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February 22, 2007

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tom

The other side would have to include those who fail to grasp the importance of constructing safe user-generated content campaigns.

Phil

The Community Guy wants a community he literally owns in which the slaves work happily for him for free creating intellectual property that will attract more slaves in a virtuous circle, until The Community Guy is filthy rich. This is Web 2.0, and is beginning to seem like Democracy 2.0 as well. "The Market will prevail," as they used to say in the Charleston slave marekt as they unloaded the ships of their precious human cargo. Of course that was coerced. Today consumer-slaves work for free inside these surrogate communities because they are motivated by the Jakes of the world who fancy themselves social venture entreprenurs doing well by doing good. It is about time that people who know the difference between a market and a polis gave the Jakes of the world some remedial education in the public square. Pro bono publico.

tom

Mike Taibbi shares your concern about that nice difference.

Phil

Thanks, linked him in the post on Maintaining our Social Order.

Jake McKee

Well, that was certainly an interesting comment, Phil. What I want is not at all the overly dramatic approach you say I do. If you were to read my blog (or heck, if you were to read the actual post linked to), you would clearly see that I believe that there is a balance to be had, and that the goal is to ensure that "everybody goes home happy"... meaning that both company and community need to get something out of it, but that both sides need to feel confident and comfortable with what is happening.

To compare slave trading to Web 2.0 is beyond laughable.

Tell you what - I've posted a blog entry on my communityguy.com blog about this. Follow up in the comments there and "educate" me. Tell me why I'm a modern day slave trader... I'm listening.

Phil

Well, I hope you will go home smiling, like a child at the mall.

Jake McKee

Not really sure what you're getting at, Phil.

I've followed up your comments on my blog with some thoughts/questions over there.

Phil

That was the point, Jake, about education. Unless you have a certain perspective, drawn from ethical, religious, and aesthetic traditions, you won't ever see the extent to which the free market has enslaved your own passions, thoughts, and actions. Maybe that is good. The awakening would be painful. It sends many people to the doctor for pills, or to happiness coaches. But essentially in the broadest sense the issues are political. How are we to create and sustain the communities that help us flourish as human beings?

Jake McKee

So I assume you're one of the chosen few who understands what the rest of us drones do not?

I think it's a toss up as to whether the education and results of said education you point out do more to overthink and make more complex that which is not or to truly discover the "realities" that are hidden below the surface. I'm pretty sure I know where you fall in that continuum. :)

Jake McKee

(Where you fall = where I assume you *think* you fall)

Phil

Right, Jake. When the student is ready the teacher arrives. May you leave

smiling

Gerry

Community Guy claims to be interested in a further education, although my personal opinion is that he isn't ready for the Tutor's lessons. Maybe Blowtorch needs to soften him up a bit first. Hope he's gotten the new guidelines on aggressive questioning, for Jake's sake.

Jake McKee

Clearly I had a different idea of "education" in mind. I had no interest in entering a classroom. I wanted to have Phil share his opinions with me, educate me on his position so I could understand more about his core point.

I posted a great deal, asked Phil a number of follow-ups and gave my position on several of his statements. He's yet to respond. In my mind this is the equivalent of the teacher who refused to answer student questions because they weren't part of the previously defined lesson plan. This approach isn't about education it's about teaching. I'm not interested in being taught, I want to learn. I have an open mind, but I'm not a philosophy geek like you guys. (geek = neutral term)

In my world, is this like having someone ask me about how to use the computer and me first giving them a C++ manual to read before I'll engage with them. You know full well that that person would run away totally disinterested.

But hey, clearly I'm just a foolish young whippersnapper who's wandered into a discussion that I wasn't invited into. My apologies. I'll go back to being a wealth bound drone now...the work of a modern day slave trader is never done. :)

Gerry

Well, you are making a lot of interpretations, and they are not very accurate. Phil will no doubt respond in his own way and his own time. In these spaces, we value each other as teachers and experience practitioners of not very well defined domains. There are no credentials for these domains, the work defines them and redefines them.

