The Mozilla Manifesto and the open web

The Mozilla Manifesto is significant because, on the one hand, it plants firmly in the ground a commitment to various principles and ideals and on the other, it offers language in support of the continued production of the open web.

Some within Mozilla fear that with the advancement of technologies like WPF/E and , the business world is regressing towards more crystallization, more identity silos and more closed doors.

Thus the key aspects of the manifesto in this respect are: “effectiveness of the Internet as a public resource depends upon interoperability (protocols, data formats, content), innovation and decentralized participation worldwide.” and “Magnifying the public benefit aspects of the Internet is an important goal, worthy of time, attention and commitment.”

Going to root

I’ve decided that, in the interest of the sneaky unobtrusive mode for the wpopenid plugin, I’m going to start using simply as my web address instead of… this is a pretty big change, but I think it’s both time to simplify and get with the delegation I set up of my root.

Hmmm. Of course this means I now need to put something more interesting on… damn.

Fertilized Core Value and Rhizomatic Social Expansion

At CommunityNext yesterday, Fred apparently talked about networks having a Core Value that attracts and expand its membership.

In the case of Delicious, it’s Core Value is offering a place to store your bookmarks; with Flickr, it was photos. The social networking components were then activated by people creating and adding content out of self interest.

This theory makes some good sense and is one that, in scientific interests, is reproducible.

However, Tara asked Fred to explain Twitter, which seemingly has no obvious Core Value. Stumped, he promised to think on it and get back to her.

As a proponent of Twitter, I’d argue that it’s got a couple things going on — and a Core Value that only emerges after a certain critical mass is achieved. This is similar to IRC and will be something that Tangler and any other live communication vehicle has to address, since it’s Core Value is couched in a) active concurrent users and b) facility of access.

Twitter has succeeded without obvious Core Value of its own by being planted firmly in the rich soil of infrastructure products like cell phones and instant messaging networks that have strong Core Value of their own.

Specifically, Twitter started out as a way for bike messengers to answer the question “what are you doing right now?”. The obvious tool to create and send this message was the cell phone, and the easiest way to receive and consume these messages were as short text snippets — clearly as SMS’s delivered to those phones.

It was Twitter developer Blaine Cook‘s prepaid wireless plan that forced him to develop Jabber::Simple as a way of getting and sending updates using a lower cost and wider spread infrastructure (instant messaging). But again, this would not be possible if it weren’t for the last 10 years of soil preparation that lead him to build this. And it was also thanks to open source that he could build the simple extension to leverage the Core Value of the existing network.

Finally, the Twitter web interface and API, almost afterthoughts these days, cemented the geographic accessibility of the network for newcomers to explore and experience how Twitterers communicate with each other, and how social norms are developed and negotiated (for example, the addition of the @ reply convention), essentially exposing the derived Core Value of the constituents.

Now, I might also add that there’s a different kind of Network Effect going on here. It’s similar to the Bandwagon Effect, but smaller and more niche.

It’s what I might refer to as the Rhyzomatic Effect (named after rhizomes).

Hell, I even dreamed up a whole web service off this idea (except when I originally scoped it out, it was primarily for individuals, but now that I think about it, there’s no reason why the same utility couldn’t be made to work for small tribes of 2-3 people at a time. Hmm.)

My premise is that, in the case of projects that have no obvious innate Core Value for individual use, they can still grow in the rich soil that previous infrastructure has cultivated (Web 2.0 manure?) so long as that soil is rooted in social connectivity (like the biomorphic analogies? Yeah? Get used to it.). In such an environment, it’s simple for one or two members to venture beyond the conventional borders or uses of given tool or infrastructure device and gain additive value once they evangelize the tool to their social peers and get them to adopt the new use.

And, contrary to Metcalfe’s Law, it’s not necessarily true that every new member will benefit every other member equally, adding constant value the more who use it; it’s only when members of the same tribes join that others members of the same tribes see value, and only when there is a desire to explore socially that those other members begin to offer cumulative value to the network.

If I had time, I’d throw up some pretty graphs comparing Delcious, Flickr and Twitter’s Core Values shown over given time horizons, and then map that to different size social clusters or tribes, since, again, not every Twitter member wants to be connected to every other Twitterer or every new Twitterer who joins. Therefore, Core Value must be measured both from the traditional perspective of personal economic advantage (i.e. convenience in saving my bookmarks or storing photos online) as well as from the tribal/communal-cumulative advantage.

Can charging for comments stop spam?

Over on Tom Coates’ blog, ZF has a novel, if not somewhat outlandish, proposal for attacking the comment spam problem:

The real barrier to spam will have to be some sort of micropayment you have to make to post a comment. A good idea would be to have a checkbox associated with your identity – something like (a) give the money to the site owner, (b) donate it to offset carbon emissions, (c) give it to the Gates Foundation, or some such.

While this is an interesting idea, it could obviously be abused very quickly — and create an encumbrance that most folks might not be willing to put up with.

I wonder if we could take the same basic premise here — which is transaction based — and turn it on its side a bit…

What if, instead of forcing someone to pay someone else, we force them to pay themselves in order to comment?

I know, I know, wacky — but hear me out.

If I was charged, let’s say, five cents for every comment I wanted to make, I might reconsider making a spurious comment. If I was a spammer, well, I definitely wouldn’t be bothered… for two reasons, which I’ll get to in a moment.

But going back to that five cents — it could certainly add up over time, judging by my Co.mments feed. But, what if that payment simply went back to myself? What if I used Paypal or Google Checkout for the payment and simply roundtripped the money to myself? Taking it one step even further, what if there were no processing cost associated with this transaction? It would literally be like taking five cents from one pocket and putting the same nickel in the opposite pocket.

Why bother? Well, here’s why.

I would conjecture that not a lot of spammers would be willing to pay to comment to begin with — even at five cents, given the large volume of comments that they push, it would just be fiscally impossible. Second, PayPal has some of the most ridiculous and rigorous anti-spam and anti-fraud measures in place to guard against evil-doers and ne’er-do-wells. It’s not flawless, but heck, it’s backed up by the Fed whereas Akismet is not. And if a spammer wanted to go through the trouble of paying him or herself, well, they’d have to have a legitimate account with a name and address attached to make such a transaction go through. Somehow I highly doubt that that would be an attractive option for folks who prefer to lurk in the shadows and remain untraceable.

Oh, and bonus, it would be pretty hard to spoof given you’re paying yourself and not someone else. Even captcha wouldn’t be able to match the kind of deterrence this kind of system would afford!

Maybe? Am I totally off?