Monday, September 19, 2005

The Tragedy of the Electronic Commons

"When two attorneys enraged millions of Internet users by publishing identical advertisements on six thousand unique network discussions known as "newsgroups," they were attacking a tradition of cooperation. Now the same attorneys are flogging a book and trying to convince readers of op-ed articles that they have been the victims of elitist attacks by Internet intellectuals who oppose honest business on the Net. Citizens on and off the Internet need to understand exactly how these hucksters are trying to deceive us, before we lose a precious resource.

For many people, these thousands of newsgroups have constituted a worldwide, multimillion member, collective thinktank, available twenty-four hours a day to answer any question from the trivial to the scholarly. If you have a question about sports statistics, scientific knowledge, technical lore -- anything -- someone has the answer. This magical knowledge-multiplying quality comes from the voluntary effort of many people who freely contribute expertise. That power of a large group of people to act as a thinktank for each other is vulnerable to misuse. A small number of malefactors can mess up a good thing for a large number of cooperative citizens."

Later in the blog...

"The lawyers' actions conveyed the message that their personal commercial ambitions were more important than the value of the commons. And that is the message they have been preaching -- get yours while you can, and ignore the protests of those who value the online culture of information-sharing. If these carpetbaggers prove successful, will others follow? How far can a network of cooperative agreements be pushed by the self-interest of individuals before it loses its value? When a flood of irrelevant announcements swamps newsgroups and mailing lists, what will happen to the support networks for cancer patients and Alzheimers' caregivers?"

The Tragedy of the Electronic Commons, Howard Rheingold, http://www.well.com/user/hlr/tomorrow/tomorrowcommons.html

2 Comments:

Blogger vic said...

These attorneys understood and used the system in their thoughtless, greedy manner. I get a ratio of spam to information well over 5 to 1. I assume you all do. We can take back "our precious resource" if we think it through. Give it some alternative cooperative uses. "Open source" has done that. What rules do they use?

Can this commons be used for disaster relief or some other commons project?

For instance, what can a person do about disasters such as New Orleans? A section of this commons could tackle that from as many directions as we want.

If I understand the "Rheingold Mob," it is a spontaneous response to a problem. I saw an NYT Op-ed piece about using wi fi meshes in a disaster. That requires planning. That requires coordination, cooperation.

It proposed people everywhere in a city reacting now to a low probability event that would cost each participant money. About $500 to $1,000 to build and maintain a mesh node that could work thru a power failure. Does each of us see enough personal interest to invest in a public wi-fi network in our community? Can we do it without a huge investment in voluntary committees to coordinate?

Is a wi-fi mesh another commons? After seeing New Orleans and the importance of communications, maybe.

Let's stop the usual disaster scenario. I saw it in New Orleans. And, today it started in Southern Florida.

Disasters follow a scenario we could examine.

New Orleans appears to be following the standard disaster scenario. (Someone wanted scenario planning last month.)

Five year ago disaster, damn will break and flood the city -- unheard by those that have to act.

One year ahead of disaster, we're killing the wetlands that buffer hurricanes -- unheard by those that have to act.

A hurricane rounds the tip of Florida and heads for home, the Gulf coast.

Get on the highways to nowhere.

Hurricane.

Damns break.

New Orleans floods.

While the locals are exhausting themselves to rescue people with no communications -- finger pointing.

Form a commission, better yet many commissions -- the people that have to act will hear nothing.

End of scenario.

We in this commons can do something to involve those of us that would be hurt or killed by the next disaster.

The attorneys showed us how much can be done when the system works for individuals. Can we figure out how to make it work under adverse circumstances for a large number of people in need?

12:03 PM  
Blogger Rich Molumby said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:51 PM  

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