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inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #26 of 69: uber-muso hipster hyperbole (pjm) Fri 30 May 08 12:11
    
"Well, Meetup is a business -- what works for them is not necessarily
aligned with what works for the users."

Can you talk more generally about what happens when a loose
organization gets co-opted by a money making machine?
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #27 of 69: Maria Rosales (rosmar) Fri 30 May 08 14:31
    
The distinction between facilitation and consensus is fascinating to
me.  I teach at a Quaker college, where we run most things on a
consensus model.  I'm going to raise that distinction at the next
faculty meeting, because I think consensus has real potential for
tyranny of the minority.  

On the book: I loved it.  Have you read Deborah Stone's Policy
Paradox?  In many ways your book seemed like a practical application of
her argument about the strangeness of politics--like that political
resources are often increased, rather than diminished, through use.  
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #28 of 69: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sat 31 May 08 19:34
    
I believe it was Stone -- if not, one of my other college textbooks :)
-- that talked about how people on the down side of a political fight
tend to 'spread it around' to try to get more people on their side,
such as by alerting the media or inviting the public. Which is
essentially what the book seems to be about.

As far as Meetups -- I dunno. Once they started charging, it just
seemed that, where I lived, all the air went out of it, and a lot of
groups folded and new groups didn't start. Perhaps it's different now.
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #29 of 69: Clay Shirky (clayshirky) Mon 2 Jun 08 11:45
    
Sorry, I was away over the weekend, so just catching up. I'll bundle
my responses in different posts.

Apropos the phone story, yeah, I'm no longer a cyber-utopian. I used
to be one, and it was hearing about the pro-anorexia girls that made me
realize "This isn't a side-effect of the internet. This is an *effect*
of the internet -- ridiculously easy group-forming cuts both ways."

And one of the interesting themes of recent years is the ways in which
'cyberspace' is going away, as a marked separation from the real. With
the net increasingly used to catalyze or direct real world action, its
worth noting that had the proposed physical vigilantism in the 'stolen
phone' forums actually come to pass, we would have been horrified --
"Cybermob Attacks Teen for Minor Infraction."

And that's what I most liked about the phone story -- its clearly
about new capabilities of participatory media, but its not clearly a
complete win or a complete lose for society. 

And Jon, for that reason, the opening sentence of the book, from the
very first draft, was always something like "In May of 2006, a woman
named Ivanna left her phone in the back seat of a New York City cab." 

I got the story late, but once I got it, I always put it in chapter
one, and when I wrote a preface, my editor was horrified, and told me
"Don't put anything between the reader and the phone story!"
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #30 of 69: Clay Shirky (clayshirky) Mon 2 Jun 08 12:03
    
The Meetup question is a complicated one. It has always been always a
business, so there was never any question of co-optation -- if Meetup
doesn't make money, it will go away, the terms of any business. 

The core issue has turned out to be "From where should the money
come?" The first answer was that it should come from the bars,
restaurants and cafes benefiting from increased traffic, but that
turned out to be impractical for a variety of reasons, including the
displeasure of those places in not being able to pay to direct traffic,
and Meetup was unwilling to limit its users' choices about where to
meet.

Answer #2 was "It should come from sponsors." These were the heady
days of the Dean Meetups, but when the Dean campaign imploded, several
factions maintained that they "owned" the Meetups themselves, and
should be given all the names, contact details etc of the attendees, in
order to encourage them to move over to Kerry, Clark, et al. Meetup
was emphatic that the users owned the Meetups, not the sponsors, but
that clashed with what the sponsors thought they were paying for, which
was essentially the right to treat Meetup as a kind of digital
Rolodex.

So Answer #3 actually started as a question: "If the users own the
Meetups, will they be willing to pay for them?" And the answer has
turned out to be yes, above a certain size. Meetups of 5-6 mostly went
away, because overcoming coordination costs for that small a group were
never a big problem in the first place, but once you get to dozens,
much less hundreds, it is a service worth the groups think is worth
paying for, on present evidence. 

