The Power of Many: Principles of Online Connectivity

Dave Pollard extracts 10 “principles of online connectivity” from Christian Crumlish's book, The Power of Many: How the Living Web is Transforming Politics, Business, and Everyday Life. Link

  1. The Internet is still too hard for most people to use.
    “There are still multiple, overlapping digital divides. My parents are
    still not sure what they're looking at when they're looking at the
    monitor of their Apple Macintosh. What to me is naturally a model
    dialog box is to them just another rectangle among many on a screenful
    of confusing metaphors.”
  2. Blogs
    are just the best current disintermediation tool, and other social
    networking tools will only succeed when they, too, cut out the
    Blogs dispense with “the broadcast middleman that has
    dominated global communication and replacing it with people-to-people
    communications channels that will yield their own media forms, more
    collaborative and more granularly nuanced”. Almost all other social
    networking tools today force us to disclose information in some awkward
    format, information we've already shared in other places, to some host
    middleman who actually (in the process to trying to get some agency fees) gets in the way. We need new tools that enable social networking unhosted, disintermediated.
  3. All communications and networking is moving to peer-to-peer. Quoting Mary Hodder
    xian says “this peer-to-peer revolution will extend far beyond music
    and other media sharing, and actually represents a new paradigm of
    person-to-person communication and networking, part of the revolution
    in self-organizing human communities.”
  4. Real communities are only formed when people meet face-to-face to work toward some specific common goal.
    “Communities are created only when actions are involved, when people
    rise up from their easy chairs, leave their homes, inconvenience
    themselves, discover the church basement or the community center, enter
    a stranger's home or fight City Hall in the streets.”
  5. Tremendous advantage accrues to anyone who pioneers a new technology successfully.
    Only a dozen companies have really done this, and they now dominate the
    desktop and all its extensions. If you want to achieve 'first mover
    advantage' in cyberspace now, your idea is going to have to be so
    disruptively innovative that it slays one of these giants, otherwise
    one of the twelve will just “imitate, catch up, and outcompete”. Unless
    you're content to be a small niche player, you might be better working
    for one of them, and leveraging their customer access for your
    innovation (this latter bit is my opinion, not necessarily xian's).
  6. Online
    networking is great for support groups, but dreadful for changing the
    system, and often detracts from actually getting things done
    . Quoting danah boyd,
    xian says that online tools “allow those with the same views to talk
    with others with the same views”. This is enormously helpful if you
    want to find others with the same disease or working on the same
    problem, but in political forums it can lead to groupthink and to the
    delusion that your message is going beyond the choir. Despite the IEM's Wisdom of Crowds, for months, that Bush would win, in our progressive echo chambers we were convinced
    otherwise. And those of us who are Meyers-Briggs introverts have a
    tendency to mistake ranting and advocating change for actually doing
    something, to the point online forums of like minds can actually
    paralyze us from getting up and making change happen.
  7. Information, like ideas, is worth nothing; it's doing something with it that creates all the value. This is a more prosaic way of saying what McLuhan said with delightful ambiguity: Information is always trying to be free.
    If you really think you're going to make money distributing or
    aggregating information or maintaining databases, it's time to give
    your head a shake. The number of paid-subscription newspapers in the
    world is dropping through the floor, and most of those left are losing
    money. Most of the millions of brokers and consultants in the world
    give away information, and are now starting to give away advice as well
    — they make a living by acting: showing you what to do, or implementing their advice.
  8. Artificial Intelligence doesn't work in matters of taste.
    Those services that use AI to tell you “if you liked this
    book/CD/movie, you'll probably like this one”, are mis-using complexity
    theory, and producing nonsense. Personal taste is infinitely variable
    and contextual, and predictive models just don't work. Xian jokes “How
    long do you think it will be before a social network tool tells you
    'people who like this person will also like that person'.”
  9. There is no useful taxonomy of relationships.
    This might almost be a corollary of #8. Models that show degree of
    affinity or degrees of separation are endlessly fascinating but fatally
    flawed. Each of us defines the quality and intensity of relationships
    differently because relationships are purely subjective and perceptual.
    Xian quotes Clay Shirky: “Lists
    of computer-readable definitions of relationships are self-critiquing;
    Human relations have the additional and curious property of changing
    the relationship through the very act of labeling, as anyone who has
    ever said 'I love you' can attest.” Any objective, conceptual model
    misses the whole point. To me, you may be a friend of a friend, but to
    you, I may just be annoying and presumptuous, an unwanted caller.
  10. Social networking tools are largely redundant for bloggers, but for others they're essential to establish online presence. Those of us on the blogosphere take the importance of our blogs as networking tools for granted. Xian says Dina Mehta gets it when she says “my blog is
    my social network”. Those who are blogless — even those who have
    ordinary, non-conversational websites — need another mechanism to
    build online networks. While bloggers can shrug off the failure of YASN
    ('yet another social network') tools, for the rest of the 20% of the
    world who are on this side of the digital divide this failure is
    important. Bloggers should help find better solutions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *