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Submit Response is a weblog by Jack Mottram, a journalist who lives in Glasgow, Scotland. There are 1308 posts in the archives. You can subscribe to a feed. This post was made on and belongs in the politics, web category. The previous post was , and the next post is .

Online/Offline Politics

O’Reilly have a good little interview with Stuart Butterfield, one of the team behind Flickr. Here he is on the social aspects of the service’s tagging feature:

People who would be reluctant to provide metadata most of the time do so on Flickr because there’s a payoff for them. A) other people see their work… what they’re creating. And B) because they derive some pleasure from building value in the global collection.

When you’re doing it [adding metadata] for yourself, it’s like a chore, its drudgery. When you’re doing it as part of a community, in a collaborative way, it can still be a little bit of work, but the payoff is so much larger.

This sort of thing is, of course, not unique to Flickr - everything from Wikipedia to the thousands upon thousands of help and advice fora out there to the Open Source movement rely on the fact that people ‘derive some pleasure from building value’ and will happily give up time and resources to make the world (wide web) a better place for everyone.

It seems safe to assume that everyone on the web is not a card-carrying socialist, committed (non-loony) Christian, nor otherwise ardent about being kind to people and sharing things. I mean, the most odious right-wing warbloggers, when given a whiff of scandal, frequently collaborate and share information freely, working together for the benefit of their community, despite the fact that such methods are entirely antithetical to their real-world political beliefs (in the sense that these people would be physically sick if you told them you think redistribution of wealth seems like a nice idea, but will gleefully redistribute information-wealth every time they get the chance).

I suppose what I’m wondering is, if we behave this way online, why the fuck can’t we behave the same way offline? Or, better, if this type of behaviour is indeed becoming the norm online, will it prompt a shift in everyday political philosophy offline? Obviously, I’m not suggesting that the web is fostering a political revolution, not just a revolution in the dissemination of information, but it does seem a little peculiar that a largely right-wing world behaves as if it is left-wing online.

Posted at 6pm on 20/02/05 by Jack Mottram to the politics, web category.
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  1. I’ve become misty-eyed when thinking about the social utopia that is nurtured by the, to use the most obvious example, Open Source community. It’s exciting that people pursue the adherence to international standards, that there exist communities striving to create global systems to benefit everyone. WAI guidelines are an interesting case study too. Businesses that make websites in the UK (I know not much of what is happening in other countries) now know that it is an economical advantage to pledge that they will make sure the proposed website-project will stick to WAI Accessibility guidelines. The fact that concerns for the vulnerable/marginalised in society are becoming economical playing cards in winning projects can only be a good thing. Right wingers hearts eventually melt? Accessiblity and usability, web standards, open source, flickr,, blogs: these communities demand concentration.

    I think a future where people are genuinely community-aware and productive for the good of other people as well as themselves, could be arrived at if it were based on the principles that the above communities behave on. I rambled!

    Sorry I didn’t mention the right-winger slant of your post: I agree with you, and I have been thinking along the same lines only as above for a while.

    Posted by simone at 11am on 21.02.05

  2. i concur

    online feels so much more like a community

    and it would appear bloggers will soon be/ are a force to be reckoned with - as is pointed out here

    viva la blog!

    Posted by badgergirl at 2pm on 21.02.05

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