Meetup arrived at the business model pioneered by the WELL because the
logic of third-party subsidy also creates distortions of expectation,
distortions that Meetup decided would be bad for the users (and
therefore bad for business) over the long haul.

And this is one of the key points of the book, I think -- we are just
at the beginning of experimenting with the whys and hows of group
forming, and its not at all clear that Meetup's current answer is the
correct one, or even a stable one. Several other possibilities include
charging some kinds of groups and letting others be free (a la
craigslist), taking donations instead of fees (a la NPR), running
advertisements on the media generated as a side-effect of group use (a
la Slashdot), and so on.

Figuring out what business models fit what classes of group
coordination seem to me to be one of the core problems of the current
era. 
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #31 of 69: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 2 Jun 08 16:55
    <scribbled by jonl Mon 2 Jun 08 20:17>
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #32 of 69: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 2 Jun 08 20:18
    
What business models for group coordination seem to be (actually or
potentially) effective?
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #33 of 69: Gail Williams (gail) Tue 3 Jun 08 10:30
    

I took a stab at a tentative list while witing for Clay, and realized 
that it was not so easy to make up really useful categories here. 

Jon, when you say business models, are you thinking about revenue streams 
or public vs. non-profit vs private sturctures, or individual vs. group 
payers... or all of that?
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #34 of 69: Ari Davidow (ari) Tue 3 Jun 08 12:07
    
Have been reading a new book recommended by Art Kleiner called 
"Megacommunities," in which the idea is that some problems are so big that 
they require partnerships between business, government, and NGOs (what the 
authors call a "megacommunity"). About midway through the book they start 
explaining the importance of weak connections between people loosely 
connected and I found myself going, "where have I recently read the same 
thing," and remember just that discussion about degrees of connection in 
your book, Clay.

So, trying to turn this into a question, rather than a statement of 
coincidence, have you heard of the book or concept, and if so, what do you 
think about it?
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #35 of 69: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 3 Jun 08 12:25
    
Gail, my understanding of "business model" is that it's how an
organization generates revenue to become sustainable.
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #36 of 69: Gail Williams (gail) Tue 3 Jun 08 12:44
    
There's also a broader use - the Wikipedia page for Business Model takes 
it in that direction for example - which was probably confusing me. Thanks!
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #37 of 69: Clay Shirky (clayshirky) Wed 4 Jun 08 03:43
    
Jon, here's my 2-part business model matrix:

Resources can come from three places: 1, the users, 2, the providers,
or 3, third parties.

2. Provisioning of those resources can be a. mandatory or b.
voluntary.

Now this is quite general, far more general than "We'll generate ideas
in the community, but profit from the patents" or "We'll raise money
from donations", but they are patterns 3a and 1b respectively.

I say 'resources' instead of money because the economic model of the
internet as a whole -- if you pay for the infrastructure, you get to
use it free -- means that many *many* more kinds of group action become
possible without requiring a for-profit model, where the first design
principle becomes working at low enough cost that the activity can be
wholly subsidized by users, hosts, or third parties.

What the network has done is move the first aspect of the business
model sharply to the right: it is much harder to get money from users,
and much easier to get money from third parties (usually advertisers or
sponsors). 

And so the normal, offline model is #1a -- user pays -- while the
normal for-profit online model is 3a -- advertiser pays. In addition,
there are lots more models that rely on subsidy (as with "Pro" accounts
subsidizing the free users, like Flickr Pro, etc.)

And of course there can be multiple models at work in one place -- ads
plus user subsidies, etc.

Now I know this is a lot less granular than a list of actual business
models, but I adopted it because I'm not sure  a list of business
models is that useful: knowing that eBay is clocking mad Gs with the
auction format, or that clearing CC transactions turned out to be a
good idea for PayPal, won't actually help much, because those are only
"business models" in a historic sense -- someone starting now will find
those options largely closed to them. 

