Monday, December 29, 2008

Freeloading on the Network

@microstock image

Wikipedia is doing their annual beg for cash. Their goal is to raise a modest $6M for operating expenses.

The thing that stands out in my mind about the plea is that the organization employs only 23 people. This highly centralized group that dominates the information distribution sector provides only 23 jobs.

This news actually breaks my heart as I would love to live in a world with millions of people employed in research. The Wikipedia model, with one nonprofit group, fueled by volunteers, dominating the information creation and distribution system wipes out the dream of a large number of independent agents gathering and distributing information.

Of course, a large number of the "volunteers" are people working with government agencies, marketing firms or investor groups seeking to influence public opinion through social media. I suspect that there is a large number of the volunteers getting paid for their service. They just aren't paid on the front end.

Judd Bagley's antisocial media project shows how hedge funds use wikipedia and other forms of social media in short attacks.

There are good things that come from social media. Like all things created by man, the social media fad has both good and bad characteristics. At its worst social media turns into a form of cyber mob rule in which groups try to manipulate themselves into ideological domination.

There is also a nagging voice in my brain that rejects the domination/submissive model pushed by the modern dialectical way of thinking. Even though many people participate in wikis, the model falls far short of the depth of real quality research. The homogenized content produced through the editing process falls far short of the depth I like to see. Group editing also mutes the multiplicity of perspectives that comes from traditional research.

I prefer a vibrant market with thousands of voices being heard to a centralized voice created by a group think mechanism. I would rather see small sites where people get paid for the content they produce. I donated to Wikipedia before it was cool. Today, I would rather just pay for Britannica where people are employed to do the research.

The Progressive View of the Market

Progressives are an odd lot. They openly discourage people from paying for individually produced content such as research, music, art, etc.. Progressives also seem to have a fascination with market manipulation. As mentioned in my last post.

I think this is the legacy of Marxist thinking. Marx did not define Communism, what he did was to create a destructive view of the market called "material dialectics." This view encourages people to actively work to undermine the public market, on which the middle class built its fortune. The dialectics then provides formulas for manipulating the market from a meta-level.

Not surprisingly, the names of famous progressives tend to pop up in discussions of market manipulations. In the current market crash, we keep hearing names like Sandler, Madoff, and Soros. In previous generations, we find that Joseph Kennedy made a fortune that was enhanced by insider trading schemes. Many of which became illegal when his son rose to power.

Conservatives are doltish lot who try to concentrate on an ideology where free people use the market to help achieve their life ambitions. Progressives (like George Soros) tend to reject the foundations of an open society and produce a cast of characters with billionaires manipulating the market from above and a legion of rogues from below who try to undermine the market by disengaging from the market.

The problem is that this iron fist/iron glove methodology that leads to wide disparities in society. I stopped being a progressive because I found that so much of what I was doing actually undermined my intentions.

The music piracy craze at the turn of the millennia wiped out a large number of small music promoters who were investing in music distribution schemes, and left us with only the conglomerates that had the funds to create music distribution channels with DRM programmed into the music.

I just completed a review for a new fad called Couch Surfing.

I really like the basic idea of couch surfing. Travelers create an international social network. This network allows you to meet people when you go trekking abroad. It is a beautiful idea. I love the idea of meeting people from distant lands. It is terribly difficult to meet people when traveling.

When I first logged into Couch Surfing, my mind jumped ahead of itself with the realization that a for-profit site social network that introduced travelers and locals could be worked out in a way that it provided local tour guides with an extra source of income.

My ideal of social networking is that social networking should be beneficial for all parties engaged in the process. Social networking will fall apart if it simply devolves into a system of freeloading.

Unfortunately, the CouchSurfing effort is dominated by the progressive anti-market message. The site is set up primarily to discourage people from staying at the small hotels and bed and breakfast inns that I adore. The owners of the site self-righteously rub in their nonprofit status as they brag about how they've diverted millions of visitors from marginal hostels and small hotels. Thousands of low income hospitality workers owe their pink slip and fall from the lowest rung of society to the sneering founder of Couch Surfing. The world is worse for each small hospitality business that fails, and for each hotel worker who receives a pink slip because of these bozos.

Anyone who fills out a form and pays the filing fee can be a non-profit. Although a large number of worthy organizations have 401c status, there is nothing about 401c status that makes a group morally superior to those filing as a corporation.

Of course, now that the Progressives have a successfully engineered a super majority in Washington, we might see a muting of the anti market message of the left. Most progressives simply want power, and only use the methodology when they are on the out. Few progressive leaders want to see the massive unemployment and starvation that their dialectics creates. As such they tone down the anti-market message when they are in power.

I am hoping that, after the transition to power, progressives will tone down their infatuation with social movements that leave millions unemployed and helpless.

Anyway, my favorite travelers are those who work hard, save their pennies and spend liberally when they travel. The money people spend on hotels, restaurants, museums and exhibits when traveling help make the world a better place one commercial transaction at a time.

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