My assessment is that you are not willing to learn and that you rationalize in many ways as we see in your text.

alexroderick

It’s a web designing company. It deals in web site design, website redesign, flash, 3D animation, logos, Banner Adds etc.


Phil

"To break a fly upon a wheel" was Pope's caution to satirists. The power of satire is taking on those who can destroy you. The teaching of satire is in the teeth of power. To take on as a "student" in this fashion someone who is not prepared is not fair, nor kind nor instructive. The perversion of community to mean something like shopping mall or gated housing development, or website in which users create content for owners to add adds, is not intellectually serious, but it is a trend. So many have signed on to that vision and have made so much money that to single out a particular random person is unfair. Ebay, O.net, YouTube, and so many others have this vision. Against it we need to articulate a positive sense of community, one that Jane Jacobs or Toqueville or the founding fathers might recognize, or Aristotle for that matter - community as polis, as a creator and preserver of public goods, including political liberties and rights. That whole discussion is not the focus of Web 2.0. But it is mine.

Jake McKee

Phil, thanks for the follow-up. You're making drastically more sense about your issues/concerns/points.

You said: "The perversion of community to mean something like shopping mall or gated housing development, or website in which users create content for owners to add adds, is not intellectually serious, but it is a trend."

First off, I agree that shopping malls aren't community (and with all due respect, if you'd read more than a passing glance at my site, you'd know this).

But I disagree with your assertion that community that has commerce (or commerce that somehow has community attached) attached is somehow an adulteration of the concept of community.

You bring up the founding fathers - do you think their general stores and community structure was somehow NOT related to commerce? They were trading goods and had trading middlemen. How is this different than eBay?

Glad you mentioned Jane Jacobs - she wasn't arguing that community was completely separate from commerce, she argued about things like making sure your community is healthy by not doing things like creating freeways through your neighborhood. This is an offline equivalent to the work I do - I help companies understand how to balance their own needs with the greater good. I try to ensure that digital freeways aren't being built across a community or that a company isn't trying to "force build" a community where one shouldn't or won't exist.

Look, let's talk reality. Either you're saying that online community should never exist unless it's completely and totally non-commercial, free from restrictions of commerce, or you're saying that community should be built in a more positive way.

If the later, than I completely agree! That's what I friggin do for a living, that's what the White Paper that kicked off this discussion is all about!

If the former is what you're saying, then I'm done. You can't argue that "community" should be completely free of the bonds of commerce while you blog that very comment on the Typepad commercial service, which by your view is making money off of the backs of you and your community. (You pay a monthly fee for this very text box I'm typing in at the moment, don't forget)

You're somehow trying to make the assertion (as far as I can tell) that we consumers are so bound up by external factors that we have no free will to NOT use eBay, for instance. That's ridiculous. eBay's creates community tools and encourages communities to form and flourish to help their commerce model, no question. But these communities form (and more importantly they flourish) because people actually want them too. There is a balance that has formed where... wait for it... everybody goes home happy. I can log onto a forum and ask for help in selling my own products, which generates more money for me and more money for eBay. If I don't like their terms or changes or anything else about the eBay service, I have great power to voice those concerns and eBay can't ignore them. We've seen time and again, issues of eBay community members being upset and eBay working with them to come up with something better.

There are absolutely problems of "bandwagon jumpers", and companies trying to simply milk their consumers. This is a short-term thinking business model, and rarely tends to move on. But this has absolutely nothing to do with Web 2.0, it has to do with decades/centuries of business practices. The recording industry was bilking consumers for a long long long time, and now finally consumers have some measure of pushback on the industry to force them (at least in theory) into being more responsive to consumer desires.

Web 2.0 is a good thing when you look at the overall picture. If you decide to zoom in JUST on Web 2.0 as it stands today, certainly you can find a great deal of "problem". But look at it in the overall context of the world of business. Name a time in the last 100 years that individual consumers have had the ability to influence commerce like they do today...

You said: "So many have signed on to that vision and have made so much money that to single out a particular random person is unfair."

