Duncan Wilcock

duncan@wilcock.ca
T: +1 (604) 379 0224

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

[CR] Stopping "Bad-ware", Accountability & In defense of Gossip

There really are some neat things going on - on the internet. It's a whole new "sphere of existence" in a way, literally in places like "Second Life" http://secondlife.com/ but it's more interesting what's going on in the wider internet.

From what I can see, it's evolving into an instrument of accountabilty. It's certainly enabling accountablity where before real accountability was not practical.

In small towns & communities - accountability is handled by a natural - probalby evolved - system - a system called "The grapevine" or with less positive connotations - gossip. Well - that's not strictly true - i suppose gossip could be defined as the malicious use of the grapevine.

Just to be explicit, I mean the "informal network of people talking to people - in a natural socializing kind of way" when I say "The Grapevine." I'm pretty sure it's a universal aspect of human experience, because I also think it's probably an evolved-in trait, because it serves a purpose that would select for the success of a small group or tribe - the natural unit of human evolution until a few hundred years ago. (again - in my opinion)

Anyway - so - in defense of gossip - I think/believe that it (in it's non-malicious incarnation - "the grapevine") is an important enabler of accountability within tribal units/communities. I figure the natural group size is @ 50 people, but can probably scale to several hundred - even a thousand or two. Think how many people you know, how your experience in highschool was - how many people did you know, know well, etc. I've also noticed that department sizes/management group sizes in large corporations seem to cluster @ 50-ish in size.

So - Accountability is a good thing & a natural thing in small communities. That's why small towns are such gossip-mills & again I think this is a good thing in general, but as always the balance of positive intentions vs. maliciousness exists.

IMO - (In my Opinion) what has been a problem in the past with big business, with government & large groups in general - is a lack of accountability, because mechanisms for accountability on a large scale have not existed. This has allowed "jerks" to act badly - ie without a balance of respect for others with self-interest and not only get away with it, but effectively do well because of it. People have been able to "do well by doing bad" - which sucks! A far better model is that which the quakers espoused - "Doing well by Doing Good"

What a big problem has been is that in large groups without a mechanism for accountability, the benefits of doing good were not realized - those such as endorsement from others, repeat business, what-have-you. Even worse - the negative effects of doing bad became negligible the larger the group size has become, because there was "always a new sucker around every corner" because there was no reasonable, convenient way for a bad reputation to develop.

Anyway - hopefully you get the idea - because i think this post is @ long enough now.

If you don't believe me that the internet is providing a way for this to change check out:

http://stopbadware.org/ and http://www.google.com/corporate/software_principles.html

which are what inspired me to write up these thoughts.

Also think about e-bay & the accountabilty system of rating that has been built into it. Interesting no??