You might be asking, "what's new?". Surely institutions, ranging from commercial companies, to charities and NGOs, to governments themselves, have always suffered these inefficiencies. Nevertheless, they often proved to be the only organizations who could achieve the ends that they were dedicated to. Because surely :

  • Some people can be persuaded to do for money what they wouldn't do for love. Hence there are more resources available when money is available.

Well, what's new are the following :

  • The internet has enabled larger groups of amateurs to find each other, communicate, and co-ordinate more quickly, cheaply and continuously than ever before. You can draw on the whole connected world to find your interest group, not just your locality. So the chances of finding fellow travellers from the world's nearly a billion connected is higher than ever.
  • Once you've found your group, keeping them informed of latest developments, assigning tasks, receiving updated information, and generally managing co-ordination have far lower cost than previously.

True. However while amateur associations can successfully invade some areas that are currently occupied by companies and professional organisations - we're still a /long/ way from them wiping them out.

  • There are still many areas that are too specialised or dull to attract amateur interest.
  • The net is great at helping reduce previously insurmountable communication problems. It is now /possible/ to work with people remotely in ways that would have been unimaginable a few years ago. However it is still a long way from being as good as face-to-face communications. I still travel to meet clients face to face all of the time because it is a lot more efficient that remote methods.

Also - when does a band of amateurs stop being a group of amateurs and start being a company in all but name?

: A: when it a) has no legal status as a company, and b) when it's no longer designed to make a profit for shareholders.

So would a workers co-op be a company as far as you're concerned?

They can have legal status and can make profits for shareholders - it's just that there is a one-to-one relationship between employees and shareholders.

How about a company formed by a group that incorporates for a single job, then dissolves itself?

Just trying to find the boundaries :-)

As an aside the term "amateur" has the same problem as "free" (beer vs. freedom). You're talking about amateur in the "doesn't get paid, peruses it as a pastime" sense, where many read it in the "lacking professional skill or expertise" sense.

AdrianHoward

Yeah, looks like TomCoates has the same problem today (Sep 8th, 2003) : http://www.plasticbag.org/

In general I assume most readers are smart enough to get the sense I mean, and not be phased by this. This shouldn't be as problematic as FreeAsInSpeech vs FreeAsInBeer where Free is a term RichardStallman gave a new, specific meaning to.

PhilJones

Well since TomCoates has hit the problem and I've come across it several times (which is why I raised it) I think you probably will find several people get phased by it :-)

AdrianHoward

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