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Online communities - Arvind Narayanan's journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

Online communities [May. 10th, 2004|02:38 pm]
Arvind Narayanan
Every online community is fundamentally an anarchy (used here in the positive sense, see anarchism). Its easy to see why: there's nothing much you can do to harm others, so government and policing are not important. The problem you face is not one of satisfying need and containing greed but rather that of distributing plenty. Plenty of ideas, thoughts and opinions, that is. Nobody has time to read everything that everyone else writes.

One crucial aspect of a successful anarchy is a reputation system. It is essential because you need some way to provide an incentive for "good behavior". Online communities I've seen have various ways of approximating a reputation system: moderation, voting, rating, karma, friends/foes, blocklists, banning, watching, bookmarking, and so on. I can't list all of them; each feature has its plusses and minuses and implementation is different.

However, I haven't encountered one particular simple but radical idea: currency. Two excellent works of anarchist fiction explore this idea: And then there were none by Eric Frank Russell (written back in 1951, far ahead of its time) and Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow (both are available online). Reputation-as-currency is a powerful idea. I have a lot of ideas about how it could be implemented in an online community and why its such a great deal. More later.

[User Picture]From: scooterbird
2004-05-12 12:00 pm (UTC)
Interesting idea. I look forward to you developing it.

btw, I had a question about your icon: is that a hedgehog?
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2004-05-13 02:48 am (UTC)

Its a porcupine ;-)

I took it from the Free state project logo. The smiling porcupine is a symbol of libertarianism, and is supposed to convey friendliness along with a strong desire to be left alone (individualism).
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