Demand for Features

Clay Shirky writes:

(I remember, a decade or so ago, someone asking on a newsgroup  “How do I post to all the soc. groups at once? soc.* doesn’t seem to work – surely I don’t have to enter all the group names in _by hand!”)

What a delightful example of something I’ve been thinking about recently about how inside of community membranes, where trust exists, queries over the community become more approprate.

The rest of Clay’s posting, about how open enables increased innovation while the capture of that innovation is an orthagonal issue is the tip of a big iceberg!

I learned in Cornes & Sandlers very academic text on public and club goods that there are two interesting edge cases in managing the boundary of a club that can be characterized as how the membrane filters it’s inputs – does it take the maximum or the minimum over the inputs?

Consider the example of trying to find the cure for cancer, a clear example of innovation. In that scenario we want a lot of people searching for the cure, but all we need is for one person to find that cure. In this case the club searching for the cure wants to be maximially open, it wants to filter out the maximal or best cure.

Now consider the example of the club that trying to maintain the leeve along a river. Each property owner along the river contributes to the effort; but the quality of the effort overall is decided by the minimum contribution. In this case (a safety example?) the club’s quality is defined by the minimum over the contributions.

That insight was one of the reasons I became very attracted to the club good cartoon of open source. Open source projects need both. Consider Apache’s HTTPD. It’s like the levee in that any flaw creates a security hole that allows hackers to pour in. It’s like a cure for cancer in that we never know where on the planet some web master might create the next delightful and useful innovation. So the club boundary around the server project has to manage to both maximize the innovative contributions and minimize the bogus ones.

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