Transparency

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About access to information.

Open networks and communities exhibit a high degree of transparency, i.e. they provide public access to data and information about pretty much everything that can be published. Access alone is not the only requirement for transparency, legebility is also important, i.e. formatting or structuring data and information to make it easily understandable by almost anyone. Serchability and inter-connectivity are other aspects of transparency. In other words, tools must be provided to search and retrieve information easily or to stumble upon information and be able to jump from one context to another. Wikipedia is a great example of a content management platform designed to maximize transparency.

Transparency does not necessarily entails revealing the identity of participants (those who have created the data / information), 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 from centralized crypto markets and wallet providers, as well as and from ISPs (Internet Service Providers).

Transparency by default

It is an approach that utilizes tools and makes use of practices that expose data and information (content) to the public, by default. This requires participants to acquire the open culture (see below), since every communication and recorded action can immediately be seen by others. We experience this situation when we have a private discussion at home with family members versus when we interact with friends around the table in a restaurant.

Transparency by default can be extended to real time transparency by default (see section about time below).

Infrastructure

Open networks and communities adopt data and information management tools that grant public access by default.

Examples:

  • Documents: Google Drive with at least public view access for folders, which is a characteristic inherited by all the files that are placed within these folders. That means that anyone with a link to a document can open and read.
  • Forums: a messaging app like Discord or forums like Discourse can be configured to provide anyone access to read the exchanges.
  • Knowledge and know how: a public Wiki
  • Decisions: Loomio is a consensus-based decision making platform that allows a group to deliberate and make decisions in the public view.
  • Workflows: NRP-CAS or Trello are tools that people use to manage tasks in the public view.

Openness is access to participation or contribution. Thus, following the example of Google Drive, documents can also be set to anyone with the link can comment or edit. Open networks and communities may restrict access to comment only, in order to reduce spam, and put in place a barrier to entry for editing, for example joining the community.

Methodologies of work

Open networks and communities prescribe processes or methods that enforce transparency. For example, when it comes to documenting work done, a Wiki can be prescribed with templates to structure the information.

Time

Transparency by default can be extended to real time transparency by default. In other words, data and information is made public from the start of a process, without being massaged or polished. Thus, it is common practice within open networks and communities to open a document and make it public before one starts writing a report. This allows other participants to see the work in 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.

Culture

The open culture is a set of integrated values and norms that allows effortless participation in transparent processes. Being a participant in an open process requires a higher degree of awareness of the social context, since everything we say and do is publicly accessible in almost real time. Thus, people who evolve in close settings need to deploy more effort (think twice) before contributing in the public view. For someone accustomed with the open culture participating in an open process is second nature.

Link to the p2p economics

Transparency, like openness, 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 input new ideas into a process. In order for that to function, open networks provide unhindered access to information (what's going on, what's the objective, etc.), which allows even someone who just passes-by to propose something.

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. 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 centrally planned allocation, where a managers need to decide on which projects to spend a budget and which employee to put on every project or 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 access to up-to-date information about the project.


Thus, transparency, like openness, is not an ideological requirement, it has an economic rationale within the p2p paradigm. Without transparency 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.


Important note: At the same time, transparency provides real time information about important choices made by the organisation to competitive agents within the larger ecosystem, which can become a disadvantage. This is akin to the predator having access to the thought process of the pray, predicting every move even before it happens. The only defense in this situation of information asymmetry within a competitive environment is to become the lion of the savanna, i.e. to have no threatening competition in the area of the organisaton's core expertise.

Transparency 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