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[ox-en] Commons and Long Tail = Sustainable Combination

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A quick note to share the latest thinking on "sustainable commons" which I
need to mention so as not to be dogmatic about it :-)

In any "sharing" system, if the amount of demand exceeds supply, i.e. if
there are more leechers than seeders or if certain leechers hog resources,
the system will eventually run aground.

That is why BitTorrent sharing sites enforce what is called a "sharing
ratio" so that people seed content as much as they leech content off others.
A ratio of 1 is good but a ratio of 1.5 (more giving than taking) is even
better. However, these systems come with punishment threats, so if a user
doesn't uphold the share ratio they get "kicked out" of the community. Not a
good way to run an economy. The share ratio here is besides the share ratio
forced by BitTorrent itself. It relates to sustaining the content rather
than the bandwidth, which is dealt with directly by forced sharing in
BitTorrent itself. When it comes to sharing content, however, BitTorrent
cannot force it so the community admins end up having to force it
algorithmically (if they run their own tracker, which most do) by monitoring
the size in Gb of content being seeded and leeched by each user and setting
a "kick out" threshold of 1.00, below which the user's account automatically
gets disabled or the user gets a warning etc. This is governance by threat
of punishment, which is not a good way to run anything.

When it comes to so-called free software, projects that have mass appeal
also have mass funding not only from the individual users but from
corporations who often employ the project leaders and let them dedicate a
large portion of their time to the project AND/OR provide direct financial
support to the project. This includes Firefox (backed heavily by Google in
several ways), GNU (backed by many big pocket donors... many highly paid
people at FSF) , Linux kernel and all massively adopted software.  This is
necessary because the demand on projects like Firefox, GNU and Linux kernel
exceeds the abilities of any user base to support with because when you have
millions or hundreds of millions of users and only a tiny fraction of them
contribute financially and you need a good deal of organization and a good
deal of funding to stay afloat as a project there is no way but to accept
donations and support from large corporations. So when Google funds Firefox
and major corporations fund GNU and Linux kernel with millions of dollars as
well as other incentives (like hiring the project leaders and letting them
work on those free projects) then how is that a generalized exchange? Google
got direct benefit from supporting Firefox by being the default search
engine and by having an alternative browser to compete against IE and by
giving them time to get their browser strategy together and learn in the
process. IBM reaps huge amount of benefit from basing so much of their
solutions on Linux (very few companies would opt to use IBM AIX *nix OS on a
commodity Intel platform) so the corporations are basically supporting these
projects for direct reciprocal benefit to themselves. If those donors were
to stop funding those free large-scale projects the projects would collapse
under the demands of a huge user base in the hundreds of millions. Same
thing with Wikipedia, huge amount of Wikipedia funding comes from IBM and
other big corporations, and the $6M they raise from the users is a drop in
the bucket compared to the infrastructure they get for free from big
corporate donors like IBM.

So the key question I have is can the commons model be sustainable when you
have major corporations funding the projects, without which the projects
would collapse? As far as what's been reported, only a tiny percentage of
Wikipedia users, or users of free software in general, donate and the bulk
of assistance comes from the major corporations. What if IBM goes bankrupt?
What if Google disappears? Who will replace their donations? The users
certainly won't suddenly start contributing 10X more than they do now. So
how can the commons in this case be sustainable?

The answer I'm leaning toward is that the commons have proven sustainable in
the context of the long tail model where there are a huge number of very
small/niche projects that have relatively small user bases. In this case,
the number of users per each such small project is sustainable by part-time

But once a project goes from 100 users to 10 million users there is no way
based on evidence from all such projects that mushroomed into popularity
that the user base will fund them sufficiently. There is always a need to
charge users, raise VC funds, or get major corporate donors.

So as far as placing the commons in the context of sustainability I see the
need to consider the size of the user base. For small user base, the commons
works. For very large user base, the commons becomes dependent on a few
major donors (corporations) and that is not exactly sustainable ...

Those are my views and will incorporate the above into the P2P Energy
Economy <> under evolving The Two
Biggest Dogmas<>section,
once I've had a chance to read/process all and any feedback.


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Contact: projekt

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