Communities and Commons
Jeremy Bowers (of iRights fame) has a 'Katzian' piece on weblog communities. Good stuff. (Katzian and good are definitely not mutually exclusive, IMHO)
I liken the creation of a community of discussion-enabled sites to fencing off the digital commons, except there is infinite land available. Instead of an anonymous melee of shouted opinions, we now have individual residences in which people can share, build and discuss. The nature of individually staked out property is that it is available to others only by invitation; people are apt to act much differently in someone else's house, as are they more likely to respect the wishes of a particular site than those of others in an open discussion group.
"Freedom in the commons brings ruin to all."
Restated: when you visit someone else's site, it's like visiting them in their home - you play by their rules, and if you don't like them, you don't hang out there anymore. This is more conducive to a stable community, because there doesn't have to be any concensus as to how to operate collectively - collective operation emerges gradually from the individual parts, control over which doesn't need to be shared.
Howard Rhiengold wrote about what is probably the best-known manifestation of the tragedy of the commons online.
Free Speech as a Tragedy of the Commons "If it is not policed by a list moderator, every user is free to add one more comment--one more
insulting or intemperate posting--polluting the virtual commons as surely as the sheep pollute the real one." It seems like the internet is growing farther and farther away from the
shared code of conduct that was there when it was growing slowly - this is why individual sites will be more effective than commons for establishing communities: opt-in vs. concensus.
The tragedy of the commons in Artificial Intelligence. Interesting.
I've always asked seriously whether Microsoft has actually ever really contributed any innovations in computer software. By showcasing these examples, they've more or less confirmed my doubt.