Web 2.0, the possum, the public and the private


One of the drivers of our modern world is the way in which public and private interest are being reconfigured.  In many ways it’s analogous to the rise of science.

As Paul David’s history of the emergence of open science argues, the precondition for ‘take-off’ in modern science was the culture of peer review within a community of openness. David asks where such a culture might have come from given the ancestry of science in the secretive cultures of alchemy and military engineering. He argues that science emerged from the conjunction of various princes seeking to aggrandise their court by attracting to it ‘stars’ of natural philosophy and the arts. Subsequently, the public good of the culture of openness arose not from anyone’s altruism or far-sightedness, but the self interest of the actors. It arose in the first instance from emerging stars need to advertise their achievements to distant princes in the hope of patronage. And the culture of peer review emerged from the need princes had to ensure that those they hired were truly the most worthy and not cranks whose presence might reflect more embarrassment on their patrons than glory.

Likewise the culture of open source emerged partly from the political activism of people like Richard Stallman, but also from the self interest of hackers, and today is driven by the self interest of large corporations that have their own problems to solve (a patch, a feature they need in some open source program) which it then becomes worth their while to donate back to the project (so as to obviate the need for them to reinstall it into the next distribution of the software.

A lot of blogging is also motivated privately. Bloggers want to express themselves.  Why should they do it? Well why do we talk to each other? Some of it is practical, but a lot of it is because we like to. But blogging takes a lot of time. And regarding Government 2.0, why should someone like Craig Thomler provide us with all the value he does on his blog – in his own time. Well he likes to do it. But as I’ve been arguing for a while now, we’re over the hump when such things were a millstone around the neck of a public servant. (Well we’re not in all cases, but I’m thinking – well hoping – that for Craig this is true.)

So what happens if you’re a good blogger is that benefits come – all sorts of benefits – serendipitously. You were expressing your own private interest in blogging for one reason, but if you do a good job, the chances are that other benefits will come along. Most particularly other people can see how good you are.

And today I got a nice factoid to illustrate my point.

Just yesterday, Scott Steel AKA Possum Comitatus told us in painful and plaintive terms Possum needs a job!

The time required to run this blog, . . .  is something that most of you folks thankfully never really get to see  – sausage making is never a pretty business!

However, as a result of trying to keep very high quality control standards here (hopefully with more success than not) and always trying to use the data rather than the navel gaze as the analytical weapon of choice, that massive amount of background work is simply unavoidable . . .

I tried to make Pollytics one of the most robust and empirically solid parts of the Australian media . . .

So I had to make a choice about Pollytics. Either keep it as it is at the moment – with 5 to 7 posts on average a week, often  more – and continue having to reorganise my entire life around running the blog, including doing, literally, a dozen different things just to make it possible.

Or I can have a little personal restructure :-P . . .


For Sale: One economist possum, slightly used, occasionally abused, good with numbers and other stuff. Intermittently snarky but always well humoured :-D

I need a job. Just one.

One single job.

I’ve just asked Possum how he went hanging out his shingle.  How many job offers, or interest in job offers has he received (other than mine!) in around 24 hours? The answer in two tweets back to me is below the fold.

@NicholasGruen Don’t laugh here – 93 and counting

@NicholasGruen Just looking through them, there’s been 42 asking for my CV, 31 asking for a chat about a position and 20 firm offers.

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Craig Thomler
13 years ago

hmm – maybe I should hang out a shingle as well :)



13 years ago

Resumes are getting more demanding these days by all accounts.