The connected Citizen

Wed, 2007-02-28 00:48.

Quote from the Complexity and Social Networks Blog at Harvard, written by Alexander Schellong

The internet made us more powerful as well as making us more transparent. We have access to information anytime, anyplace. We can find, motivate or join like minded people to create something or influence a third party. We also leave our trails on blogs, social networking platforms, newsgroups or buying online. Governments and citizens alike can benefit from this trend.

Hierarchical government structures are the dominant model for public service delivery and meeting public policies. Although desired outcomes are mostly realized, this set-up turns out to have various downsides. Results are a silo like, inward-looking culture, slow decision making, change awareness or knowledge diffusion. While the latter also led to an institutionalized disconnect from citizens it can cause system failures when information and decision making transcends organizational and jurisdictional boundaries. Hurricane Katrina, the Avian Flu, various non-prevented terrorist attacks are such representative cases.

In addition, public administration has become continuously more complex. Economic, social, political and technological developments in the past decades have lead to a growth of the administrative apparatus, its size, power and obligations. Market-based reforms have optimized agency operations and privatized public services through contracting-out (i.e. Public Private Partnerships) or completely conferring them to the private sector. Hence, public managers and policy makers have to work within a sphere of multiple stakeholders and understand interdependent relationships for service provision, regulation and policy making. Knowing whom to hold accountable and a general understanding of this complex system is important for legislators as well as for citizen.

What can governments do?

1. Access
2. Dialogue
3. Transparency
4. Internal change


The FLIRT model of Crowdsourcing / Collective Customer Collaboration

Wed, 2007-02-28 00:15.

Sami Vittamäki , a business graduate from the Helsinki School of Economics is working on his Master Thesis and has just released an interesting overview on the structure and semantics of crowdsourcing models. The "FLIRT" model defines three groups and positions them according their activity and involvement rom the core to an inner and an outer ring. The second scale elaborates on the typical elements found in collective collaborative environments: Facilities, Languange, Incentives, Rules and Tools.

I would say, this approach is very much in line with the post of Bradley Horowitz , VP of product strategy at Yahoo! about the three main groups, that can be found on social networks: Creators, Synthesizers, and Consumers

The levels in the pyramid represent phases of value creation. As an example take Yahoo! Groups.

  • 1% of the user population might start a group (or a thread within a group)
  • 10% of the user population might participate actively, and actually author content whether starting a thread or responding to a thread-in-progress
  • 100% of the user population benefits from the activities of the above groups (lurkers)

Citizen Media: The rise and prospects of hyperlocal journalism

Wed, 2007-02-21 09:41.

J-Lab, the Institute for Interactive Journalism, just released a study, that gives a comprehensive overview on the emerging forms of participatory journalism:

Table of Contents
Introduction by Jan Schaffer

Chapter 1: The Big Picture
• Chapter Introduction
• About the Study
• Hyperlocal Diversity
• Defining Citizen Media
• Common Characteristics
• Having Impact

Chapter 2: Mapping Citizen Media Models
• Chapter Introduction
• Community Cooperatives
• Trained Citizen Journalist Sites
• Professional Journalist Non-profit Sites
• Professional Journalist For-profit Sites
• Blog Aggregator Sites
• Syndicated Multi-site Models
• Legacy Media Sites
• Solo Enterprise Non-profit Sites
• Solo Enterprise For-profit Sites

Chapter 3: Creating Content
• Chapter Introduction
• To Edit or Not
• Mission Statements
• Getting Back What You Put Out
• Reverse Publishing: From Web to Print

Chapter 4: Building Interest
• Chapter Introduction
• Starting Out
• Offering Feedback
• Expanding Coverage
• Assigning the Job
• Building on Brands

Chapter 5: Making Money
• Chapter Introduction
• Bluffton Today
• Wicked Local
• New West
• Village Soup
• Backfence
• Baristanet
• Voice of San Diego

Chapter 6: Charting Success, Sustainability
• Chapter Introduction
• Community Sites
• New Media Companies
• Old Media Companies
• Wish Lists

Who Participated in 31 In-depth Interviews?
Who Participated in the Survey?

Eric Schmidt: Don’t bet against the internet.

Sun, 2006-11-26 00:41.

… what’s surprising is that so many companies are still betting against the net, trying to solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions. The past few years have taught us that business models based on controlling consumers or content don’t work. Betting against the net is foolish because you’re betting against human ingenuity and creativity. …

In 2007 we’ll witness the increasing dominance of open internet standards. As web access via mobile phones grows, these standards will sweep aside the proprietary protocols promoted by individual companies striving for technical monopoly. Today’s desktop software will be overtaken by internet-based services that enable users to choose the document formats, search tools and editing capability that best suit their needs.

Driving this change is a profound technological shift in computer science. For the past 20 years a client-server computing architecture has dominated digital infrastructures. Expensive PCs ran complex software programs and relied primarily on proprietary protocols to connect to bigger—and even more expensive—mainframe servers. The data and the power lived in these computers and their operating systems.

Today we live in the clouds. We’re moving into the era of “cloud” computing, with information and applications hosted in the diffuse atmosphere of cyberspace rather than on specific processors and silicon racks. The network will truly be the computer. … Cloud computing is hardly perfect: internet-based services aren’t always reliable and there is often no way to use them offline. But the direction is clear. Simplicity is triumphing over complexity. Accessibility is beating exclusivity. Power is increasingly in the hands of the user.

… put simple, intuitive technology in the hands of users and they will create content and share it. The fastest-growing parts of the internet all involve direct human interaction. … online communities are thriving and growing. The internet is helping to satisfy our most fundamental human needs—our desire for knowledge, communication and a sense of belonging. …

We’re betting on the internet because we believe that there’s a bull market in imagination online.


