Today’s fortune cookie and interesting bit…

Here’s the fortune cookie:

Never offend people with style when you can offend them with substance.
— Sam Brown, “The Washington Post”, January 26, 1977


As for the interesting bit: Architecture is politics: community building and the success of Wikipedia.

I found this post (by Michael Nielsen) quite interesting, but maybe not for the reason people normally would: I just thought the “thesis” of this post was something well known. What I mean is the following: a framework like Wiki, Zope/Plone, Drupal, etc, they all have different modus operandi, i.e., they were all designed to harness the power of the collective in slightly different ways. That means that each of these designs follows a different “policy” of community building; while some may think that every single user should have the same “weight”, some may adopt the policy of ‘roles’, where different groups of users have different tasks within the community.

This is not a judgement of value of these different frameworks. However, each of them imply certain “choices” that were made with a given “community building ideal” in mind. So, in this sense, it seems clear to me that the particular architecture of the software used should reflect the “politics” behind it.

But, maybe this is clearer to me because of all those years listening to RMS… 😉


Updated (24-Feb-08): This piece at Slate may have something to add to this discussion: The Wisdom of the Chaperones: Digg, Wikipedia, and the myth of Web 2.0 democracy.


2 Responses to “Today’s fortune cookie and interesting bit…”

  1. Friday, 22 Feb 2008; \08\UTC\UTC\k 08 at 12:56:44 UTC

    The “thesis” is certainly well-known. But, like lots of obvious facts, it doesn’t seem to sink in for people. Very few wikis have succeeded, and I think this is a large part of why. Consider the non-obvious corollary of my thesis: any ambitious wiki project will need to fork the underlying software. It does sometimes happen, but not often.

  2. Friday, 22 Feb 2008; \08\UTC\UTC\k 08 at 13:21:26 UTC

    Hi Michael,

    See, i think there are 2 examples that may come in handy here: Facebook and Orkut — while one is a success with american kids (Facebook), the other one is more successful in Brazil and India (Orkut).

    While Facebook focuses itself on information about your personal contacts, Orkut aims at the “community” (user created groups). In some sense, this resonance with different cultures has some significance: this different frameworks seem to mirror some sort of “anthropological/sociological truth” about the cultures where they succeed the most.

    I think the same phenomena is true in this discussion as well: when someone comes up with a “community building framework”, these “cultural reflections” have to be taken into account. One particular example/analogy of this, i think, can be seen with the Free Software movement… that, later ended up forking into the Open Source one — and, as a whole, is collectively called FLOSS. So, some of the original values are kept in one branch, some were changed in the other one; but, collectively, they still seem to have a common goal.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


February 2008
« Jan   Mar »


%d bloggers like this: