By Eva & Yuna
Chapter 5. Personal Motivation Meets Collaborative Production from Here Comes Everybody.
According to Clay Shirky in Here Comes Everybody, the idea of Wikipedia departed from creating online encyclopedia based on collaboration. At first, its founders launched a website, Nupedia, with its basic idea of online encyclopedia, but the website barely grew. After about a year, they founded a software, wiki, which enables any people to create, edit, add, alter and delete the contents of an webpage, and applied it to their website. Finally, Wikipedia was launched and it became the most famous distributed collaboration website on the Internet.
How Wikipedia works?
: Different from usual division of labor that is associated with highly managed settings, it works based on spontaneous division of labor.
Steps toward creating an article
- Step 1. Creating asphalt – basically, someone creates a subject for an article on Wikipedia
- Step 2. Some reader of the article became contributors- some of the contributors add new text, some edit the existing article, some add references to other articles or external sources, and some fix typos and grammatical errors.
- Step 3. Article gets better over time as it is never finished – Since no filtering system exists on the website, numerous number of people constantly add, edit, and delete contents of an article.
- The key to its success is freedom for its labors: “the process is more like creating a coral reef, the sum of millions of individual actions, than creating a car. And the key to creating those individual actions is to hand as much freedom as possible to the average user.” (122)
A predictable Imbalance
: Wikipedia or any other collaborated website is open place that everyone can contribute any contents, but it does not mean that a number of people equally participate.
Imbalance of participation has been seen on social media, as power law is applied.
(Power law (a.k.a. 80/20 rule): the imbalance becomes more extreme the higher the ranking.)
- Example 1) “118 photographers contributed over three thousand Mermaid Parade photos to Flickr, but the top tenth contributed half of those…. “(123)
- Example 2) “ On mailing lists with more than a couple dozen participants, the most active writers is generally much more active than the person in the number-two slot, and far more active than average.”(124)
Not only in the participation system, but do power law distributions work in the systems of interacting elements. But, it does not mean that imbalance drives damaging, but it actually drives large social systems.
Motivations to involve in Wikipedia
- A chance to exercise some unused mental capacities by participation
- Vanity: it lets users make a far more meaning far contribution, which stimulate people to leave their marks on the world as one of common human desires.
- The desire to do a good thing, as it is nonprofit encyclopedia service website
How does it survive from both disagreement and vandalism?
: “The wiki format is another version of publish-then-filter; coercion is applied after the fact rather than before.”(135-136)
To block Vandalism:
- the review process quickly happens as obvious vandalism is seen on the website.
- Novel technology with novel social strategy within its community is working against vandalism.
- Ability to lock a page: preventing people except few committed wikipedians from editing an article till the time passions have cooled.
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, by Yochai Benkler
The Benkler reading is a very in-depth look at peer production, from what it is, to how it has developed, to various iterations that have existed over the years and today. For the purposes of this week’s summary, I have included important terms and definitions from Benkler’s more theoretical introduction of peer production, and highlighted a few examples from the text. Also – check out this YouTube video of Benkler presenting on this very topic. Yochai Benkler: Open-Source Economics
- The emergence of free and open-source software, and the phenomenal success of its flagship, the GNU/Linux operating system, the Apache Web server, Perl, and many others do not rely on markets or on managerial hierarchies to organize production. Programmers participate in free software projects without following the signals generated by market-based, firm-based, or hybrid models.
- The networked environment makes possible a new modality of organizing production: radically decentralized, collaborative, and nonproprietary; based on sharing resources and outputs among widely distributed, loosly connected individuals who cooperate with each other without relying on either market signals or managerial commands. Benkler calls this “commons-based peer production.”
- “Commons” refer to a particular institutional form of structuring the rights to access, use, and control resources. It is the opposite of “property” in that with commons, no single person has exclusive control over the use and disposition of any particular resource in the commons.
- There are 4 types of commons, based on whether they are open to everyone or to a defined group, and whether it is regulated or unregulated.
- Open commons might be the oceans, the air, and highway systems. Limited commons may be various traditional pasture arrangements in Swiss villages, or irrigation regions in Spain.
