Community-Building - Why Bottom-Up Alone Doesn'T Work

Ewan McIntosh, Weblog, Mar 07, 2008
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Ewan McIntosh defends the aristocracy. "Blogs, wikis and bothies all have this hidden (or not-so-hidden) aristocratic history woven through them. It's no mistake that Jimmy Wales has called 'his' wiki's Editors the 'aristocracy' of Wikipedia, with him as the Monarch. But it works. Bottom-up, it seems, always requires a bit of state, monarch or Parliament, to make it work in the long term." But I don't think he succeeds in making his case. Showing how one top-down website grew faster than its bottom-up counterparts commits the classic fallacy of comparing a large mass with a single node in a wider network. Bottom-up initiatives will always be smaller - much smaller - but they are more numerous, more diverse, and (in an uncontrolled way) more powerful. Additionally, the examples of 'leadership' he cites - providing a portal page, providing a web address - were things anyone could have done and many people have (portals on the web probably number in the millions). A lot of 'leadership' is like that - lining up behind an existing movement and declaring "Look at what I've done, I'm in charge."
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