below is an entry for the CultureCon Contest by Sebastien Paquet
The culture hacking story I want to share with you is almost ten years old now. Back then I was a Ph.D. student in Computer Science with a deep interest in social software. I was posting to my blog daily, and building a reputation as a thinker in the field.
One of my issues with the blogosphere (as we called the universe of all blogs) was that it appeared as this galaxy of nebulously-connected personal streams. As a result, people with a shared interest in a given topic had a hard time finding each other; conversation on any given topic was discouragingly scattered.
So, one Wednesday in October I wrote in a blog post tiled “Making group-forming ridiculously easy“:
“I’d like to explain an idea that I have been bouncing around for a while. It might well be a reformulation of what others have said previously. I believe that implementing this properly would give a nice boost to the blogosphere’s social aggregation capability. “
I then offered a short blueprint of a system for pulling together blog posts from all over the blogosphere with a shared topic into a single stream, thus helping people connect around shared interest. I then wrote, “I haven’t worked it out in detail, but wouldn’t it be possible to hack a beta of this together as follows?” and spelled out how the thing might be built. The idea was slightly peripheral to my focus, and I didn’t have time to learn all that was needed for me to implement it myself.
What followed exceeded my expectations many-fold. On the other side of the planet, in New Zealand, a programmer named Philip Pearson came across my post and read it. He had been working blog-based systems for a while and must have thought the idea had merit, because over the weekend he hacked together a complete working prototype version of the system I had dreamed up, and unassumingly sent me an email telling me about it.
As you can imagine, I was excited and slightly flabbergasted at the news. Philip and I were aware of each other, but he didn’t really know me, nor did he owe me anything… nor had i asked him anything!
In any case, what I did next was to simply dive into a collaboration relationship with Philip, promoting the system that he had built to my blog’s readers, inviting others to test it. We collected data on how people used the system, and this work ended up as a research paper, “A Topic Sharing Infrastructure for Weblog Networks”, which was accepted for publication and presentation at the Communication Networks and Services Research conference.
What I had done there was very unusual in the research world, especially ten years ago – I had basically openly shared what I thought was a promising idea with the world, instead of keeping it close to my chest. I had taken the risk of the idea being appropriated by someone else. But in so doing I had also invited collaboration from no one in particular; and I ended up receiving exactly that, and reaping benefits from it.
I regard this as my first intentcasting success story. In the following years I’ve been kicking myself for being so timid about conjuring this magic again, but I still believe in open collaboration and have begun again experimenting with “intentcasting out in the open”, with results that are usually surprising and positive.
- I expressed intent publicly as a plausible promise
- There were people listening
- There was willingness to be first to trust and commit and move into action
- I did return the ball that was returned to me, setting the dynamic to make things happen
Implications for Cultural Production
- Open collaboration can happen – you can collaborate with people you don’t know yet
- It can be worth throwing a ball without advance knowledge of who might receive it
- Clarity and concreteness of intent makes a difference
you can follow Seb on twitter @sebpaquet
Heey, great to read how this meme started. Wonderful success story. Eight years after that Venessa intentcasted Junto and we connected over a prototype of what we now appreciate as Google+ Hangout.
Great things start with small steps, and usually when one person sees the genius in another.
Thanks for the story, Venessa. You constantly amaze me.
Venessa Miemis said:
Thanks Ed… though this is Seb Paquet’s story, not mine!
I guess it depends on what you mean by collaboration… If throwing your intuitions about great ideas into the blogosphere and hoping that they get picked up is what you are referring to then, for sure, this can happen.
If collaboration has something to do with convergence… coming together… modifying your perspective to align with others etc… it’s much more difficult.
Note also that this model only works if the respondent can create the solution independently of all others. Software developers are a unique breed in that they can create value for lots of people all by themselves…
The software space is a unique one in that it is a nexus where independent agents acting autonomously can do work that plugs into an existing architecture… This is why it is the poster child for mass collaboration…
The property of being able to act autonomously and create value for a larger group only works because the software space is ‘already integrated/connected’, so to speak. There is an existing code base that includes other programs, protocols, languages etc to plug into.
It’s important to note that this is unique to software development.
If you want to change the world in other ways, these models don’t apply… or need to be rethought.
