Sharing = love

In between the more classic songs (Jerusalem, etc) that we had to sing at my Church of England primary school, there was a happy clappy number which used to have my class teacher, Mrs Prentice, bopping from side to side in her purple kaftan (okay, so we quite liked it, too).

“Love is like a magic penny, hold it tight and you won’t have any, lend it, spend it and you’ll have so many, they’ll roll all over the floor.”

There is a similar sort of phenomenon at work on the web today. A culture of “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine”.

The academic, Clay Shirky, uses the term “social capital”, which he defines in this way:

“When your neighbour walks your dog while you are ill, or the guy behind the counter trusts you to pay him next time, social capital is at work. It is the shadow of the future on a societal scale. Individuals in groups with more social capital (which is to say, more habits of cooperation) are better off on a large number of metrics, from health and happiness to earning potential, than those in groups with less social capital.” (Here Comes Everybody, p.192)

Socialtext’s Ross Mayfield puts it into a commercial context:

“Steven Weber [University California, Berkeley] points out that there is no such thing as a buy vs. build equation for deciding to share intellectual property. But we’ve a version of Socialtext that’s free for up to five users. We can afford to give that away.”

Socialtext doesn’t disclose how many of the 4,000+ companies it serves use only the free version, but Ross is clearly seeing the strategy reap rewards.

As another example, Ross points to the success of WikiHow – one of the most-used wikis on the web:

“A while ago Jack Herrick (WikiHow’s founder) decided to start using a Creative Commons licence. He can send you a graph where you can see massive growth take place at the point where he changed the licence.

“That’s Web 2.0 – how sharing control can create value. We’re seeing more transparency. We’re seeing a culture of sharing versus one of hoarding… we’re shifting from a need to know culture to a need to share culture.”

Ross points me to a recent blogpost by a member of the US State Department which sums this up nicely.

With even established US government organisations as the CIA (Intellipedia) and US State Department (Diplopedia) now using wikis, it’s surely only a matter of time before everyone starts “sharing”.

But sharing needs to be done in the right spirit to work properly.

Purple-clad “Mrs.Prentices” the world over will be watching!