On successful web apps

Tue, 2006-05-16 23:24.

The amazing thing about Flickr is that nobody uses the service to upload pictures. Nobody says to themselves “I need to upload me some pictures”. Instead, they’re satisfying some other need in their lives, like showing off the new kid to relatives. Or showing their friends how their trip to Europe went. Or letting their co-workers in on their conference activity.

All of these things have to do with their life, their relationships, their everyday activities that aren’t centered on the Web, but are made much easier by it. If we look closely, that’s what most successful web apps do: they make our offline lives richer.

Quote by Joshua Porter 

The Strength of Internet Ties

Tue, 2006-05-16 22:09.

On a related note to the post before the PEW Internet & American Life Project published a study about the social impact of the internet on adult Americans. The key findings are not too surprising:

  • The internet helps build social capital.
  • The internet plays socially beneficial roles in a world moving towards “networked individualism.” Email allows people to get help from their social networks and the web lets them gather information and find support and information as they face important decisions.
  • The internet supports social networks.
  • Email is more capable than in-person or phone communication of facilitating regular contact with large networks.
  • Email is a tool of “glocalization.” It connects distant friends and relatives, yet it also connects those who live nearby.
  • Email does not seduce people away from in-person and phone contact.
  • People use the internet to put their social networks into motion when they need help with important issues in their lives.
  • The internet’s role is important in explaining the greater likelihood of online users getting help as compared to non-users.
  • Those with many significant ties and access to people with a variety of different occupations are more likely to get help from their networks.
  • Internet users have somewhat larger social networks than non-users. The median size of an American’s network of core and significant ties is 35. For internet users, the median network size is 37; for non-users it is 30.
  • About 60 million Americans say the internet has played an important or crucial role in helping them deal with at least one major life decision in the past two years.
  • The number of Americans relying on the internet for major life decisions has increased by one-third since 2002.
  • At major moments, some people say the internet helps them connect with other people and experts who help them make choices. Others say that the web helps them get information and compare options as they face decisions.
The complete study can be downloaded here.

Internet fördert soziales Engagement

Tue, 2006-05-16 22:04.

Kinder am Computer werden von Erwachsenen oft mit gemischten Gefühlen betrachtet. Sie befürchten, die soziale Entwicklung oder die Kreativität könne Schaden erleiden. Genau das Gegenteil belegt jetzt eine Studie der Northwestern University in Chicago. Das Ergebnis zeigt, daß gesellschaftliches Engagement, Sozialkompetenz und Wirgefühl - also beste Führungseigenschaften - online trainiert und gefestigt werden können.

Berliner Morgenpost, 11.05.2006

The Lesson - Personal Value Precedes Network Value

Tue, 2006-05-09 22:45.

When it comes to successful examples of Web 2.0 social networking services many people see and Flickr as the primary candidates. Their stunning success influenced all sorts of business models for start-ups, that are being built around the idea of generating network effects through social software architecture to create both value for the user and revenues for the providing service. However some business plans might be at risk looking at their role models from a different perspective:

The one major idea behind the Lesson is that personal value precedes network value. What this means is that if we are to build networks of value, then each person on the network needs to find value for themselves before they can contribute value to the network. In the case of, people find value saving their personal bookmarks first and foremost. All other usage is secondary.

As people use more, and in order to gain more personal value, they use tags to be able to find their bookmarks later. Tagging isn’t even the primary function of Most of the tagging done on is done secondarily, and for personal use.

The social value of tags on is only a happy side-effect. Even though most of the ink spilled about is about the social value, it’s really not the reason why people use it.

Similar to Google aggregating links that were originally created for taking readers from one document to another, can aggregate tags in order to find out how people value content. If 1,000 people save and tag the same bookmark, for example, that’s a good sign that they find value in it. But to think that people tag so that this information can be aggregated is to give people a trait of altruism they just don’t possess.

Joshua Porter is a keen observer of design and technology trends associated with the emergence of Web 2.0 and for those interested in these topics his writings are highly recommended.

Thomas Friedman awarded as "Webby Person of the Year"

Tue, 2006-05-09 22:07.

With their Special Achievement Award the Webby jury honors the work and activities of Thomas L. Friedman as author of the book "The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century" and as columnist at the New York Times.

For those who are still unfamiliar with his viewpoints I highly recommend the video lecture he was giving at the MIT as an introduction:

The law of locality

Mon, 2006-03-27 19:42.

People and information want to be closer. When planning where to put capacity, network designers are guided by the law of locality; this law states that network traffic is at least 80 percent local, 95 percent continental and only 5 percent intercontinental. Between 1997 and 1999, for example, 30 percent of al U.S. Internet traffic never crossed the national infrastructure but stayed within a local metropolitan network.

It might be a bit misleading to take this quote from John Thackaras Book "In the Bubble" as a proof for the relevance of local information. The principle of locality in this context refers more to the design and construction of network services using redundant resources that are geographically distributed across the internet.

However the law of locality can also be applied to various other contexts:

Complex adaptive systems and swarm logic heavily rely on local interaction that leads to global group behaviour. Even in multinational process networks local business ecosystems build the dynamic nodes of activity.

Toyota defines locality as a key factor for securing quality within their lean production system. The closer the employee is to the source of a problem the quicker he is able to observe it and take immediate action. This leads to the possible situation, that a single worker can halt a whole production line, if he notices a critical quality issue.

Locality even doesn´t have to be connected to a physical place, like online-communities and social networks that provide a sense of presence and nearness as well.

But all examples have in common, that the context of locality provides a higher degree of responsiveness and connectivity, which leads to higher efficiency.