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The Future Of Open Business

contribution from SamRose coming from the Forum on Feb 25 2007


Open Business.cc blog reports about a Time Magazine article titled "Getting Rich Off Those Who Work For Free".

The Time article is about the Gift Economy:

  • People who are creating OpenSource Software on a volunteer basis
  • People who are creating content for OpenContent publications, like WikiPedia
  • People who's activity is the business model in for-profit ventures, like YouTube, MySpace, etc
An earlier oct 2006 Open Business.cc blog post also discussed the open questions surrounding this:

"What are the principles for relying on users to build a money-generating business? Or, in more provocative terms, when does user-generated content - at $90 per screen name - become a new form of exploitation? Alternatively, one could argue that users are compensated with a good; a “free” service in return for their data and attention.

"What are the necessary tenets of this new class of software and software company? What is the difference between “open”, “free”, and “commercial” – and how do they interact?"

Trying to fit the emerging future into the structure of the past

Let's face it, it's hard to see through the fog of the future, and "predict" what direction OpenSource, UserGeneratedContent, and OpenContent activities will go in.

Dear Economists trying to figure out what is happening online...

...Welcome to the wonderful worlds of the ForesightPrinciple and MediaEcology!

A big reason why it is hard to see how the " GiftEconomy" is going to play out, is that we humans often use the past as a model for the future. When new technologies, mediums and systems emerge, we usually immediately try to adapt them to the ways in which we are already doing things. (see: MarshalMcLuhan).

WikiPedia:Richard_A._Slaughter took the quote from MarshalMcLuhan that "We look at the present through a rear view mirror" and applied the metaphor to WikiPedia:Futures_studies

image source

NeilPostman had FiveIdeas about technology. Idea number 3 was that "every technology has a philosophy which is given expression in how the technology makes people use their minds, in what it makes us do with our bodies, in how it codifies the world, in which of our senses it amplifies, in which of our emotional and intellectual tendencies it disregards."

NeilPostman means with idea number 3 that '"To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

We want to look at the emerging network cultures through the lenses of the production-based economies of the past 100+ years, and their Hierarchically-organized social structures. This is why we even bother calling them a GiftEconomy at all. (LionKimbro already made this point in RethinkingCredit in CommunityWiki). But, these socio-cultural emergences are not really a " GiftEconomy" at all.

Instead, if they are any kind of "economy" at all, they are more likely what my friend HowardRheingold calls a " SharingEconomy".

People Voluntarily Sharing. But why? Because they are reciprocated some kind of value.

Now, sometimes people think thety are "voluntarily sharing", but really they are being exploited, and that is what Neil Postman talked about with his Idea number 2:'"(in technological change) there are always winners and losers, and that the winners always try to persuade the losers that they are really winners."

Now, it doesn't have to happen that way, but it often does. Which brings us to...

Embracing The Future For What It Is Becoming

So, if we try to understand that people are voluntarily sharing for perceived reciprocated value, then we can start to think about the direction this is really going in:

People will share and trust more, when they are reciprocated with more real value

If you try to go the route of Neil's Idea number 2, you'll get busted eventually, and people will start moving away from you, and towards where the perceived real reciprocated value is. The scams are going to get harder to pull as control shifts more towards the users, away from the providers/enablers. So, in the SharingEconomy, share the value with people sharing with you, because they don't have to share with you. Share the revenue, the control. It is time to see that even feedback and input can be considered as valuable voluntary sharing, and should be reciprocated with a reward of listening to the feedback and incorporating it into the system. These voluntary sharers can increasingly exercise their RightToLeave.

The future of the SharingEconomy is...


Multi-way sharing, between all of the parties involved.

of course, no future is guaranteed. We can easily get locked into a culture dominated by centuries-long ruts of walled-off economies, if people continue to design to try and take advantage of Idea number 2 and make a quick buck at the expense of long-term quality.

However, I don't personally think people are going to be fooled so easily. And, I think that the "market" will eventually drive people towards creators and providers and facilitators who really start to think about "How can I reciprocate back real value to these people who are sharing with me?"

-- SamRose

The aim of BarCampBank is to foster innovations and the creation of new business models in the world of banking and finance.

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