Posted by & filed under Knowledge Management.

A couple of weeks ago Spike Hall wrote about Mapping Knowledge-Making Efforts – inspired by Liz Lawley‘s criticism of the short attention span of the blogosphere he proposed a web-based tool to co-ordinate longer term collective knowledge making efforts.

In a comment to that earlier entry I expressed interest balanced by a concern that there are significant socio-cultural and emotional influences operating in blogging which urge us to a set of behaviours I would now summarise as read fast, skim the surface, post often. I suggested that we should look to the “Rules of Discourse” for the new tool that would be necessary to balance out those influences and create the behaviour Spike is seeking.

In a followup article Spike builds on that comment to ask:

What”rules of discourse”[standing for wired in structure and processes, decision-making rules, etc.] will take care of such issues as :

* a) attracting, educating, recognizing/rewarding, assigning and, for that matter, retiring players,
* b) folding player knowledge products into a meta-knowledge corpus,
* c) signaling depth and frequency of change to knowledge consumers, players and underwriters
* d) critically evaluating product as it is developed
inspite of the presence of natural entropic counter-forces to the contrary??

In thinking about this I was reminded of Coase’s Penguin – Benckler’s paper on the application of lessons from the Open Source software movement to a generalised model of the Peer Production of knowledge. The two key principles Benckler identifies are the appropriation model (i.e. how do participants extract economic value from their work) and related issue of how the rights to the products of production are assigned.

Benckler identifies that peer production models are best suited to environments where the contributors are moving towards an indirect appropriation model – e.g. an increase in reputation from contributing to a body of knowledge, that reputation leading to increased opportunities for making money e.g. from consultancy etc. If the system is designed around this model then the intellectual property rules within the system have to prevent the situation where a sub-set of members claim ownership of the direct output, thus killing the production process.

So before we can answer Spike’s first question I think we have to ask about the motivating factors of our expected participants.

When we move on to consider recognition, signalling and evaluation I think it would be fruitful to look at other community moderation schemes – for example
Kuro5hin and Slashdot. Tom Coates has written a couple of recent articles on moderation and has just set up a site specifically “designed to find creative ways to manage online communities and user-generated content” so I think a little mining of his ideas might be fruitful too…

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