One idea that has interested me for sometime is Time Dollars. Almost all complementary or alternative money schemes are quite local. There are so many good reasons why this is true. But I've wondered whether something like time dollars might be used to encourage and facilitate online activism, and in particular to encourage people to provide time in service to people in Africa. So that's the idea behind Bazungu Bucks and almost two years down the line it's fair to say I'm still wondering.
Online activism is a great big topic, especially for someone as naive as me. Over the years I have encountered Life in Africa online. Last autumn I realized LiA used Omidyar.net in their work and my curiosity was finally piqued enough to join up at Omidyar.net and look around.
Pierre Omidyar is founder and chairman of eBay the well-known and popular online auction site. He's done quite well financially and has dedicated some of his time and talents to philanthropy. The philanthropy of those who've made their fortunes in Tech is notable because many like Pierre Omidyar are still young. And they've made money with disruptive technologies so there's an expectation their philanthropic giving will be innovative and disrupt the status quo.
Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam set up the Omidyar Foundation and in conjuction with that the Omidyar Network. The Omidyar Network has established a $400 million dollar fund to be invested by 2010 according to that Wikipedia article. In the Spring of 2004 the Omidyar Network developed a set of online tools to facilitate their communication and work. In July of 2004 Omidyar Network opened these tools to anyone trying to make the world a better place. The result was Omidyar.net, so it's a social network, but with a unique mission and history.
I was late to the game, so there's so much history there I don't really understand. Of course all the posts are archived and there is enough allusion to the events that have transpired within the group of people swept up in the Omidyar net that the history seems present as in Faulkner's famous line in the play Requiem for a Nun:
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”What I found at Omidyar.net was a great collection of brilliant, funny, compassionate, and accomplished people trying to make the world a better place. Hard work that.
On July 18th word came down from the owners of Omidyar.net that as of September 7th the interactive features of the site would be disabled and at the end of the year the archive would be taken down.
So the situation is a community, many of the members actively engaged in ongoing projects, have been given notice to pack up and leave. There's a bit of the flavor of a reality TV show to the scenario; like Survivor only on a Web site. And I'll admit that especially over the last few days I've been obsessively following the discussions. I do have a vested interest in the outcome, but also as a spectator it brings to the fore many questions I've been asking about the nature of networks and communities and the potential for online peer production.
I'm not sure really if there's a good way to get a view of the action as it unfolds at Omidyar.net. A person could join up at the last minute, but the learning curve is too steep I think to really get the flavor. I wanted in this post to tell about the closing because I'm learning something new in this transition and wanted the context to be available.