I cannot explain a strange ennui that I’ve felt the last few days which has kept me off the air. Perhaps it’s the reaction of an ex-warrior to the sight of yet another generation embracing war as the answer to an existence not quite “meaningful” enough? …driven yet again by transient office-holders whose exquisite mix of idealism and cynicism and ego celebrates the triumph of brilliant execution performed in a vacuum of wisdom.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not categorically against this “war,” which is at once a geopolitical necessity in the historical sense but also a violation of the most important new way of thinking about power since the Magna Carta—our new collective sense that violence in any form is an affront to our humanity. It’s a failure of our country’s management to let go of its legacy systems.
Not Getting Through
My ennui may have been at work Friday. Just as I don’t discuss science with creationists, I don’t discuss the Xpertweb design with people who don’t “get” the Internet or who believe that its purpose is to enable B2C commerce. As a result, I live in an artificial state of grace of enthusiastic support. But yesterday I couldn’t articulate the protocol’s plumbing and its larger promise to a guy who totally gets the Internet and believes it’s destined to connect individuals in unprecedented, useful ways. His commitment to the assumptions behind Xpertweb may precede and exceed mine, but he seems so sated with the failure of people to embrace small procedural changes that he can’t imagine a subculture of process-driven zealots embracing the ritual of an alternate economy, filling in forms to hire a plumber. That view seems to me to ignore our willingness to use a form to buy a $6.95 paperback. Certainly he can’t imagine the protocol growing beyond the early adopters and scaling through the use of their servers. Mitch says it’s exactly the position he took before he dug beneath the surface.
It’s simply a difference in points of view, but my failure to reach him somehow felt like part of my larger reluctance to engage since Wednesday. Maybe I’m naive to conduct this design study or maybe he knows too much to accept its idiosyncratic premise. We’ll see.
Fraternité, Égalité, Trivialité
We can assume that a smooth running Peer Economy won’t pump as much adrenalin as managerial capitalism. Prosperity can be pretty boring and a smoothly running peer-based economy won’t sound jazzy compared to the corporate vocabulary of conquering markets, killing the competition and clawing up the corporate ladder by launching killer products through triumphant vendor shoot-outs and fly-offs. Much of this silliness may attract thrill-seekers to combative businesses.
We all strive to be of consequence and so we chafe at the restraints of the pecking order. Young men are particularly wired to challenge order and that urge is unlikely to disappear in the presence of P2P prosperity as dramatically different as is ours from our (anybody’s!) ancestors. The need to distinguish ourselves is at the root of ambition, whether athletic, academic, entrepreneurial or political.
So where’s the thrill in Xpertweb? If there is one, it would be in participating in a new wave economic system with data structures designed to focus company-founder levels of reward on its early and almost-early adopters. Perhaps a lot of restlessness is driven by economic dissatisfaction and the young and the restless will happily trade the adrenalin for the quiet abundance of any peer economy, whether Xpertweb or another.
Or perhaps we are once again at the dawn of a fundamental shift in the type of person who thrives in the new structure. The world was once dominated by violent warrior kings, ruling by what John Perry Barlow described as “the divine right of thugs.” The people who prevail now couldn’t wield a battleaxe to save their family jewels, but they’re better than others at organizing capital. Just as they replaced the brutes before them, a new personality type may rise to the top in a Peer Economy, though it’s hard to know what type that may be.
Might it be people a lot like you?
The Obvious Economy
My skeptical expert is convinced that people won’t extend themselves to fill out a form, even if the result might be a dramatic transformation of their lives.
One of the keystones of my Obvious Culture notion is that it will include an obvious economy. The tools of obviousness are also the means to help a community to form around a successful protocol. Each Xpertweb site will point at many others and each will publish its data in well-documented, highly discoverable ways. But that’s just the beginning of the fun. Of course we’ll deliver tools to tabulate seller ratings and customer generosity and all the Xpertweb plumbers in your zip code who are available right now. Like having your own specialized OMB, you’ll be able to list the success rates of all mentors and their protegés, by region, specialty, last name or any other way you want to view them.
But it can get better. If you’ve never visited Kartoo, go there now to see how a search engine can disclose web connections graphically as you’ve never imagined. Who knows how current or accurate it is, but Kartoo’s mix of various sized 3D URL orbs and their explicit links makes their data obvious. We’ll provide a similar tool to depict the growth of the Xpertweb community.
So, using Xpertweb forms, you’ll be able to see where you stand relative to others, how various sellers and their mentors are doing, where the money is moving around the community and in what volumes. This might be a microeconomy, but it’ll be the best documented economy in history. Xpertweb provides a strong incentive to its users to train others who then train even more others. The payment rituals encouraged by Xpertweb roll a lot of little bits of cash into the accounts of the early and almost-early adopters. If Xpertweb users conform to the forms generated by their own web servers, they’ll transform the lives of a lot of people who serve others well and teach others that
As we begin to observe, in real time, the work and money moving among Xpertweb users, sometimes in great amounts, even the skeptical will have a choice to make: Can you stand to have that much money moving past you without moving through you?