Open Source, Grassroots Control, Building Communities of Trust

Across the CTCNet and AFCN member listservs today, Michael Miranda jumpstarted a couple of discussions. One was about how communities choose technology solutions to individual, organizational, and public spaces. In particular, the decision for the state of Illinois to implement SimDesk as an app serving the information needs for citizens. The other discussion focussed on Open Source and the GPL as a philosophical choice to maintain local control and to combat the potential for communities to be closed out.

The abstract below is from “Managing the Boundary of an ‘Open’ Project” look at how social cohesion occurs in an anarchic / decentralized system.

Theorists have speculated how open source software projects with porous boundaries and shifting and indeterminate membership develop code in an open and public environment. This research uses a multi-method approach to understand how one community managed open source software project, Debian, develops a membership process. We examine the project’s face-to-face social network during a five-year period (1997-2002)to see how changes in the social structure affect the evolution of membership mechanisms and the determination of gatekeepers. While the amount and importance of a contributor’s work increases the probability that a contributor will become a gatekeeper, those more central in the social network are more likely to become gatekeepers and thus influence the membership process. A greater understanding of the mechanisms open projects use to manage their boundaries has critical implications for knowledge producing communities operating in pluralistic, open and distributed environments. It also contributes to our theoretical understanding of how network structures help shape the construction of new social orders.

Thinking Chaordically: The future of Communities and Technology was the foundation of a closing plenary delivered by Andrew Cohill at a CTCNet Conference in San Diego in 1998 (??). Here is a brief excerpt:

Dee Hock, the former CEO or VISA, the multinational credit card company, coined the term chaordic alliance. A combination of the words chaos and order, Hock’s vision is to creat a new organization that is based not on traditional, hierarchical, topdown decision-making, but rather on shared purpose and consensus.

A chaordic alliance does not rely on heroic leadership to make decisions (and having the organization blindly follow), but rather the alliance does only those things that all the partners agree to in advance–that is, the organization initiates actions and activities only when all members of the alliance agree. This is a fundamentally different approach that discards the I win–you lose antagonism for a collaborative model based on I win–you win. Consensus is most likley to be reached when all parties find something of value in the outcome.

Other thinking from Cohill:
Communities, Technology and Governance: A Vision for the Future

Here is another interesting website in this realm:
The Art of Chaordic Leadership

Chaordic Commons