I'll assume that was an apology? :)


(By the way, I posed a question/challenge to you about the use of the concept of polis on my blog. But basically I've yet to understand what you're driving at. As I understand it, the polis was far from perfect - giving multiple levels of rights to various classes of people. I somehow doubt that this is what your goal here is)

Phil

No, that was not an apology. This is an apology: I apologize for singling you out for capitalizing on a trend that gives me concern. I also acknowlege that I have not invested much time in your specific version of forprofit community building. Essentially, what I am flagging is the risk of communities being owned. The founders engaged in commerce but did not "own" America, nor dream of owning it. Nor did they found communities in which the goods produced by others were the property of the community owner. Nor did they create communities whose purpose was to drive sales through billboards established in those communities. Instead, they created a constitution in which each person had rights, freedoms, and political liberties. That dimension, in my experience, is lacking in these online communities. They might better be set up as co-ops whose owners were the users. I suggested this at Omidayar.net in a thread on "The Constitution of O.net" and kicked up quite a ruckus, in which Pierre Omidyar participated. Basically, he stuck to his position that O.net was a wholly owned LLC. No constitution, no shared ownership. No shared power over the governance of the site. His site, his community, his rules. Has his name on it too.

I don't think that is a community in the sense in which I mean it. I don't think it is a good model to take hold in a democracy. Peasants or tenant farmers, or slaves or indentured servants might fit the model of an owned community, but citizens do not.

The issues I am flagging are ownership and governance. Who owns? Who governs?

If the answer is a corporation owns and governs, then I do not think this is true community, unless by a community we include the Disny owned town, "Celebration." A company town is not a community - that is my definition, and I realize that it is a stipulative definition expressing my personal sense that a true community is a polis, not a value added corporate service to its consumers, users, or whatever one calls them.

A community can form around a store, a bar, a street corner, a website, but the dream of owning and govering a community as if it were an ant farm is distasteful to me because it puts corporations over and around our civic spaces, making them like malls, or like the skating rink here in Dallas inside our biggest mall - a pseudocommons.

I apologize for singling you out. You are not alone in your dream. Others have already become billionaires creating and owning communities. I am sure the trend will continue, and accelerate, and don't see any reason you should not participate, become an expert, make a ton of money. But as a citizen, I hope you in your own life also find more. I hope you participate in a community owned by no one in which you can make your voice heard as the co-creator of democracy.

Of course, I would be more than happy to have you work for me in a Community of Fools creating content for me to own. What do you say? If you are not that stupid, how can you help me round up enough gullible people to make a go of it? Is that the service you sell, or would you lend me your forprofit community building expertise in return for say, 25% of the net profits? There are a lot of Fools out there, we ought to be able to make a killing. Then we can both become philanthropists. What do you say?

Jake McKee

Phil, now THIS is great discussion! Thanks for taking this out of the 16th century and sharing YOUR thoughts. Seriously.

One housekeeping note before I respond. With due respect, you don't know my dreams. You might think that I'm some money grubbing opportunist, but you have absolutely nothing to support that.

OK, so to respond to your points...

You said: "but the dream of owning and govering a community as if it were an ant farm is distasteful to me because it puts corporations over and around our civic spaces"

OK, two fundamental issues I'll take with this thinking.

1. Defining "community"
I fundamentally disagree with you that community can't happen in commercial space. Celebration is absolutely a community - I have friends that live there and don't work for Disney, but love the neighborhood and their neighbors and the very clear feeling of connection they have. Unless you envision a world of unlimited space, where every family can create a homestead where ever there's room like the founding fathers might have, then you're going to have to accept that commerce is completely linked with living space. Human consume things and centuries of people have traded goods.

Any commercial housing development might be consider an "ant farm", at least by you. After all, the developer has bought a tract of land, built up a space in order to make money. So are all housing developments that are built fundamentally flawed? Not at all.

Commercial interest have always been involved in our civic spaces. Even an community center or a church is located near commerce, influenced by commerce.

