[FoRK] WTF?

J. Andrew Rogers <andrew at ceruleansystems.com> on Thu May 24 09:50:58 PDT 2007

On May 24, 2007, at 7:53 AM, Jeff Bone wrote:
> Without being critical, James...  the assertion that "there is  
> nothing hard about money" and its corollary that getting past the  
> money problem and focusing significant resources on deep-rooted  
> problems is not hindered by the money problem would be more  
> compelling if presented by someone that had clearly solved the  
> first and was actively, publicly engaged in the second.


All my assertions were very broad and poorly focused, mostly because  
I have no idea what we are talking about here exactly. :-)


> ("I could solve the money problem if I tried, but I'm working on  
> other, more important and interesting stuff" may very well be true  
> in your case, but it's a dead hand debate-wise.  In my case, I've  
> solved the money problem and then unsolved it and then mostly  
> solved it again --- keeping it solved is a second-order and harder  
> problem still ;-)  Besides which real "money problem" I'm talking  
> about is actually the higher-order money problem, not making the  
> mortgage.)


Money problems per se do not significantly concern me personally, at  
the moment at least, but it is very frequently raised as a problem by  
many people (who themselves are usually the reason the problem  
exists).  Many basic money problems are symptomatic of other problems.

There are several interesting higher order money problems, so which  
ones would you be referring to?


> If you've got a billion or so to play with, you can throw real  
> resources at some longer-term problems.  But (a) how can we attack  
> longer-term larger-scale problems short of having a few billion to  
> play with, if at all, or (b) how can you bootstrap into solutions  
> to some of those types of problems, or (c) are there leveraged  
> smaller problems that can, in  coordination, help with (b) above?


If efficiency matters, the tactics have to be flexible enough to fit  
reality in support of the long-term large-scale strategy.  That does  
not require much more than careful and pragmatic analysis.  Acquiring  
a billion dollars may well be cheaper/faster than every other  
realistic option in the calculus, which requires both patience and  
accepting the conclusions of a rational study of the problem at  
hand.  In practice, very few problems are analyzed for solutions from  
anything but narrow perspectives that dictate what is possible.   
Meaning, I think there is an inexpensive/less expensive way to solve  
many problems that most people assume will require inordinate  
resources that simply require very careful and intelligent study of  
the dynamics of the system in question.

As you know, I think there is a lot of opportunity in (c) that is  
under-exploited primarily because the focus and/or domain of most  
people is too narrow.  There is a wealth of opportunities, the hard  
part is finding (or fabricating) the opportunities that will generate  
the most strategic leverage in a direction that is useful for other  
things.


> There are some problems that the bazaar isn't well-suited to  
> solving, for various deep-seated "structural" reasons, and yet that  
> the cathedral is incapable of or uninterested in tackling.  Yet  
> some of those same problems don't typically attract the kind of  
> commercial investment that they need, due to shortsightedness of  
> capital, lack of clear primary returns, etc.  That doesn't  
> invalidate those problems or lessen their importance;  but it does  
> make effort hard to apply in those areas.


I get the impression that more capital would have little impact on  
many of these areas, that money per se is not the gating factor.  Do  
you have a specific example that can be fenced with?  I do agree that  
having large quantities of available capital does allow one to  
consider strategies that might otherwise not be available.  Hell,  
there are very interesting problems/challenges that might be useful  
elements of a larger strategy that really could use billions (or tens  
of billions) of dollars worth of working capital, but I do not see  
too many that need to be solved today in the order of things that  
need to be approached this way.  Gotta prep the battlefield first.

The real limitation to almost all of these kinds of projects is the  
people involved in implementation and execution, in terms of quality,  
quantity, and diversity.  On the upside, the Internet provides one of  
the best environments yet for winnowing the population.


> I'm not contemplating something as potentially ineffective and time- 
> wasting as a "geeks future-oriented PAC" or anything.  Give me more  
> credit than that, please...  I'm thinking both bigger (in impact)  
> and smaller (in scope and thus complexity) than that.  I'm thinking  
> meta-business models, not petition drives or "activism" in any  
> recognized sense of that term.  I'm sick to death of politics.   
> There's no good solution in that space other than to simply  
> "whatever it is, I'm against it."


Which is what I figured, but excluding all the cheerleading stuff  
still leaves a rather broad space of possibilities.


> The thesis, then, fundamentally, is this:  the cathedral vs. the  
> bazaar is an artificial and invalid dichotomy, and many sorts of  
> worthwhile efforts suffer because of that simplistic means of  
> organizing effort.


There are plenty of very successful organizations or adhocracies that  
are essentially bazaars internally that apply very strong filters to  
who can participate in order to ensure some level of reliable goal  
alignment and implementation capability.  No one may be building  
cathedrals, but at a minimum you need to be *capable* of it.

Cheers,

J. Andrew Rogers


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