The collaborative economy involves using internet technologies to connect distributed groups of people make better use of goods, skills and other useful things. It is going through a period of growth and experimentation and in order to gauge where the collaborative economy is headed, we need to start by getting a better grasp of its current state. The report identifies five defining traits, some or all of which can be found in the collaborative economy ventures studied. Four pillars of activity, collaborative consumption, production, learning and finance are also identified.
People engage in joint activity for many reasons: because of necessity (neither party, alone, has the required skills or resources), enrichment (while each party could accomplish the task, they believe that adding complementary points of view will create a richer product), coercion (the boss assigns a group to carry out an assignment), efficiency (the parties working together can do the job faster or with fewer resources), resilience (the different perspectives and knowledge broaden the exploration of possibilities and cross check to detect and recover from errors) or even collegiality (the team members enjoy working together).
We propose that joint activity requires a “Basic Compact” that constitutes a level of commitment for all parties to support the process of coordination. The Basic Compact is an agreement (usually tacit) to participate in the joint activity and to carry out the required coordination responsibilities. Members of a relay team enter into a Basic Compact by virtue of their being on the team; people who are angrily arguing with each other are committed to a Basic Compact as long as they want the argument to continue.
One aspect of the Basic Compact is the commitment to some degree of goal alignment—typically this entails one or more participants relaxing some shorter-term local goals in order to permit more global and long-term goals to be addressed. These longer-term goals might be shared goals (e.g., a relay team) or individual goals (e.g., drivers wanting to ensure safe journeys). A second aspect of the Basic Compact is a commitment to try to detect and correct any loss of common ground that might disrupt the joint activity.
We do not view the Basic Compact as a once-and-for-all prerequisite to be satisfied, but rather as a continuously reinforced or renewed agreement. Part of achieving coordination is investing in those things that promote the compact as well as being sensitive to and counteracting those factors that could degrade it.
Any type of change is hard, but institutional change – with the need to overcome tradition and bureaucracy – is the most difficult. With the rate of change continuing to accelerate, the key skill set for any leader is the ability to recognize disruption, gather the data to act on it, and then effectively push for change. In the mid-1800’s, over the course of 15 years, a disabled Lieutenant changed the US Navy and the world. He did it by finding space to maneuver (as a trouble maker exiled to the Navy Depot), demonstrating value with his early publications, and creating a massive network effect by establishing the Naval Observatory as the clearing house for Navigational data. 150 years before Web 2.0, he built a valuable service around common APIs and aggregated data by distributing it freely to the people who needed it.
Broderick sees online participation split into two very different worlds. “There is a social realm where things are rationally sorted and then there’s the anonymous place that brings out a person’s base instincts. It can become a frothing, bubbling cauldron of insanity,” he said. “Yet, you need that animalistic part of yourself. I think of it almost like your sex drive.”
So with so much potential for offensive behavior, why allow commenting in the first place?
Both Isaf and Broderick believe that open and anonymous commenting is quite powerful when it works. Sometimes, even great ideas are born among the shouters. “We’ve seen comments where people spend a couple of hours researching and writing. I’ve watched a discussion on abortion that had 50 people taking part with 200 comments without a single attack,” Isaf said.