ThoughtStorms Wiki

A counter to TheAgeOfAmateurs

Contra to /MarketDiscipline, maybe the problem with amateur communities is that there is no other force holding them together. The moment they hit some problems, they dissolve.

In contrast, companies and institutions which are trying to preserve their own integrity, have some inertia or resistance which holds them together through the bad patches. And this gives them a valuable robustness. Maybe they form a virtuous kind of SlowNetwork.

Two objections:

  • Amateurs build StrongTies through togetherness in a project close to their heart. Wikipedia has been through many problems and has not dissolved.
  • Companies are not all so resilient. Many startups dissolve rather quickly.

Although your objections are occasionally relevant, I think there is something in the original suggestion.

However, I'm not sure that this is just about being a company. I think this is more to do with:

  • size leading to 'self-healing' properties
  • how much it matters if the thing stops - and to whom.

Other organisations that have both the size and import to keep going are churches and governments. I believe a whole bunch of seniour Eurpean Commission officials have recently uprooted to better pastures elsewhere ... but the EC will continue because a) it kind of HAS to and b) it's large enough to heal the 'wounds' of such a beheading.

So, maybe the problem for amateur groups is that they are typically small where the on-going existence of the group only matters to those directly involved. In this scenario the group is very vulnerable to the situation when a handful of the key people decide that they are not interested any more. There simply is no-one who cares enough (or is able to) pick up the pieces.


I love that notion of SelfHealingProperties. (Gonna steal it for a page.)

And I agree that amateur groups tend to be small. But surely most companies are small. And these are held together by something else.

You make me realize things are a lot more complex than the simplifications on TheAgeOfAmateurs and this page.

All groups must put some energy into preserving their integrity. All productive groups must be AutopoeieticSystems. So the only difference between working amateur groups and companies and other legally backed institutions is the degree and the flexibility of applying energy to preserving their own boundaries.

I'm sure size helps a lot. And I suppose big amateur groups can hold together through inertia.

I'm also sure demands from users help a lot. But I also suppose that there are different ways users can express their demands.

  • in a FreeSoftware project, users only express their demands by filing bug reports and asking for features. (Assuming by definition, users are people outside the amateur group)
  • in a proprietory software company, users express their demand by buying. Money provides a second kind of force for cohesion, as it lets the company trade for employees time and attention. (This force may not be as strong as other motivations, but all other things being equal it is supplimentary.)
  • a government institution has the power to coerce payment for it's services. Which clearly gives it some power to preserve it's own integrity. But is responsible to it's electorate, who can, however indirectly, explicitly break it up.

Of course, that's just the broadest classification. To understand anything I suppose you'd need to zoom into specific BusinessModels, VotingModels etc before you could try to understand the forces protecting the integrity of the group or institution.


Contrast AlternativesToCompanies

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