What can WE do, 8 : The Fifth Network Effect: The Law of P2P Cooperation and scaling up

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A spectacular Flock of Sparrows twirling in the air : strong together !

Nothing is as practical as a good theory (or recipe that works)!!!

1. You may know the FOUR network effects (the Laws of: Sarnoff, Metcalfe, Reed and Van Till), see: https://theconnectivist.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/np9-engines-for-the-new-power-the-four-network-effects/

But there is a Fifth Network Effect, which is the secret formula behind the success of many recent internet giants that dominate our society. Billions of smartphone owners use their networked services (aka Unicorns) many times a day:  Google Search, Facebook, Amazon, Alibaba, Baidu, TenCents, Twitter, Instagram, eBay (NL: Marktplaats), YouTube, Instagram, WikiPedia, iTunes, WordFeud, Gmail, WhatsApp, etc. And that is while other promising apps like FireChat and Skype failed to catch on.

voor blog 8

This is what happens every minute on Internet IN USA

The EU, fearing that we fall further behind China and the USA, in new technology, is working on a plan to boost with 100 billion dollars similar high tech European companies with the so called “European Future Fund” [1]. It is lesser known by politicians that Spotify, Wi-Fi and Bleutooth are European inventions which where unrecognised in Brussels. We have such exponential growing ventures right now and right here and yes they do exhibit the “Butterfly effect”, from day one !  Problem is that bankers and politicians only recognize them when they are BIG. As part of that “Fund” (I guess) Herr Altmaier, the German minister for the economy,  proposed last week to copy some of the Unicorn success services on a German/ European network of Super Cloud computers (server farms): project Gaia-X.  I am not sure though if copying successful services works. The fast and flexible services learn so much from DOING what they do,  that as soon you have a copy working they are miles ahead again. Successful Internet projects are not a product but a process of improvements. Better start something totally new, but for that you need vision and imagination and daring to walk into uncertainty (hated by bankers and politicians).

2. So, what made and make the huge networked services grow so fast and scale up into billions of users? What is their Secret Formula?  Well eighteen years ago I did read in a fascinating book about ICT  breakthroughs [2] the following  few lines by Dan Bricklin:

….. in contrast to the well known “Tragedy of the Commons” (shared but limited grazing grounds or orchards  in villages) ……… “In the case of certain ingeniously planned services, we find a contrasting cornucopia of the commons: (dropdead simple) use brings overflowing abundance. Peer-to-peer architectures and technologies may have their benefits, but I think the historical lesson is clear: concentrate on what you can get from users, and apply whatever protocol can maximize their voluntary contributions. That seems to be where the greatest promise lies for the new kinds of collaborative environments”

Or to rephrase this in a way more understandable,  even for EU civil servants:

The Fifth Network Effect is Bricklin’s Law: If you want to construct a development team, a cooperative, a tribe, a P2P Commons, an Internet online information/energy ecosystem, a smart city, a smart grid; and want it to grow and scale up, you should make sure: (I ) the volunteering users contribute together more value into it than they take out by selfish use. 

Schermafbeelding 2019-09-01 om 16.05.22

And let me add something essential to that, to make sure there are incentives for all participants to drive an upwards spiral:

(II) Make sure that the (long time) general interest of the construction/service is perceived as in line with/ driving the (short term) self interests of the individual volunteer participant. Which in turn boosts the shared general interest, etc into a bottom-up driven”virtuous circle” where value is created by Synergy [3]

Schermafbeelding 2019-09-01 om 16.31.53

I and II together results in unstoppable exponential growth (repeated and constant doubling time) because the users show it to their friends and they ‘infect’ each other, etc.

And by volunteering, they do not need to ask permission 🙂 Real innovation is always disobedient. Young people and madmen like me dare to do that.

If you observe this I & II rapid growth “connectivity phenomenon”, you will see the forces of LIFE in action!!! And it will enlighten your spiritual energy.

3. Does this “put more value in than is taken out” sounds too obvious? An open door you can drive a lorry through? No it is not always money or stuff. It can be roads, fiber optic links, services, data, connectivity, servers, clouds, information, knowledge, wisdom or…. private networks, like in the case of Internet (see the definition of what Internet is, elsewhere on this blog).  And sometimes the two streams are not obvious to all users. Example: the BitTorrent P2P clever parallel file sharing system on Internet with asymmetric network access speeds, invented as a datacom protocol by Bram Cohen in 2001. The users think that they can download music files from other users for free, but do not realise that by doing so, they offer their computer with these files to the user community.

4. The difference between A: The neoliberal hierarchical capitalism mindset and B: the P2P collective intelligent commons mindset.

