Thursday, May 04, 2006

Just Checking

That's me in a Party Hat for Potash. Silly, huh?

My Tribe friend Phil Jones always points out the coolest stuff. From this post at Blahsplotation he turned me on to a new blog, Brudnopis by his fellow Triber and Wikinaut, Zbigneiw Lukasiak. I've read some of Lukasiaks posts at Tribe so I expected his blog to be worthwhile. I subscribed to his blog feed once I read his post on Yochai Benkler's book, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. Then on Jones's other blog Platform Wars Jones blogs a comment left under this post at Brudnopis.

That's a lot of links in one paragraph! Most of my local friends find my interest in blogs bemusing, and I'm not quite sure why they aren't more curious about them. I'm not sure it helps that they know that I blog. I'm afraid it steers their imagination away from fact there are some really brilliant bloggers out there.

Lukasiak and Jones discuss how to mix peerproduction and the market. Clearly they are both smarter than I am which is a very good thing. Nevertheless, I found the discussion very satisfying because they're talking about an issue I've been thinking about recently. As some of you may know, I correspond regularly with a young Ugandan named Magumba Nathan who has been working hard over the last few years to get a community-based organization off the ground and contributing to his local community.

The issue of peer production and the market is a fundamental one for such an organization. They need some money to initiate and sustain programs of peer production. It's not easy to find a model of how you do that.

Recently I set up a group blog for the group Busoga Shining Light Association. I've been eager to put that link here just so Nathan could see how Technorati tracks links. But I've been hesitant because so far only a few of the posts are Nathan's. What I had in mind was a sort of free for all where members in Uganda could post; a place where some of the things that come to me in email could be presented to a wider audience. Some things are better kept close to the vest, and the trouble is I'm a notorious blabber mouth. So I'll be careful. What I hope for is that members of the BSLA in Uganda could use the blogs to enter into conversations around issues with people in Uganda and around the world.

Such conversations would make me happy because most of the time I feel quite inadequate when it comes to addressing the issues of a community-based organization and would welcome the input.

What's clear is that my interest in gift economy and peer production, what Phil Jones calls the peerosphere isn't mainstream. Nathan and I have communicated long enough that he's got some idea of a nugget under all my gibberish. Like so many other young people, he "gets it" quicker than old folks like me. But Nathan is also working hard to acquire solid business skills and to absorb a model of development premised on business. To my jaundiced eye this model is not entrepreneurial but rather a model for the business of development.

This issue makes me snarky. I'm old enough to know that when I get snarky that usually means I'm being decidedly unhelpful. Emeka Okafor at Timbuktu Chronicles and Africa Unchained is quite trenchant in critiques of donor development models and is quite helpful. Alas, I'm not Emeka Okafor.

I don't want to be an ass and blow opportunities for Nathan and the BSLA either by giving him bad advice or angering those pushing a conventional model of development. At the same time gift economy and peer production ideas seem to me to have great applicability for their situation and the reality they are trying to create. I'm not sure how to strike the balance. So it was so enlivening for me to read discover Brudopis and to read Phil Jones responding to Zbigniew Lukasiak's post. It dosen't really solve anything, yet at least the conversation suggests a way forward. I just love reading blogs!

I can't think of a way to connect Robert Sheer's article to this post, My Mother, 'the Illegal Alien" but it's recommended.

Update: Photo Credit: David Pohl

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