(not) Newmark's Law … and the "culture of participation" and "consent of the governed"

(not) Newmark's Law … and the "culture of participation" and "consent of the governed"

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Jeff Jarvis recently wrote a great book, What Would Google Do?, and in an article on The Daily Beast, he's makes a very kind allusion to the part of the craigslist philosophy:

Get out of the way. This is actually Craig Newmark's law. As Google built the most powerful tool imaginable—the entire world of digital knowledge revealed behind a simple search box—so did Craig build a simple tool that changed society (and newspapers and real estate and more) without prescribing how we should use it. They create platforms to enable us to do what we want to do and then, instead of giving us rules about their use, then they stand back and put us in charge.

The credit is a little misplaced; it's my riff on the sixties comment "lead, follow, or get out of the way."

This reflects part of the "culture of participation" attitude, that Jay Rosen talks about. For the most part, people are good at running things themselves, at forming consensus.

This is also why, as David Weinberger says, places like craigslist or Wikipedia are about the user community ("us") not the people who run them ("them".)

However, sometimes, there's some need for some responsible people to assert some control. For example, our customer service team needs to deal with trolling in our discussion boards (not fun). Wikipedia is a culture of participation, but sometimes someone like Jimmy Wales needs to do the "benevolent dictator" thing.

Another good example is the US Constitution, which reminds me of the whole issue of "checks and balances." There's also that phrase, "consent of the governed," which captures the essence of the culture of participation as applied to government.

The deal here is that anyone who runs anything, that is, any governing entity, should normally operate in the "culture of participation" mode. When needed, sometimes the boss needs to do something, controlled by lots of checks and balances. (Remember "consent of the governed.")

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6 Comments

twodogkd

I am going to share your comments with our Riverside community, because a "culture of participation" is sorely lacking here in Riverside, and what you speak of is EXACTLY what we need more of.
Imagine a City of 300,000 where those in power have been trying to get rid of Greyhound which has been serving 83,000 passenger trips a year.
Riverside City Council doesn't don't exactly hear us yet, at least not clearly, but I am working to put the pressure on them by asking everyone across the City to let our government know the CITIZENS WANT Greyhound to stay, and stay in our downtown co located with our Riverside County bus system.
I also mentioned that the City was trying to push Greyhound out at our Feb 3 City Council meeting, to a packed room as Riverside discussed its Green and Sustainable Action Plan accomplishments and goals. I pointed out the glaring holes in their transportation plans, no planning for a regional transit hub in the city/county, trying to get rid of our only nationwide form of transit for those without cars.
I also lambbasted their bicycle plan as in Riverside the Council has given lip service and not much more. So called bicycle lanes are death traps, such as a 2/12 wide bike lane adjacent to cars traveling 50 miles an hour or more. And that 2 1/2 feet includes asphalt lumping over one concrete so may flip the bike, …, and mentioned other significant areas that need to be addressed. All of the areas are areas that I have spoken out on repeatedly at City Council meetings, at every opportunity to do so.
On the brighter side Riverside's utility folks are doing well in renewable energy sources for electricity, but then Riverside Utilities Director does follow your "cultures of participation mode" and reaches out to community groups to explain and discuss coming changes before they are implemented. He has been striving to do the right thing so we are very fortunate in the energy department.

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It is great to read that craigslist or Wikipedia are about the user community not for the the people who running it and that what community like the best.

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