So my MO has been to start thinking from a "Who pays, and how"
breakdown, and get more specific from there (the analysis of Meetups 3
eras of business model proceeded more or less along these lines, in
fact.) 
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #38 of 69: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 4 Jun 08 05:54
    
So the organizers of Meetups are third parties, by your assessment?
And they're paying for access to the Meetup infrastructure? Do they
select their own venues?  One problem with the original Meetup model
was that the users couldn't select date, time, or venue - that was all
assigned. It was very top-down.  When the Meetup organization created a
Blogger Meetup for Austin several years ago, we met once or twice,
decided we didn't like the date or venue, therefore abandoned Meetup
and build our own organization.

How about the WELL? The still-profitable model here is that user pays.
The system has a manager, but management is loose - most of the work
is done by volunteers. One could argue that the WELL has survived as an
online community because the user pays - the payment requirement works
as a filter - a barrier to entry that discourages trolls. And because
they pay to participate, WELL members value discussions here
differently than they might if access was completely free. 

Is the WELL an exception that proves the rule? Or does it suggest that
the business model question is more complex?
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #39 of 69: Clay Shirky (clayshirky) Wed 4 Jun 08 07:40
    
No, the "third parties" model was Meetups original business -- the bar
and cafe owners were paying for the extra business. MU functioned as a
way of reducing customer acquisition costs, in the lingo of
advertising.

And yes, the vision of "It's Pit Bull Meetup day all around the
globe!" had a certain "We are the world" appeal, but was well out of
synch with local coordination issues.

And the WELL is a #1a model -- user pays -- which is what MU settled
on, and for the same reason (though, critically, in MU the group pays,
which allows groups to decide how to syndicate the costs. In many
Meetups, new users and infrequent users don't pay.) It's the only model
where the users are defended from the threat of distortion by
management, so it doesn't strike me as either complicated or an
exception -- its just hard to pull off, because it is hard to find
things people are willing to pay for, and because it typically
stabilizes at a relatively fixed income.
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #40 of 69: Gail Williams (gail) Wed 4 Jun 08 17:44
    

That meshes with my experience here at The WELL.  The adjustment we're 
now doing to that formula most all the time is to give discounts for 
the initial period (a month or 2) and also for prepaying for a year 
instead of paying one month at a time.

The commitment to pay something on a regular basis seems to have 
a lot of benefits.  That barrier-to-entry helps make people take the 
act of joining more seriously, and along with the use of real names, 
creates an emotional buy-in.   

A company has a different kind of relationship to individuals in
this context.  It requires a different kind of respect -- directly 
towards the users --than respect of a 3rd party payer does.

Another interesting side note is that users do pay for one another in 
times of need.  They pool resources to cover subscriptions to The WELL
when a cheristed pal is sick or out of work, for exapmle.

Doesn't happen often,
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #41 of 69: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 4 Jun 08 21:24
    
Speaking of business models... Google twitter +"business model" and
you get 202,000 hits. Much speculation there... a phenomenally
compelling application, very high rate of adoption, but no clear and
obvious path to revenue, and big scaling issues. On the other hand,
many who "tweet" don't know how they could do without their
twitterstream. Is there an obvious business model for Twitter than I'm
missing?
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #42 of 69: Daniel (dfowlkes) Thu 5 Jun 08 03:55
    <scribbled by dfowlkes Tue 3 Jul 12 10:14>
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #43 of 69: Gail Williams (gail) Thu 5 Jun 08 14:19
    
How would you negotiate that?  Would it depend on a "preferred carrier" list
as an upsell, with better features?  Something else?  It doesn't seem like a
simple rev share would be attractive to any given phone co.
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #44 of 69: Gail Williams (gail) Thu 5 Jun 08 14:58
    

By the way, I just got a pointer to this graphic:

    http://www.orgnet.com/community.html

"The inner core of the community is composed of red nodes [zoomed-in view
below]. They are very involved and have formed a connected cluster. The
leaders of the OLC are embedded in the core. The core members will stay and
build the community. Unfortunately they are in the minority. The core nodes
are usually less than 20% of most on-line groups. Although small, they are a
powerful force of attraction. It is the core that is committed and loyal to
the OLC and will work on making it a success. They see a win-win for
themselves and the group -- better connectivity will help the individual and
the group simultaneously."
...etc.

Maybe I'm the last to see it, but it looks cool to me!  Nicely rendered, 
and showing off some of the familiar and fascinating math.

