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Sabbatical, Day 54: Clay Shirky, Chapters 9-10

Fourth instalment from Shirky below.

Chapter 9 The Small World principle: when two strangers meet and find they know someone in common, it’s because within each different circle there is a small number of people who are highly connected. These people are the ones who are known by the two strangers. Social networking sites work on this principle: the sharing of a common interest (amplification) on the one hand and those who don’t share the interest (filtering) on the other. Today, software such as IRC, wikis or web forums can provide bridging capital and bonding capital more easily and cheaply than institutional methods.

Which is good reason for moving from institutional approaches to the new social tools.

Chapter 10 How do we tolerate failure and use it creatively? The open source movement isn’t necessarily more successful than the commercial realm, it just has a better way of tolerating failure. Not owning the source code means lower overheads. The ‘long tail’ of the ‘power law distribution’ also means that the single contribution made by the thousands are as valuable as the many contributions made by hundreds of programmers. 

Activists in the church often complain about those who seem to do little. Does the ‘long tail’ validly challenge this attitude or not?