January 5, 2007 · Lessig
So I’m looking for some examples of sites or companies that fit this particular way of carving up the world. This matrix builds upon stuff I’ve been talking about. But to be clear, let me begin by defining the categories:
RO v. RW environments
This is a distinction between the primary use intended for creative work that the site makes available. It answers the question: “What can you do with the content on this site?”
RO means the primary use intended is “read only” — the content is offered for the purpose of consumption; there’s no invitation to add content back, or to modify the content offered.
RW means the primary use intended is “read/write” — the content is offered in a way that invites others to add or modify the content that is offered. RW sites can be more or less RW: some invite contributions to the site without permitting modification of content offered.
Commercial v. Sharing environments
This is distinction between the objectives of the site. It is a fuzzy distinction, but the core difference is this:
Commercial sites aim primarily to make money. They are usually run by commercial enterprises, and they measure their success in financial terms.
Sharing sites are not aimed primarily at making money. It’s not that creators and users of these sites are communists. It’s just that creators and users of these sites do things other than (try to) make money at least part of the day. Think of the Wall Street mogul who teaches Sunday School (and there are these).
Maybe the best way to feel the distinction between a sharing and commercial site is to imagine the role of money in each: There’s nothing weird about the owner of a commercial site offering her employees more money in exchange for more work. There would be something very weird in our Wall Street mogul trying to opt out of Sunday School one week by offering each of the kids $50. Money is normal in one context; it is out of place in the other.
It’s fairly easy to build a list of examples of each of these four categories. I’ve done that here.
But what I’m particularly interested in is the combination of these two distinctions — the matrix above. I’d be grateful for more examples to fit within each of these four boxes. I’ve built a stub for that list here.
Now obviously, this is social space, not logical space, so the matrix does not describe everything. And indeed, the most interesting category I’m keen to explore are hybrids between commercial and sharing sites — plainly commercial organizations that try to exploit (in the best sense of that term) a sharing economy. The key to success with the hybrid is to exploit without poisoning the sharing community. Linux is the most familiar example of this: Sharing economy motives push many, perhaps most, to contribute; but plainly commercial entities (RedHat, IBM) are trying to exploit that sharing economy.
I’ve got a stub to collect examples of hybrids here, with a bit more explanation about what they are.
Importantly: My aim here is descriptive, not normative. It is to see a wide range of examples to begin puzzling through what makes the most successful within each work. For these purposes, the only evil is force or fraud, and none of the four kinds I’ve mapped need rely upon either. So please direct the flame wars about good and bad elsewhere.