grace Document is a radical new way to see the world. It's a tool for those who are searching for a non-litigious way to resolve a difficult situation. Or in the cases where [we] would never resort to that, but the pain of a bad ending leaves us exhausted, it's a remarkable path to peace. It's a concept not yet in practice that will cause great change in the world when adopted because it addresses the potential for problems up front in a loving manner. As a society we avoid saying the marriage could end before the ceremony has begun, the job might not work out as planned, or the business partnership might not be the best route as we move forward. Reality says it's all possible, but it seems so distasteful to acknowledge it. With the State of Grace Document a new and very elegant approach has been created to address the possibilities, while keeping the love, honor and integrity intact."

[ | 2002-11-26 19:10 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

Monday, November 25, 2002day link 

picture A nice introduction to self-organization by a physicist, Cosma Rohilla Shalizi.
"Something is self-organizing if, left to itself, it tends to become more organized. This is an unusual, indeed quite counter-intuitive property: we expect that, left to themselves, things get messy, and that when we encounter a very high degree of order, or an increase in order, something, someone, or at least some peculiar thing, is responsible. .. But we now know of many instances where this expectation is simply wrong, of things which can start in a highly random state and, without being shaped from the outside, become more and more organized. Thus self-organization, which I find to be one of the most interesting concepts in modern science --- if also one of the most nebulous, because the ideas of organization, pattern, order and so forth are, as used normally, quite vague."
His Ph.D. thesis was about quantifying self-organization. The complexity of a process can in principle be measured by how much information is needed to predict its future behavior. So, a process is self-organizing if its complexity is found to increase, while the input is either constant or random. He also gives some history of the concept of self-organization:
"The idea that the dynamics of a system can tend, of themselves, to make it more orderly, is very old. The first statement of it (naturally, a clear and distinct one) that I can find is by Descartes, in the fifth part of his Discourse on Method, where he presents it hypothetically, as something God could have arranged to have happen, if He hadn't wanted to create everything Himself. Descartes elaborated on the idea at great length in a book called Le Monde, which he never published during his life, for obvious reasons."

[ | 2002-11-25 15:52 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

Friday, November 22, 2002day link 

 Fertile soil for group-forming
picture Seb has many good thoughts about how to facilitate group-forming. Like here about what sorts of people might be the best candidates to form groups. For example, people with well-specified problems and a well-defined environment, like programmers or mathematicians or puzzle solvers. Very interestingly, he has this comment about Activists and World-changers:
"These people are definitely motivated to form teams to create change. However, they've got perhaps the hardest task of all as regards defining what they want and how they want to get there. What they want is initially imagined and often difficult to state precisely; stating how they want to get there must be build upon a difficult to obtain description of the messy real world."
He's right, and that's something I've run into a lot. World-changers are of course VERY motivated, but it might be very hard to agree on what exactly we're doing, and how.
[ | 2002-11-22 15:44 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

picture Simon Buckingham talks about "What is Unorganization". The good kind of unorganization, that is.
The world we all live in has fundamentally changed for the better from the old organized model to today's unorganized one. In the orderly organized world, there was certainty and convention. In the global unorganized world there is freedom, diversity and instability.
I like it already. He has some nice charts. He presents a scale going from the most organized types of societies - communism - through socialism, capitalism, finally towards what he calls 'technological capitalism', which he sort of positions as the best of all worlds.
Socialism was a response to inequality, whereas capitalism can cause it. Under capitalism, new economic opportunities tend to present themselves to members of institutions such as companies or to people who have already benefited from other opportunities. Individuals acting alone face either high entry barriers or are excluded altogether from taking advantage of those market opportunities. The rich get richer and poor people stay poor. Under technological capitalism, there are both the free market opportunities AND the opportunity for all individuals to benefit from those opportunities. Individuals can participate more easily in, and benefit more fully from free market economies. Talent determines future wealth, not current wealth: poor people can become rich.

[ | 2002-11-22 04:48 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

Wednesday, November 20, 2002day link 

 Communities of Value
picture Communities of Value form between people who have a common interest in value. It is mostly used about groups where consumers / customers / regular people are networking with each other concerning a certain type of product or service, or a certain brand. Oldfashioned companies HATE that people are sharing notes about themselves, because they want to just talk TO people without interference. Translation: companies that want to lie to people will try to sabotage any attempt of those people talking amongst themselves. What's new is that those companies will go out of business, unless they change and learn to thrive on the free networking and self-organization amongst the people they serve.

eBay has made it huge by facilitating Communities of Value. Napster was a great Community of Value, but the music industry didn't recognize it, to their own loss. Open Source software is often coordinated through Communities of Value, where both programmers and end-users participate. Linux is a great example, or PHP or MySQL. Communities of Value form by themselves all over the place, wherever online forums are easily available, and regardless of whether any related companies participate or not.

Communities of Value might also form amongst businesses that have similar economic interests, or that might find synergetic relationships amongst each other.

Read more:
Community is the best Commercial, Reshaping the Landscape, Backroads.
[ | 2002-11-20 17:50 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Wednesday, November 13, 2002day link 

 Laws of Self-Organization
pictureChris Corrigan provides some hints from Open Space Technology about how one might intentionally create the conditions for group/community formation, by invoking the laws of self-organization.