What has happened is that the community of global change makers has converged through the use of technology so we all get the power of the platforms… and see their potential.
What we have not done effectively is delineate under what conditions the models we have observed can be generalized.
What have, incorrectly, just assume, carte blanche, that mass collaboration works!
I’ve been the most guilty 😉
It was a rather similar experience which brought me together with a stranger onling in 1999. He was in Russia in 1999, just after their economic crisis and we started talking about his efforts in business to tackle poverty.
He’d taken the decision to publish his concept paper in synopsis online in 1996, free to use rather than attempting to copyright. It described how the Information Age would enable propagation of a business for the benefit of those humans who fall between the cracks. ,
“We are at the very beginning of a new type of society and civilization, the Information Age. Historically, this is only the third distinct age of civilization. We lived in an agricultural age for thousands of years, which gave way to the Industrial Revolution and Industrial Age during the last three hundred years. The Industrial Age is now giving way to the Information Revolution, which is giving rise to the Information Age. Understanding this, it is appropriate to be concerned with the impact this transition is having and will continue to have on the lives of all of us. In that it is a fundamental predicate of “people-centered” economic development that no person is disposable, it follows that close attention be paid to those in the nascient Industrial Age who are not equipped and prepared to take active and productive roles in an Information Age. Many, in fact, are scared, angry, and deeply resentful that they are being left out, ignored, effectively disenfranchised, discarded, thrown away as human flotsam in the name of human and social progress. We have only to ask ourselves individually whether or not this is the sort of progress we want, where we accept consciously and intentionally that human progress allows for disposing of other human beings.
This is a tricky question. Except in the case of self-defense, if for any reason we answer “Yes”, regardless of what that reason is, we are in effect agreeing with the proposition of disposing of human beings. Whether disposal be from deprivation or execution, the result is the same for the victim. If we agree that sometimes, for some reasons, it is acceptable and permissable to dispose of human beings, actively or passively, the next question is “Which people?” Of course I will never argue that one of them should be me, though perhaps it should be you. You respond in kind, it cannot be you, but maybe it should be me. Not only can it not be you, it also cannot be your spouse, your children, your mother or father, your friends, your neighbors, but, maybe someone else. Naturally I feel the same way. Maybe we come to an agreement that it shouldn’t be either you or me, or our families and friends, that can be disposed of, but perhaps someone else. While we are debating this — passionately and sincerely, no doubt — a third party comes along and without warning disposes of the both of us, or our families, or our friends. And there is the trap we have fallen into, because whether or not we approve of our or our families’ and friends’ demise is irrelevant. It is fair because we accepted the principle of human disposability. We just didn’t intend that it be us who are tossed, but if we or our families and friends die, it is in accordance with principles that we ourselves have accepted and so must live — and die — by.
We can actually engineer, very precisely and intentionally, a social system whereby human beings are not disposable, and then go about setting forward our social machinery with this requirement built-in as a part of our “social software”, as it were. Or, we can decide not to do it. Either way, a decision is made as to the fate of those who would be dispossessed, unwanted, and in the way.”
In 2003, to persuade him to end a a fast for economic rights, I invited him here to the UK where we launched this business model for social purpose.
Ironically , his death last year had a lot to do with sharing with those who determined to profit from his work without attribution. He died in poverty unable to fund his own medical treatment. .
Thanks a lot for this wonderful post. Emotional mindfulness may be the glue to make collaboration across boundaries happen, especially using new information technology that is still new for large parts of society. This accounts especially for Germany, and Eastern Germany in particular where collaboration networks used to the be “backbone” of the economy during the GDR-times. However technology opens up the transparency funnel going from micro to macro – which in the beginning is unfamiliar (to say the least).
Once you allow yourself sharing knowledge with others, you for sure will find your mates around the global community. Trust the process!!!!
Management mavens and big name consulting actively support hacking in their own domain. http://managementexchange.com/
I’m reminded that I described a “hack” to that MixMarket initiative. We are talking here of Harvard and McKinsey. I gave them something that had already happened as a consequence of the connection I describe above.
Reblogged this on syndax vuzz.
Kathryn Alexander said:
Woo Hoo this makes idea having FUN!