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August 04, 2007


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Ted Ernst

The good news is the system he's attempting to patent is terrible. I wonder how reaching the patent will be, however. The bad news would be if it's overly broad, of course.


The end of O.net is not much of an advertisement for it. I wonder if he will start other sites to test it and perfect it.


It's a whole can of worms. Depending on how broadly or narrowly the patent terms are interpreted, it might apply to almost any rating system. A central part of the infrastructure we are building for STC are a wide variety of feedback systems. The theory we are working under sees all of the activities on a social/community building website as flows that can be tracked by targeted currencies. This design makes possible a whole range of currency rules that might include variations on their basic system.

I haven't looked in detail at their open source license, as they have released the Onet software, the expression of the patent. It would probably have to make provisions for this and any other patents. Would we have to clear this patent to create a derivative work based on their software? It gets complex quickly.


It is funny that the feedback system they are patenting is one of the worst things about the software. It really didn't provide much useful rating or filtering, and it was always a contentious issue in community.

The real space for innovation is the social space of organizing open collaborations. This area is influenced by the available tools, but the bulk of the effects are completely independent of what tools the community has it its disposal. My theory is that really good tools can make a qualitative difference for digitally connected communities, but only if the tool designers and builders are responsive to the actual social practices of the user communities.


Gerry, the patent thing is depressing. I hope they allow open source style innovation in the name of open society. But you are right this is about organizing, and the platforms are secondary. We have the tools, and one by one we can build the civic friendships.


"The theory we are working under sees all of the activities on a social/community building website as flows that can be tracked by targeted currencies."

Keeping abreast of the current is important. Frogs know this.

Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future, And time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present All time is unredeemable. What might have been is an abstraction Remaining a perpetual possibility Only in a world of speculation. What might have been and what has been Point to one end, which is always present.

Gerry, for what purposes do flows need to be "monetized" or ranked? All flows?


Money and currency are not equivalent in this context. Saluk picks up on it: Keeping abreast of the current is important. Frogs know this. The root of currency relates to flow and money is always transactional, it is a symbol of exchange. Money is a type of flow, but only a very limited one.

The question of purpose is of another domain. At a functional level, the ability to measure the volume and quality of contributions to a collaborative community can be used in many ways, to many purposes. If you are a program director, you want to measure the growth of your community and how well they are being served or involved in program activities. If you are a social science researcher, you want data for experiments. And so on.

At a deeper level the purpose is to create more and better collaborations and to increase the common wealth. To grow ours. Of course it comes down to what you personally value and what you are willing to take a stand for.

Think of the difference that vision makes, before eyes existed, color and contrast were not very important. With visual organisms come visual displays, and color and contrast become currencies of a visual world. Plants advertise food sources packaged with seeds or pollen to be spread. Putting flow systems onto a collaborative content engine makes system vision possible, and having systems vision enables systems design in ways never before possible.

At a medium level we have the human beings in a social network creating personal and team reputations through the work they do together building a commons, and being able to meet their family needs in working relationships established and maintained in the same way. Some will contribute so much to the commons that they become recognized and even rewarded so they can work full time on the common wealth.

Doing this in an open way is the only way as transparency is critical to having outcomes that are compatible with our deepest human values. That's the connection between the functional capabilities and deeper purposes. We won't know how it really looks until we do some critical experiments, and our values will be central in evaluating the results and designing the next round of experiments.

That's the invitation to a group like Rockwood. We think we have a critical piece of it and are ready and able to build the next generation of the experiment. Currencies and flows aren't anything concrete until embodied in some system. Onet was one embodiment, and not a very good one. I don't think we learn much from that part of the experiment, though there are some very deep social results.

The system we are designing is very flexible, that is a critical part of the design because we expect challenges and systemic flaws that might be exploited. That means we want to give lots of control to the system operators, the stewards of the currency system so that problems can be addressed before they get out of control. It is a system designed for experiment, and to support self-organized activities.


Very interestng, Gerry. I can just barely grasp your point, but recognize its importance. Unless we measure public-spirited action, we will undervalue it. You and I share enough context, including O.net, that I have a sense of what you intend and why. Rockwood staff would probably be mystified. Assuming that a point system or flow system was important, can it be added to an existing "Store bought" system with proven capacity, like Civicspace On Demand. In other words, can it be productized as Marc suggested in the Rockwood thread?

From a buyers standpoint the issues are like the one you have buying a toaster. What does it do? What does it cost? How reliable? What is the track record of the vendor? Can I try it first? Who else owns one? Can I get service? How? At what cost?

When the conversation about the toaster gets into toaster-theory or thermodynamics, the buyer is lost.

We do have a cultural divide here.

How would flow currencies help Rockwood organize progressive social change leaders, like Michael Miranda, for example?


http://openmoney.info/sophia/index.html may be very useful in understanding the distinctions between what is acknowledgeable, measurable, and trade-able regarding currencies and incentives to flows. Omidyar's site was a good stab at acknowledging reputation wealth, and we know now how far short it fell in capturing or conveying that wealth. I look forward to the evolution of these ideas.


I have pondered that link and found it intriguing but also cryptic. We manage what we measure, so I guess the question is how can we measure what matters?


Yes, I think we have to be careful about measuring only in quantifiable ways. How else can we measure? I think visual displays like network maps have much to offer. I recently enjoyed visiting with Valdis Krebs, and we talked about viewing network maps through time, and using the maps to "measure" or reveal change. The dark lines on his map on the below linked page show the change in the network. Like I said, I am eager to see the evolution of this--of currencies/incentives and of maps/visuals also.

His blog (with June and Jack) is quite useful:



I know the blog, it is excellent. Remember Heather Ions from O.net? A distinguished thinker who worked with Jonas Salk. She has written on measurement playing on the word "measure" as in music, keeping time, or measure as in poetry, or measure as in "Measure for Measure." Taste and judgement measure and what they measure is invisible, impalpable, weightless and nonexistent to less trained eyes.

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