"[...] Stuart Kauffman distilled down those laws to these five conditions which need to be in place to invoke self-organizing systems:
A nutrient environment
Diversity and complexity
A drive for improvement
Sparse connections
Activity at the edge of chaos
In Open Space the nutrient environment is provided by a theme and an invitation that nurtures participation. Diversity and complexity is embodied by the invitation list and a complex organizing idea ("How do we form a community?" is a good question). A drive for improvement is the inherent passion that people bring to the work. Sparse connections mean that people come to an Open Space meeting without an agenda, and not knowing what will happen. This allows them to be free to establish the connections they need to make to create communities or groups. And finally activity at the edge of chaos finds its purest expression in the group of people all standing in front of the agenda wall searching for the conversations they want to have. It is out of the rolling and boiling chaos that order comes, as people settle into conversations and establish deep connections that lead to groups and communities forming."

[ | 2002-11-13 23:36 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Monday, November 11, 2002day link 

Tom Atlee has gathered a lot of resources about the phenomenon of "co-intelligence". See the compact vision of co-intelligence. Co-intelligence is essentially that a group of people somehow becomes much more than the sum of its parts. The group itself, as a whole, starts acting intelligently at a higher level. Imagine that happening in small teams, in organizations, in communities and in whole societies. Read these stories and examples of collaboration and wholeness.

"What really interests me is that when I tell people about co-intelligence, they usually look at me blankly. But then I ask them if they've ever seen co-stupidity -- and they start to chuckle! What a commentary on our culture, that people who have never heard either word can't imagine co-intelligence, but are already familiar with co-stupidity."

[ | 2002-11-11 23:48 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

 Group Forming
pictureSeb Paquet mentions there's a group for group-forming discussion, which grew our of his own inquiries into the subject. On the table are questions like:
"How are new communities born?
How can we make it easier to form groups?"
Those are big questions indeed. Creating the circumstances for productive groups to form is a non-trivial problem. Particularly when we're talking about self-organizing groups. If I have the resources to pay some people to do certain things, I can create a group. If I stand on a street corner and hand out free beer, I'll have a group quickly too. But the interesting question is how groups will come together in a less pavlovian way, where it isn't just a matter of lining up to get your treat, and doing whatever it takes to get it. If there are just a number of possible interest areas, or a number of tasks at hand, or there's just a number of people who exist in the same space, who have different interests - what facilitates that they self-organize in a useful way?

I can guess at many things. Of course it helps a lot to have some tools freely available. In a physical space, some different meeting rooms, some comfortable chairs, and some whiteboards to write on, would help a lot. In a virtual space it would work in similar ways. If there are spaces available you can move into, on your own impulse, and start drawing on the boards, some fundamental groundwork is in place. And if you can easily see who is around, who's available, and what their interests are, that certainly helps greatly too. But it takes more.

It takes purpose. A group needs to exist for something. A common interest or a shared space might be a trigger, but it doesn't provide the purpose. The purpose can't be faked. There needs to be something REAL that these people are together for. It might not be important to anybody else in the world, but it has to be important for the people in that group.
[ | 2002-11-11 23:48 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Sunday, November 10, 2002day link 

 Group Forming Networks
pictureDavid Reed talks about Group Forming.

David Reed is an Internet veteran credited with what is sometimes called Reed's Law, which says, essentially, that networks that facilitate easy group forming are subject to potentially exponential growth. So, here's a little bit of math:

Broadcast media or traditional industrial age businesses grow roughly in ratio to how many listeners or customers they have. Twice as many listeners/viewers means twice as good. Twice as many people who see your ad means twice as many customers which means twice as good. We can use the symbol N for the value. N number of people gives a value of N. That is called proportional growth.

But if we're talking about a network, where the participants can communicate with each other, the rules change. Bob Metcalfe, the inventor of Ethernet, noticed that, and it is known as Metcalfe's Law that the value of a network increases with the square of the number of members. Think about the phone system. If you can only talk with a few people it isn't worth much. The more people you can call, the more valuable it is. Twice as many people make it not just twice as good, but four times (the square) as good. Roughly. So, the value is N2.

And now David Reed says that if we're talking about not just a network, but a community, the rules change again. The number of different interactions that might happen within a group of N people would be 2N. That is what is called exponential growth. So, if the members of the network can't just communicate one-to-one, but they can get together in groups of all kinds of sizes, the potential value is huge.

That's maybe a bit tenuous, as there's nothing at all automatic about it. It is what potentially can happen. But useful groups don't necessarily form just because it is possible for them to do so. I am, however, extremely interested in discovering factors that help groups to form and to self-organize. So, what it is that actually creates a Group Forming Network (GFN)? I'm not sure if Reed has an answer, but I'll keep looking.

One third of a century ago in an article entitled "The Computer as a Communication Medium," J.C.R. Licklider and Bob Taylor wrote the following, which was part of what inspired David Reed and others to build the first Internet:
What will on-line interactive communities be like? Â… they will consist of geographically separated members Â… communities not of common location, but of common interest. Â… The whole will constitute a labile network of networks-ever changing in both content and configuration. Â… the impact Â… will be very great-both on the individual and on society. Â… First, Â… because the people with whom one interacts will be selected more by commonality Â… than by accidents of proximity.

[ | 2002-11-10 19:09 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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