1.09.2005

it's time to start swinging for the fence

Eric Raymond coined an often-quoted open source motto, "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow." I often wonder what it would be like for that spirit to be the rallying point for an energized leftist movement. After all, there is really no more effective weapon for fighting political corruption and social injustice than a bunch of eyeballs. In order to translate outrage into social action though, a couple of things need to be in place, first, we need some unity around a clear understanding of what it means to be strategically effective, and second, we need to be imaginative in constructing a robust and scalable "social network architecture" that has a chance of accommodating individual actions into an aggregated force capable of having an major impact.

Obviously the usual cat herding approaches won't work in advancing either of those two agendas. Nor do we want to be seduced by heavy-handed liberal-fascoid clamp-downs on what is considered permissible. We need a vision that can unite and inspire. Spotting "bugs" in the system, even with only a single pair of eyeballs, is not that difficult these days, but making those bugs "shallow" requires that we work with a whole lot of other eyeballs.

So, expanding on the architectural thread, I want to offer here a couple of images, one literal/metaphorical and the other metaphorical/literal (or is it the other way around?). The first is an allegorical story about a concrete architectural challenge, The Three Little Pigs. The moral of that story is that we need to get a lot better at recognizing, and more efficient in dealing with, the straw houses that many participants in "leftish" chat keep throwing out into the discussion.

The other image is the real logistics of applying the architectural metaphor to social networks. Two resources that ought to be required reading for all of us are Gideon Rosenblatt's farsighted paper, Movement as Network (pdf) and Yochai Benkler's paper, Coase's Penguin (pdf).