Also answering my musing about how seldom somebody here pays for someone
else.  The lonely part of the crowd has not got enough motivation or social
standing to do or receive that.

Besides point that out, this is a good time to muse about the patterns noted
inthe book too.  Clay, what's surprised you about group behavior as you have
been following these patterns?
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #45 of 69: What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Sun 8 Jun 08 09:43
    
Really interesting, Gail.

That makes me want more details on the interactions at the three different
levels. Wjat characterizes the connections among participants? How does it
differ in the core and in the second ring? Are the folks at the core similar
in regular ways to the folks at the core in other online communities? Those
things would be great to know.
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #46 of 69: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 8 Jun 08 21:56
    
I've described social networks as having a structure that looks like a
fried egg. The yolk is relevant, active connections, and the white is
a set of connections that are looser, less active, but with strong
potential to engage. 
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #47 of 69: poche (vassilio) Mon 9 Jun 08 05:05
    

(interesting how this breakfast image has become a major visual
metaphor in the united states. I remember in new york in the
Reagan years, this sunny side up photo of one's brain under
drugs was on every subway train!!)
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #48 of 69: What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Mon 9 Jun 08 09:58
    
I've got it, Jon. But I want something finer-grained now. Or individual-
level, comparative data.

The networks/relationships play out that we can roughly assign one of three
 -- typo -- we can roughly assign each participant to one of three nominal
categories (the core, the middle ring, the periphery -- or leaders,
participants, lurkers, or whatever).

*Other than being in the category*, what have they got in common with one
another? And does it make them like the folks in that same category in other
online social networks?

Is anyone in a position to tell us that sort of info?
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #49 of 69: Gail Williams (gail) Mon 9 Jun 08 11:31
    

That would be sweet to know.

Ancedotally, I know I have been in various of those rings in various
communities both online and off.  So there are some contexts where I am a
lone dot way out away from the nucleus, and satisfied with that level of
engagement.  Amazon is an example.  I have reviewed a very small number of
books (3 as I recall, one Kathie Hafter's book about The WELL which I had to
note I am associated with), and I've tagged, rated the quality of reviews,
and once sent in a request to have a spammy review removed.  All that over a
period of ten years or do.  I am fine with that level of involvement there,
though I know there are much more involved people who spend a lot of time
and use the forums there, for example.

I think of myself as an outlier there, though Amazon might see me as middle-
ring.  I don't think there's anything they could do to push me to spend time
there, if only because me online community time is pretty much split between
The WELL (fun and work for me) and Flickr (almost all for fun for me).

I only have so much time, after all. I will remain on one of the outer 
orbits for Amazon, and am satisfied.
 
In comparison, I set up a MySpace page a year or so ago, and I have 
stopped using it.  I may seem like a red dot to them, but I have no 
interest in getting more involved in that site at this point. 

I'm trying to think of a place where I am am a disconnected dot and I 
could be enticed to be more of a belonger.  Right there's no such place, but 
that is most likely due to the variety and quality of interaction I am 
getting from my current communities.

Not only is the outer orbit common for social sites, for a lot of people I 
would argue it is all they care to do there, and that pushing them 
could diminish their satisfaction if done badly.  

Sometimes I simply want to lurk, witness, read, grab, observe.  
  
inkwell.vue.328 : Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
permalink #50 of 69: poche (vassilio) Mon 9 Jun 08 12:04
    

(re: question of 48)

I would try common sense first and for more theoretican accuracy, Narrative
Theory. And it's hard for me to believe that people asking these questions
about social networks have never thought of viewing these nets as narratives
and gain from the theoretical work of literary theorists. So I suspect that
the need for these new formations is a commercial and not a very
compassionate one.

Please note that narrative theorists, all very competent, did not help
authors and readers much because the questions they posed were not genuine.
And also note that most of the early sociological studies of scpace nets
(bb), considered very exciting then, and filled with the calvinistic bathos
for the new dimension of the communal, became obsolete in no time.
For the same reason.

Sometimes it helps to face things with the humbleness we acquire" when we
visit the health conference.
  

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