Are there abuses of power, so to speak? Absolutely, there always are. But simply having a company creating a community or actively supporting it doesn't make it inherently flawed.

For example - take Linksys (since I happen to be staring at a Linksys box) as an example. There are community created & driven tech support sites, and Linksys also has a type of community on their own site. Is one inherently good and one inherently bad? Depends on your definition of good and bad. And it depends on implementation. Linksys could provide community as a way to allow product engineers and consumers to intermingle in a "safe" environment so that consumers get the help they need in setting up equipment, while engineers get a better understanding of consumer problems. This is an everybody goes home happy moment. When I were to participate on the Linksys forums, for instance, I am completely happy to do so. Linksys, moreso than a community forum is a better place for me personally to spend my time based on a number of criteria. Sure, I know I'm helping them make their product experience better (in the sense that product problems can be more easily solved because I've kicked in solutions and bugs and feedback) and therefore Linksys may profit from it. I'm fine with that. I understand that they want to make money and I also know that my life gets better when their products are better.

2. We have free will
You assume that we're all just idiotic drone who can't make informed decisions for ourselves. You assume that one bad project is equal to one great project.

Let's look at something specific and tangible - let me ask you a few questions:

a. Do you consider this blog to be a form of "civic space"?
b. If so, are you comfortable with the fact that you pay Typepad a monthly fee in order to create this public space?
c. Assuming you're happy enough with the Typepad service to continue to us it, would you volunteer your ideas for how the service might be improved (thus improving not only your own experience, but also SixApart's bottom line)?

Web 2.0 includes far more than you seem to be understanding. This very blog is part of "Web 2.0". Flickr is part of Web 2.0. I don't turn my content over to them, they don't own it.

But certainly there are commercial entities that require you to turn over rights (due to legal issues more than anything) to the content you submit on the site. You assume that the people submitting content are foolish and gullible. This is beyond egotistical, it's just in itself, foolish.

This really isn't a new concept really (although the ease and scale certainly is). People have been submitting their content to publications (letters to the editor, for instance) for years. People have always sent product manufacturers their ideas for no other reason than they'd like to see it created. Bands have submitted their content for hopeful on-air radio play (before the days of Clear Channel anyway).

Everybody going home happy dictates that content providers are offered compensation, but ironically, you seem to believe that compensation ONLY consists of financial return. I've helped pull brand advocates into product design processes where they volunteered many hours in order to see a better product produced. They each had their own emotional drivers, sometimes it was money, but more often it was pride of accomplishment. Why is it acceptable for you to assume that because they weren't interested in money as a reward that they were fools? It seems like someone who considers themselves a philanthropist would understand this better!

You talk about people becoming billionaires by "owning community". What about those that are simply making a salary by the same thing? The guys who run dogster.com have a rabid (ha ha) fan base who gladly pay them a monthly fee. They're by NO means billionaires, but how are those activities different than eBay? Is it just fine up until a certain financial threshold?

Or perhaps your issues is with the new found ability to cross borders? Is eBay not a larger scale version of a farmer's market?

Look, anything taken to an extreme can be bad. Community that has corporate involvement CAN be bad. Churches who take in too much money can turn "bad". Corporations CAN create bad Web 2.0 style projects. No question about this.

But I simply disagree that fundamentally community can't or shouldn't exist/overlap with commerce, nor do I believe that we're all too stupid to make our own decisions about how much we want to "give" commercial entities.

Jake McKee

By the way, I just started reading your post at o.net, and I get where you're coming from and I absolutely agree with the points you raise. Sounds like our disagreement is mostly about whether or not it's "acceptable" for anyone to participate in a corporate owned community.

Personally, I think the answer is: It depends.

1. It's up the individual to define "acceptable" for themselves
2. My hope is that the creation of and then usage of continually improving licensing models like CC will be implemented on ALL community sites
3. It will likely change and evolve over time as we all use these tools and sites more, and as more "novice" users get engaged.

