Following the recentdiscussions on group-forming and a little email exchange, Eric Hanson and I are going to start a mailing list on that topic. I've written Group-Forming Mailing List, a little background document which anyone interested is encouraged to edit and improve upon. Here's a bit of what I wrote this morning:
One thing that's exciting about the Internet is that it allows new communities to form at very low expense. This opens up many possibilities that were not previously available. In particular, it allows activists, thinkers, and other creative, change-oriented people to find one another, regroup, share information and learn more easily. This helps those people progress towards their goals more effectively. Successful examples of lively, focused communities include ShouldExist, InfoAnarchy, IndyMedia, and MeatBall.
Although we already see social clustering happening in certain areas, it is still difficult to create high-signal, lively groups around issues that are not (yet?) very popular or well known. We need to better understand how the process of clustering happens, in order to figure out how we can make it easier and more efficient.
People and their interactions are obviously at the center of this process. Thinking about social clustering will require us to consider individuals, motivations, and communication.
Observation and reflection are not the only means to probe this issue. We also want to try things out, experiment hands-on with new means of clustering. This way we will learn what helps people pull together and what doesn't.
The mailing list
This mailing list will be created to foster discussion both at the practical and theoretical level on such questions as:
How and why are new communities born?
How do they grow? Why and how do people learn about them and decide to participate in them?
How do those communities persist over time as some people leave and new ones jump in?
How can technology, and in particular the World Wide Web, facilitate the process of social aggregation?
I'll let you know as soon as the list is up and running.
DMOZ on aggregators. "There are so many things wrong with DMOZ (it's even worse with Yahoo), they all trace back to one thing, unlike the Web, the directories don't admit competition. Once someone owns a category it's theirs until they give it up. To cure the problem every section should have at least three editors to be sure you don't have political outages. And the name of the editor should be public information."
Even then, this design is simply not agile enough. Topics have to shake free, and exist independently of those points of failure that are individual moderators and gatekeepers. I'm sure we can do better on our own. Truly decentralized self-organization will have to come into being to really solve the problem.
The Bead Game, Conflict Resolution and Wisdom. Quote: "I , too, was moved by the Glass Bead Game that was described in Majester Ludi. Since then [ I had just graduated from college, many years ago] I have been actively fascinated with the possibility of constructing general representational schemas which, when understood, allow the replacement of conflict, incomprehension and fear with a wisdom which allows positive action. The possibility that large differences if bridged could result in large and positive consequences was an Aha! given to me by Hesse."
So,if there is little likely monetary reward why would one work on creating , however polished, a written summary, a body of ideas, on the web? I believe that there are rewards for doing this and they relate to making a community of understanding with those that do respond to your ideas.
As a benefit of community membership one receives relevant suggestion and criticism of her/his ideas. As another benefit, this interest-based community also provides new and related ideas from which one may continue to build her/his knowledge base. There are benefits for all. In short, be wiser and happier in your knowledge making web community, but don't quit your day job!!
I'd like to argue for schoolblogs as an incremental improvement over journaling. I ask you to grant me the power of journaling as a tool for advancing self-understanding and for understanding the world. Responding to life experience through writing and summarizing causes one to interlink and explain thus increasing understanding.
We now note that the writer of a weblog is aware of a potential audience that goes beyond the teacher. This awareness coupled with almost any form of the wish for understanding... has the writer developing ideas in smaller steps and with foundational explanation for the reader. Thus a fleeting impression (true or not) becomes a situated explanation and thus is better understood by the writer. Plus, of course, the self-chosen audience that reads this writer more than once and responds in similar spirity provokes further growth of the writer and has itself grown. This form of rational discourse makes communities of the mind that become with experience, effort and multiple rounds of 'listening' and 'speaking' more comprehensive with each round.
Some Questions on Obscene and Indecent Speech. The goal of this essay is to cause the curious reader to ponder the following questions: Does there exist a right not to be offended? Does there exist anywhere an example of someone who was injured by exposure to "obscene" or "indecent" words, images, or ideas? Does there exist a definition of "obscene" or "indecent" which is universally applicable and therefore, useful? That is, can we construct a list of all obscene, indecent or profane words, and can we say that all uses of these words are offensive by definition? Can there be no legitimate use of these words? And what about words not on the list, are they always safe? Is it possible to describe all objectionable images? Does not a specific law against obscenity itself become obscene? Are all cases of exposure to obscene or indecent material actionable? Do contracts placed upon community media producers and journalists which attempt to coerce producers into self-censorship, denote Prior Restraint, and are therefore unconstitutional under the First Amendment? [kuro5hin.org]
Unlike most Bookmobiles, this one didn't contain any physical books. Instead, it connects to the Internet Archive's servers in the Presidio to download them. Then the high-speed printer prints out the pages. The chopper cuts them in half so you can fold them together to make a normal-sized book, and the binding machine heats up the glue-smeared cover to hold it all together. The whole process takes about fifteen minutes. ...
"People have a hard time understanding the public domain," Brewster says. "It's an abstract concept; it's hard to grasp. The bookmobile changes that." He picks up one of the books he's made. "This is the public domain! The public domain means giving books to children. You want to extend copyright? You want to steal books from children? No one wants to steal books from children."