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Sat, 29 Mar 2003
Nexus, the ASF, and open source
In the last chapter of Nexus, Beyond Coincidence, Buchanan writes about the ability of clustered (small world) networks to foster social capital. His definition of social capital:

... the ability of a team to work as a team on its own, willingly, without participation being managed by legally binding rules and regulations, the need for which is already a signal of lacking efficiency. In the workplace, efficiency and the organization's ability to learn and adapt in the marketplace tend to suffer from a lack of social capital. The same lack can hamper efforts to improve community well-being, but if social capital can be intelligently fostered -- sometimes just by linking several people together into an artificial social cluster -- improvement can be striking.
There is a lot of bumping around within the ASF regarding the structure of the foundation and oversight of the various projects. It seems to me that social capital is what makes the various ASF projects successful. According to this description, the discussions we are having about structure and oversight are warning signs that we are losing efficiency. There's a tension here between the legal entity that is the ASF (a corporation, technically) and the network or community of people that is the ASF. The legal entity needs to demonstrate oversight in order to provide legal liability, but that very oversight reduces the social capital and thereby efficiency of the various projects or subprojects. There's a struggle here between organizational structures and network/community structures. As far as I'm aware (and I'm no expert) most organizational structures are a poor fit for network/community structures. The organizational (or perhaps more accurately, institutional) structures hamper the network structures. Network oriented structures seem to be most effective and productive, but in the business and legal worlds, people want to deal with institutions.
[14:40] | [computers/open_source/asf] | # | TB | F | G | 0 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post
Today I finished Mark Buchanan's Nexus. This is another book about network theory, and for much of the book, I found myself comparing it unfavorably to Albert-László Barabási's Linked. However, in Chapter 8, Buchanan describes the problem of airport congestion. The airline hub and spoke network is an example of a small-world network, that should display the winner take all property. The only problem is that's not how the network actually behaves. As certain nodes in the network attract more and more links, they become unable to handle them. The experimental results described in studying this problem show that in networks where it costs something to handle additional links, the network becomes more egalitarian (the number of links tends to be evenly distributed). One thing that this says to me, is that eventually, for some network services, the only way to handle the load is going to be via an egalitarian network. The technical success of the various P2P file sharing networks seems to be evidence of this observation.
[14:25] | [books] | # | TB | F | G | 0 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post

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I work at the Open Source Applications Foundation (OSAF).
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