Phil

A bar is a commercial space that can become a hangout and around it a community can form. Or people could hang out behind a skyscraper, around the Dumpster, and form an antithetical community. When a certain mind wraps itself around these facts it begins to calculate how to get that civic impulse contained with something he or she owns and governs. My sense is that ultimately community will split the market wrapper asunder. Your friends in Celebration are to be pitied. They are happy; so is my dog sleeping in the sunshine, or licking his neutered groin. "To leave with a smile" - a bordello produces that result. Human flourishing is possible maybe anywhere. Some child of Celebration will be the next Wm Blake, let's hope. If I thought that humans are generally the best judge of what is in their best interest I would not be a teacher, I would be a pimp, like my friend The Happy Tutor.

Jake McKee

You said: "If I thought that humans are generally the best judge of what is in their best interest I would not be a teacher, I would be a pimp"

So let me get this straight - while "humans" are not able to judge their best interest, YOU are able to judge for them?

I'm done here.

Gerry

You can't be completely blind to anything below the surface? Let me spell it out, and essential difference between a pimp and a teacher is that the pimp offers the client whatever they want, for a fee.

The teacher by contrast is interested in passing on a living tradition, a gift they received from their teachers, made their own and passing it on again to gifted seekers of generations to come. A teacher doesn't make judgments for a student, but seeks to give them a better way of judging for themselves. The goal of the process is to have a colleague and co-creator in a living tradition, creating the great works of their day.

Phil

Who makes decisions for the child who nags her mother for the sugared cereal she saw on TV? Who makes decisions for the employee who at the water cooler endlessly recycles the talking points from yesterday's FOX News? The arts of propaganda, marketing, and spin, are to plant in our psyches the seeds of sin. Catherine Austin Fitts writes eloquently of the tapeworm that secretes into its host a chemical that makes the host want what it wants. Jake, I am afraid, you are working for the tapeworm, creating communities whose members want what the owner wants, happy as those consumers in Celebration who have willingly forgone political autonomy for the peace that comes with perfect alignment with a Brand.

Whether A or B knows better about B's needs is decided by B, but only after B has entered into a conversation in which he risks his complacency, or finding it disturbed, walks off as ignorant and ignoble as the moment he arrived.

Such is the history of teaching in the open air. Most often it ends this way. Read the stories of Socrates, or those of Jesus. Nothing is less acceptable to the damned than salvation.

Jake McKee

Well, again, any discussion at this point is absolutely pointless. You seem to feel that:

a. There is a problem that only YOU (and those who think just like you) are able to see that the rest of us fools can't.

b. You're the only one that can solve the problem because you've been given some mysterious, intangible gift handed down through the generations.

This is nothing more than elitism, not at all unlike that of extremist religion. Basically "YOU and YOU ALONE have the right answer, and all others who disagree are damned souls". Extremism in any form on any subject is rarely good, and you sir, are an extremist.

Just want to make clear before I sign off why I'm throwing in the towel. I don't debate with extremists because it's a waste of time. The only way to have a worthwhile discussion is if I simply throw in the towel and agree with you 100%. What's the point of that?

Phil

Yes, Jake, I am elitist who wanders naked through the gated community. I carry a stick to beat the owners. That is a long long tradition, of which I am the mysterious heir. I have no desire to teach you about Spenser, Seneca, or for that matter the Gospels, nor the Augustan satirists. I do derive pleasure from watching you flinch. And I enjoy the way you endlessly return for another beating. Why? Because even the dimmest soul recognizes the difference between light and darkness. The soul, even in the dimmest half educated person seeks the light, as does a plant. Now, if you would be so kind as to bend over, we will try on your backside to drive in the points I have failed to register on your hard head. As you say, at a certain point, discussion is futile, but the lesson can still be taught, even to the truant, when caught.

Let me give your head one more attempt. When the Russian poet Mandelstam asked a group of American undergraduates if they had ever read Ovid, and was told they had not, he murmured, "You have been cheated." To withhold wisdom from ignorance, Jake, that is elitism. To teach it as I do against a resistance is an act of philanthropy. Be grateful. I should be charging you tuition. But this community is free - pro bono publico.

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