Memorable conversation is the foundation of civilization.
There’s a lot of tripe written and believed about blogs, but the plain truth is that they contain a huge body of thoughtful conversations, all of them memorized by the Googleplex and some memorable by any standard.
Any conversation conducted long enough leads to consensus; any consensus shared long enough, to action. (The IETF‘s early rallying cry: “We reject kings, presidents and voting. We believe in rough consensus and running code.”)
Warlords and monarchies and the Industrial Age adopted more focused conversational modes to foment action: commands, demands, exaggerated urgency and authority. These modes are so compelling that they supplant conversation and consensus as the required stimuli for action, substituting a superficial ritual of listening and acquiescence for the miracle of minds meeting.
(One of 3M’s many experts on meetings has seen the perfect business meeting: the Sioux council in Dances With Wolves: open discussion, deep thought, no conclusions jumped to before the data’s in).
With P2P global conversations re-emerging alongside broadcast and top-down dictates, we are reclaiming rough consensus as a stimulus for action. Open source is the most obvious expression of the consensus-action dynamic, but they really are showing up in all sorts of places: communities forming around web sites that organize conversations so they are memorable and leave them in place while consensus forms out of the threads that gain the most traction.
Individual and small group actions spring from these consensus epicenters, but they don’t exhibit the focus and persistence that paycheck-based activities enjoy. How might consensus-based action rise to that level? I believe we’re getting closer, and I’d like to help Spirit of America take it to the next level. The reason SoA might lead the way to more effective consensus-based action is its natural appeal to every stakeholder in the problem-shrouded Iraqi opportunity. When people touch Spirit of America, they usually find something they’d like to get involved in. Many of us feel we have to get involved.
Jim Hake, Marc Danziger and I agree that each SoA member should have the tools to engage at any level, involve their friends and social organizations and, depending on their political persuasion, reinforce or compensate for U.S. Iraqi policy.
I’d also like to involve the small-pieces-loosely-joined consensus that is the blogosphere. If our shared values overwhelm our disparate politics we might even be susceptible to a call to action – even though our style is to rag on imperfections and disappointments. What’s wrong with that? Design is simply the flip side of disregard. Michelangelo reputedly said that sculpture is a matter of removing the parts of the marble that don’t look like a horse.
The blogosphere’s values are transparency and openness; individual, authentic voices amplified by spontaneous feeds, supporting links and persistent reiteration. Imagine with me that we keep an eye on the bully Spirit of America laboratory where people overseas act as Requestors to bring to Donors’ attention the needs that seem worthy supplying. We can think of such suggestions as blog posts and our collective response to it as the means by which we support the request with links and buzz and dollars and volunteer logistics.
Like any catchy idea any blogger puts out there, a school kit or a sewing machine or an irrigation pump is a candidate meme. We blog it into reality with the sincerity of our expression and the energy of our reinforcement.
It’s all the same to me and, I hope, to you. Here’s a depiction of the SoA process to host the requests, comments, support and cash flow. Now all we have to do is implement it in web services and maybe we’ll find that what matters most in foreign aid is the web, not the spiders.
Just like blogs.