- Unregulated open commons are governed by no rule – anyone can use resources within these types of commons at will and without payment. For example, air. Regulated commons may be ruled by formal or social-conventional rules, such as sidewalks, streets, roads and highways.
- The term “peer production” characterizes a subset of commons-based production practices. It refers to production systems that depend on individual action that is self-selected and decentralized, rather than hierarchically assigned.
- Decentralization describes conditions under which the actions of many agents cohere and are effective despite the fact that they do not rely on reducing the number of people whose will counts to direct effective action.
- The quintessential instance of commons-based peer production has been free software. Free software, or open source, is an approach to software development that is based on shared effort on a nonproprietary model. It depends on many individuals contributing to a common project, with a variety of motivations, and sharing their respective contributions without any single person to entity asserting rights to exclude either from the contributed components or from the resulting whole. Participants usually retain copyrights in their contribution, but license them to anyone – on a model that combines a universal license to use the materials that make it difficult/impossible for any single contributor or third party to appropriate the project. Ex: GNU General Public License
- Free software has played a critical role in the recognition of peer production, because software can be tested against its market-based competitors – and in many instances, free software has prevailed. About 70 percent of Web server software runs on the Apache Web server – free software.
- Free software began in 1984 with Richard Stallman, when he started working on GNU. He knew he could not write a whole operating system by himself, so he released pieces of his code under a license that allowed anyone to copy, distribute, and modify the software in whatever way they pleased, as long as the person who modified the software would distribute it to others under the same conditions. This type of license became known as the GNU General Public License, or GPL. It came to be known as the “copyleft,” a legal artifice that allowed anyone to contribute to GNU without worrying that someday they might be arbitrarily locked out of the system they had helped to build.
- Linus Torvalds began working on the “kernel” of the operating system. His model was based on voluntary contributions and ubiquitous, recursive sharing.
- Benkler breaks down the communication process in peer production into 3 stages: the initial utterance of a humanly meaningful statement, a separate mapping of the initial utterances on a knowledge map, and the function of distribution. Ex: NBC News produces the utterances, gives them credibility by clearing them on the evening news, and distributes them simultaneously.
Some interesting examples of peer-production that Benkler highlights:
- Wikipedia, founded by Jimmy Wales, combines 3 core characteristics: 1) it uses a collaborative authorship too, Wiki, 2) it is a self-conscious effort at creating an encyclopedia, 3) all content generated by this collaboration is released under the GNU Free Documentation License. In 2001, Wikipedia had 10 contributors and 25 articles. As of 2005, it had 48,721 contributors and 1,600,000 articles!
- Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) are another example of very unique distributed content production. The role of the game provider is not to tell a finished, highly polished story, but to provide tools with which users collaborate to tell a story. In the game Second Life, more than 99 percent of the objects in the game environment are user-generated.
- Amazon and Google are two commercial businesses that rely on peer production to provide accreditation and relevance to their product. Amazon uses recommendation features such as “customers who bought items you recently viewed also bought these items,” as well as creating lists and tracking other friends and favorites. Google utilized PageRank, which harnesses peer production of ranking. The engine treats links from other Web sites pointing to a given Web site as votes of confidence. Whenever someone who authors a Web site links to someone else’s page, that person has stated quite explicitly that the linked page is worth a visit. Google’s search engine counts these links as distributed votes of confidence in the quality of the page pointed to. Pages that are heavily linked-to count as more important votes of confidence.
- Slashdot is the most elaborate platform for peer production of relevance and accreditation. It is a leading technology newsletter on the Web, coproduced by hundreds of thousands of users. Slashdot implements an automated system to select moderators fro the pool of users. The moderator rates comments, and positive ratings increase comments by one point, while negative ratings decrease comments by one point. Slashdot then provides users with a “threshold” filter that allows each user to block lower-quality comments. The same dynamic that we saw used for peer production of initial utterances, or content, can be implemented to produce relevance and accreditation.
Questions to think about…
1. Have you ever participated in a peer production project? If yes, please share! If not, is there any particular reason why? Now that we have learned about so many peer-production products on the Web, would you be interested in participating in any of them?
2. Can you think of some examples for “Commons” that are more related to the Web or media spaces? For example, what is an example of an unregulated, open media space?