John McCann

Architecture of participation

In Uncategorized on March 6, 2006 at 4:04 pm

Listened to a podcast titled Local Services and the Architecture of Participation by Paul Levine, General Manager, Local Yahoo!, Inc.

Levine starts the podcast with the search space vision at Yahoo:

Enable people to find, use, share and expand all human knowledge.

  • Find what you are looking for.
  • Use what you find to achieve a purpose
  • Share means sharing knowledge with people you connect with.
  • Expand means that you expand the amount of information that we can all tap into.

FUSE (Find, Use, Share, Expand) is their notion of how you participate. FUSE is their architecture of participation.

FUSE is a fine metaphor for how a large number of people use the Internet, particularly when approaching it from a search perspective. But it seems to me to be very limiting when approached from a wider perspective.

Tim O’Reilly provides us a different view, this time from the perspective of the open source movement, in a document titled The Architecture of Participation.

“Architecture of participation” that includes low barriers to entry by newcomers, and some mechanism for isolating the cathedral from the bazaar. This architecture of participation allows for a real free market of ideas, in which anyone can put forward a proposed solution to a problem; it becomes adopted, if at all, by acclimation and the organic spread of its usefulness.

This is a much looser architecture than Yahoo’s FUSE model, but it appeals to me because it talks about a free market where anyone can propose an idea or solution whose usefulness is the determiner of its success.

The Wikipedia entry, as of March 2, 2006, cites O’Reilly as the first person to use the phase and offers the following definition:

The phrase architecture of participation describes the nature of systems that are designed for user contribution.

Whether looking at it from a search perspective or from an open source perspective, it is important that we recognize that to have participation we have to have an environment that enables and encourages contributions by anyone, whether we call them users, consumers, listeners, readers, viewers, or just people.


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