To put this blog in the perspective of Time, I would like to explain that it tries to answer the request of George Monbiot in his TED talk (see link to that in https://theconnectivist.wordpress.com/2019/08/09/new-blog-series-what-can-we-do-1-and-2/ ) for a new “story” after the economic and social Crash of 2008. The concensus of NeoLiberal capitalism with its mantra of Market competition for everything to be able to extract value for a few at the expense of the middle and lower classes has broken down and is not working anymore. The market does not work for Healthcare, the legal system, Science, education, the military and the shared investment in infrastructures (including the digital infrastructures). These tasks should be done in the shared general interests by the State. We need a new “story” and new concensus about how to create value. We are in a transition towards a new phase as was done after the crash in 1930’s. Do I advocate that the pendulum of society policy should swing back from market to state ? No, absolutely not. As stated certain functions should be run by the State and other functions by Business Enterprises, when they involve taking risks with new innovations that improve price/performance and reaping for self interest the benefits if they succeed. It is however becoming apparent that there is a third cluster of functions that are done by (groups of) volunteers and done in the non-hierarchical organisational form of a “P2P Commons“. They are able as I have described above to connect and combine unique contributions from participants, and from those combinations appear Synergy and thus CREATE VALUE in society and as part of nature. This is however only possible when connectivity is available, the participants are able to learn from each other and under strict rules and boundaries and only for certain sharable goods and services. Do not share Ground please. The P2PFoundation has a large body of knowledge and cases available to further inform you.

Do I recommend a Commons for every type of activity in groups? No. Everything in society has a proper place in the “Trias Telematica” https://theconnectivist.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/commons-a-frame-for-thinking-beyond-growth-p2p-foundation/ of Business, State and Commons. And none of these three functions should be misunderstood and try to expand outside its own proper boundaries. Like recently a group of near monopoly business leaders stating that they would no longer would have shareholder value as #1 priority. In other words: they should be trusted with functions of the State? I do not think so as long as they are not asked to justify themselves to the Demos in elections, etc.

5. Message to the dolphins: Beware of sharks.

In the described Commons when properly done according to Bricklin’s Law the volunteers can achieve together a wonderful flourishing of cooperation and value creation together. Like a school of Dolphins swimming, eating and playing together, each appreciated and getting the benefits of the shared efforts according to the value of their own contributions, plus part of the synergy.  But beware, nearly always such success attracts SHARKS. They will disguise themselves as volunteers but stap by step will try to take over control and ownership of the Commons, transforming it into a business enterprise. Is that malice? No it is just the only way they can think, in terms of money and in extraction. They do it very subtle. It begins by offering to organise the client database, do the administration and then offer cash when extra investments are needed, for some of the shares, sure. And sometimes these sharks succeed, like in the case of Facebook. Zuckerman took over and did get all the volunteers and co-owners out. He is now very very rich and we the dolphins still do nearly all the work for him.  This is not a normal path for Commons. There are many cases where the sharks where kept out. Like in the Internet Society (ISOC, group of engineers) and The Internet (see the not well known definition of Internet  ) it-self still growing long distance, expanding on many continents and now also in-house and in-office (IoT).

The nation states should also abstain from trying to get Commons (groups of volunteers) which is the core of the Civil Society under their control, in their zeal to “Regulate” it. This is not only because a Commons can be trans-national across borders, but also since such commons can not function when they are part of a particular government interest. Example: The Red Cross or “Medicins sans Frontieres”.

Example from Hong Kong of massive and sudden volunteer actions, where the “5th law” did work:

Dunkirk evacuation staged in #HongKong. All the brake lights are the volunteer drivers who helped rescuing thousands of protesters to safe places. Those protesters were trapped in Tung Chung due to the shutdown of the metro system and surrounded by riot police.Screen Shot 2019-09-02 at 09.26.37

I wish you a lot of success in one or more of the Commons that have applied Bricklin’s Law. And I hope that this blog is a start for the “new political story” that is urgently needed, as George Monbiot said. We can demonstrate against failing central governments but in order to succeed we should re-start (local) democracies and then scale up.

jaap van till, TheConnectivist


[1] https://www.politico.com/story/2019/08/22/europe-plan-trump-tech-companies-1472326

[2] Dan Bricklin, (Cocreator of Visicalc), “The Cornucopia of the Commons”, Chapter four, pp.59-63; “PEER-TO-PEER – harnessing the power of Disruptive Technologies” ; Ed. Andy Oram; O’Reilly & Associates, 2001

[3] Peter Corning, “Synergistic Selection – How Cooperation has shaped Evolution and the Rise of Humankind” , World Scientific Publishing, 2018

About broodjejaap

See ABOUT on TheConnectivist.wordpress.com
This entry was posted in Bottom-up, Bricklin's Law, butterfly efffect, disobedience, Exponential growth, Life Energy, Life on Earth, Network Effect, Network Effects, permission, scaling up, secret formula, Uncategorized, Unicorns, Vital for Life, volunteers and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to What can WE do, 8 : The Fifth Network Effect: The Law of P2P Cooperation and scaling up

  1. Excellent insight. That is too a principle of all living networks each organism, indeed cell, gives more usefulness than they get out. I saw this happening with eco community projects. Those who turned up with the attitide “how can I be helpful” tended to enjoy the experience and rhings happened. The “what is in it for me” people tended not to have fun or get things done.

    • broodjejaap says:

      Yes, thank you. Extraction oriented people (their OWN business model) do not like this at all. But please understand that cooperatives are not only for empathic, help orientated softies. Synergy is as hard as diamond, but it only appears when you connect and combine your contributions. It is only for those with unique skills and who like to learn together in teams.

    • broodjejaap says:

      Thank you Stephen for contributing your observation. I have added a sentence about “LIFE” (living networks) in my blog.

      • A fun fact …The TV show NEW AMSTERDAM features Dr. Max Goodwin brilliant, charming new medical director at America’s oldest public hospital. He’s set on tearing down the bureaucracy to provide exceptional care, goes around saying “How can I help?”

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