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About access to participation. See also permissionless.

Open networks and communities exhibit a high degree of openness, i.e. they provide access to anyone to pretty much any process. Access alone is not the only requirement for openness, transparent procedures or methodologies of work are also important, i.e. structuring activities (using task management tools for example) to make clear what has been done, what's being done and what's next. Accessibility of the information provided about the process is another aspect, i.e. explain the process in plain language (not jargon). Moreover, user-friendly tools must be provided for participation, reducing the technical barriers to a minimum (eliminate the priest cast). Wikipedia is a great example of an open content management platform. Anyone can simply push the edit button of a page, without even being asked to create an account, and use a user-friendly text editor to contribute.

Openness does not necessarily entails revealing the identity of a participant, although enough information about participation can allow triangulation and unmasking of anonymous participants. This is a problem with the Bitcoin network for example, which allows anonymous participation but participants can be unmasked by analyzing the ledger (history of transactions) and using information centralized crypto markets and wallet providers, as well as and from ISPs (Internet Service Providers).

Openness by default

It is an approach that utilizes tools that provide access to processes by default. The extreme is permissionless as practiced in public blockchain applications. This requires participants to acquire the open culture (see below).


Open networks and communities adopt process management tools that grant access to participation by default.


  • Documents: Google Drive with anyone with the link can edit access settings for folders, which is a characteristic inherited by all the files that are placed within these folders.
  • Forums: a messaging app like Discord or forums like Discourse can be configured to provide anyone access to post. Modulation: various moderation rules can be applied, especially for first-time participants for example.
  • Knowledge and know how: a public Wiki that allows anyone to edit.
  • Workflows: NRP-CAS or Trello are tools that people use to manage tasks in the public view.

NOTE: Open networks and communities that handle shared pools of valuable assets do not usually provide access to decision making processes. Since governance is a sensitive process, it can constitute a vector of attack. A threshold of skin in the game (can be fluid equity, staked tokens, etc.) for access to governance, which makes these governance systems meritocratic.

Methodologies of work

Open networks and communities prescribe processes or methods that enforce openness. For example, when it comes to documenting work done, a Wiki can be prescribed with open edit access.


Openness by default can be extended to permissionless, which means immediate access to participate without any required credentials or any type of prior contribution - ex. the Bitcoin network for minors and token holders.

Some open networks and organizations implement different levels of access with thresholds (of contributions, investment, etc.). These are concentric organizational structures. The openness aspect in these cases is provided by an algorithmic grantee of access, based on clear rules and achievable requirements, as opposed to being refereed by someone already in the group (ex. secret societies) or being selected among many by those already involved (ex. hiring process in traditional organizations). Sometime these concentric structures are not justified on economic grounds, they are just luggage / habits transported from traditional organizations. Note that this is not advised for OVNs. In these cases, access to various layers of involvement, responsibility and benefits is a matter of contributions, which deploy in time. Time alone can be part of requirements - ex. be a member for at least x number of days.

Openness allows anyone to jump in a progress and contribute or intervene, which is required to leverage collaborative work and collective intelligence. See more on the section below about link to the p2p economics.


The open culture is a set of integrated values and norms that allows effortless participation in open processes. Being a participant in an open process requires a higher degree of awareness of the socioeconomic context.

Since everyone can drop in the middle of a process from anywhere. We experience this situation when we join a discussion among friends, at first we listen, get acquainted with the topic, map the roles and the stand of everyone involved and intervene in a way that enhances the experience of the group, not hijacking the conversation or disrupting the flow. In other words, avoid awkwardness. On the other side, those who are already part of the discussion must acknowledge the presence of the newcomer and perhaps someone can provide some onboarding.

Link to the p2p economics

Openness, like transparency, is an important feature of open networks and communities (OVNs alike). According to Yochai Benkler, open networks have two main advantages over traditional firms:

  1. lower opportunity costs
  2. better allocation of resources

Lower opportunity costs means that open networks are very efficient at exploring the field of opportunities and converging on good ones. That is because they push sensing and sensemaking to the edge of the network, allowing even distant participants to understand the process (see transparency) and contribute to the process. In order for that to function, open networks provide unhindered access to participation.

When it comes to allocation of resources, including matching talent to processes (human resource allocation) open networks rely on self-allocation. For example, someone who just discovers an open source project on a Wiki (content management tool, documentation) can jump to the workflow (task management tool) and see that the group struggles with an electronic problem. If this individual possesses the required skills and has some free time can decide to search the solution and post it to the group. Perhaps a specific instrument is also needed to make some measurements, the individual may be able to provide it or make the measurement him/her self and record the data. Or perhaps the group needs some funding to continue the development of the project, this individual can contribute to a crowdfunding campaign that has been set up for the project. Self-allocation stands in contrast with closed and centrally managed processes, where a managers need to decide on which projects to focus and which employee to put on it, who to hire to cover the required skills base and the workload. In order to allow self-allocation anyone on the edge of the network must have unhindered access to processes.

Thus, openness, like transparency is not an ideological requirement, it has an economic rationale within the p2p paradigm. Without openness open networks (or OVNs) cannot leverage crowdsourcing of talent and resources, therefore they cannot benefit from lower opportunity costs and better allocation of resources, loose their advantage over traditional firms and slip back into traditional organizational structures to stay alive.

Openness and stigmergy

OVNs move away from planning and reply more on stigmergy. Transparency is required for stigmergy to function, granting any agents access to all information and thus allowing him/her to consider a course of action. Openness, i.e. access to processes, is also required to make the action possible.

See more on Economic model.

See more