How far should you trust your intuitions? I’ve been invited on several occasions to join Zaadz, a semi-closed networking/blogging side. Yet, I always resisted, without quite knowing why.
My problem started with the dreaded c-word in the mission statement:
“Ours involves Capitalism. Spirituality. Enthusiasm. Love. Service. Inspiration. Leaders. People CRAZY enough to think they can change the world. And courageous enough to do something about it. And committed enough to stick to it when they feel like giving up.”
I’m a former two-time entrepreneur myself and spent another dozen years climbing the corporate ladder. I respect people who take the initiative through creating a business, or who have to make a living. But what makes sense as an individual who has to survive in the present world ‘as it is’, makes a lot less sense as a system as a whole. Why? Because it is destroying the biosphere, because it is creating more and more inequality. So frankly, a site which says it wants to change the world, and at the same time promotes capitalism in such a simplistic way, has a serious credibility problem.
My postion in P2P Theory is to respect markets as a rather natural way of human exchange, but that these markets have to be transformed, subjected to peer arbitrage, and deprived of the capitalist logic of endless material accumulation. They have to be a subsystem of a commons-based political economy, rather than the other way around. Nature has to be treated as rival, and we have to focus on the accumulation of immaterial asset, which are non-rival in nature, such as human culture, interaffectivity, and knowledge .
But what we have here in Zaadz is clearly and unapologettically a blind an un-nuanced promotion of the very system that is doing us in. This is the first reason why I never joined.
But there is more. And that is that Zaadz is setting itself up as a semi-closed system, with its own blogging system that is geared towards internal dialogue. I have nothing against that ‘in itself’, but on some level I find such semi-walled gardens ineffective. They require a whole extra layer of effort, in order to reach just a subset of the internet population. If such an effort is required, there has to be a good justification for it, clear benefits.
I have the same problem with 0-net. But let me be clear here: I admire what Omidyar has done with his money. I admire the people who join O’net, because they are all world-changers doing concrete things to make the world a better place. But o-net is also a semi-closed space requiring registration, so I only joined reluctantly at the insistence of friends, and I’m still resisting fuller participation. It competes with the time I want to spent on fully open resources, that are available to the whole of the web public, without registration. But by all means, O-net is a good place, though probably its inner workings are somewhat distorted by the fact that there is money available at the end of the line; participants are in fact consciously or unconsciously, striving to get part of the booty, a rival resource. O’net is also a finely thought out environment for collaboration, which is another plus.
The third reason, I will not be joining Zaadz is what I recently learned about its internal politics. I best quote a recent blog entry on this:
“But sadly, after the deletion of â€œIcky Bobâ€? and his handling of the subsequent hubbub, Brian Johnson has revealed himself as a rank hypocrite whose only message is â€œLet’s change the world… so long as you all agree to do it my way.â€? And just like famed social-networking loser Jonathan Abrams [of Friendster which failed in competition with MySpace] before him, Brian’s only response to those who deviate from his vision (or even try to discuss the issue) is to remove them, en masse, from â€œhis site.â€?
and a second quote:
“â€œâ€¦ as badly as we felt we had it at Tribe, we never had it this bad at Zaadz. What we found were suppression of ideas, especially those that were in conflict with Brian’s business plan, threatening (albeit veiled) emails, and accounts arbitrarily deleted (mis-use of the god button). Personally I don’t think Brian’s crew has the maturity level to handle all the discordant agendas found on the internet today. Control needs to be tempered, with restraint. It’s too easy as the owner of an online community to say “I built this, if you disagree with me I will remove you.” And I find his behaviour counter to every belief he espouses. They are after all just words, a far better measure of a man is his actions.â€?
Of course, this is definitely not the last word, and only one side of the story, but I think that this side should at least be known.
The rest of the comment is of interest, and discusses/critiques 1) the naivety of the ‘new age’ visions found at the side; 2) discussion of the business plan of Zaadz. The many comments are also worth reading.