Peer Production and Spontaneous Order at Catallarchy

by on February 20, 2007 · 24 comments

Cool! I just stumbled across this 4-year-old post at Catallarchy making a point that I’ve mentioned a few times in the past: peer production isn’t an assault on the principles of a free society, but an extension of those principles to aspects of human life that don’t directly involve money. Jonathan Wilde offers the blogosphere (and specifically, technorati) as an example of the same phenomenon:

One of the things that undoubtedly adds to Technorati’s success is that Sifry knows blogging. He runs a blog himself. He has likely had to spend a late night tinkering with Movable Type. At one time or another, he probably has wanted to know who is reading his blog, or has wanted a way to search other blogs. He has, in the words of Friedrich A. Hayek, “the knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and place”.

What inventions like Technorati do is give structure to the blogosphere. And Technorati is not the only tool that does this. The Truth Laid Bear Blog Ecosystem acts as a filtering mechanism to display the blogs that are most frequently linked by other blogs. Blogrolling can create a useful, easily manipulated directory of blogs to visit regularly. The Trackback feature in Movable Type and Typepad has made it easier to see which other bloggers are commenting on your posts on their own blogs. The comments feature allows interactive discussion to take place without interfering with the media look of a blog. Archiving by category, date, and author allows readers easy ways of browsing the past material. RSS feeds allow delivery of blog content to newsreaders so that readers can organize their favorite blogs in a single window.

Each of these implementations were created by different individuals, such as Sifry, pursuing their own ends. There was no central authority barking out orders or making grand designs. The inception of a solid anatomy to the blogosphere was an entirely peripheral phenomenon.

This is an excellent point, and one that Jim Harper and I are hoping to expand upon in the near future: a lot of the intellectual tools that libertarians use to analyze markets apply equally well to other, non-monetary forms of decentralized coordination. It’s a shame that some libertarians see open source software, Wikipedia, and other peer-produced wealth as a threat to the free market rather than a natural complement.

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