Over the weekend, I heard Jay Rosen speak, he's one of the commentators on new media I respect most.
He used the phrase "culture of participation" and this crystallized a lot of my thinking about why Wikipedia and craigslist work. There's the "culture of trust" thing, very important. That trust is generated where the people running stuff continuously engage with the people who use the stuff, where everyone can participate. Not everyone will, but it's the genuine opportunity that matters.
David Weinberger, another commentator I respect highly, once captured this more metaphorically, saying "Google feels like ours (even though it legally belongs to its shareholders)… Weblogs feel like their ours while online columns do not. The Mac feels like it's ours… Craigslist feels like ours…"
Now, combine the "culture of participation" thing with Obama's networked grassroots movement. I think that's the new kind of government we're moving to, complementing representative democracy with active grassroots involvement.
More to come…