Community sense: The elephant in the room is a 1000lb gorilla

Consider this article by Donna Bogatin courtesy of ZDNet. She quotes from the New York Times:

The bulk of the writing and editing on Wikipedia is done by a geographically diffuse group of 1,000 or so regulars, many of whom are administrators on the site. The administrators are all volunteers, most of them in their 20’s. They are in constant communication — in real-time online chats, on “talk” pages connected to each entry and via Internet mailing lists. The volunteers share the job of watching for vandalism, or what Mr. Wales called “drive-by nonsense.” Customized software — written by volunteers — also monitors changes to articles….It has a clear power structure that gives volunteer administrators the authority to exercise editorial control, delete unsuitable articles and protect those that are vulnerable to vandalism.

Then consider this article on Feedback Loops and Modelling Risk by Donald Mackenzie in the latest issue of Risk and Regulation. I quote from his conclusion:

Rather, the story of option theory’s effects on markets indicates good reason to be cautious about situations in which large numbers of participants are all using similar models to guide their trading and to control its risks – perhaps because market regulators are pushing them in this direction in respect to risk management. In such a situation, models may sometimes be performative – they may help shape reality to their contours – but the danger of counterperformativity will always lurk.

Again, my emphasis. Next, take a look at this article by Kim Krieger in the latest New Scientist. Questions being asked about the validity and significance of power-law patterns that suggest “scale-free” networks.

Somewhere in the dark recesses of my head, all three are related. Communities will always have moderators. Things that communities build will always be moderated. If you use things that communities build, then you need to have community sense. A sense of that which is common.

Common sense. Not rocket science. Opensource communities have always known this. So when the New York Times says that the bulk of Wikipedia is edited by a thousand-strong group of volunteers, and not ten million, I am not surprised.

I am elated. Because a core of a thousand is a very large core, a 1,000,000lb gorilla. Which is great news.

When the gorillas scale, everything scales. As long as you use community sense when using community products and services. Common sense.

Let me know what you think

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