April 02, 2006

Web 2.0, Library 2.0 and Radical Trust: A First Take

A few people have commented on my Library 2.0 postcard shared on Flickr and at the DigiTech Forum at Computers in Libraries and have asked what do I mean by "radical trust"?

Library 2.0 formula

Library 2.0 =
    (books 'n stuff      + people    + radical trust)
     x participation

Libraries have always been about books 'n stuff and people. The notion of radical trust and applying this to online library activities introduces a new dimension to the work that we're been doing in libraries.

You'll also notice that the scaling up factor in this simple formula is based on participation. Without the first three ingredients you can't start to scale rapidly and create new wealth(richness) and value for participants. For more details on the scale factor check out my comment on The Industrial Librarian's blog about Reed's Law.

Lots of activities that predate Web 2.0 created the fertile ground for applications based on radical trust to thrive. Some of these old technologies: telnet, gopher, and much of the first generation web were based on the culture of gifting -- giving away information for free and seeing all kinds of positive things happen. There was a sense of wonder at all of this gifting of "free information", especially at first, before we started to take it for granted. This tilled the soil and seeded the ideas that bloomed into the systems that combine "radical trust" with "participation".

We can only build emergent systems if we have radical trust. With an emergent system, we build something without setting in stone what it will be or trying to control all that it will be. We allow and encourage participants to shape and sculpt and be co-creators of the system. We don't have a million customers/users/patrons ... we have a million participants and co-creators.

Radical trust is about trusting the community. We know that abuse can happen, but we trust (radically) that the community and participation will work. In the real world, we know that vandalism happens but we still put art and sculpture up in our parks. As an online community we come up with safeguards or mechanisms that help keep open contribution and participation working.

Now that we have concrete examples like Wikipedia and Eventful and many other Web 2.0 applications that show how emergent systems can work, some of us may not be as surprised by "radical trust" as we once were. However, many people still find it mind boggling that anyone can edit any page on Wikipedia and it's useful or in the words of Paula Berinstein comparing Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica in the March issue of Searcher magazine: "The Kid's All Right (And So's the Old Man)". Actually even once you're used to Wikipedia, it's downright amazing if you think of what has been created -- over 1,057,304 articles in the English Wikipedia (not to mention articles in many other languages) and it's growing by more than twenty million words per month.

More on radical trust:


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I love your thoughts on radical trust here. It's an important aspect of the social web, of web 2,0.

If libraries and encyclopedia makers don't understand that this is the way of the future - of information collaboration by the masses - then I fear they will fall by the wayside.

great stuff dude, keep up the radical ideas. cheers :)
Keep on posting such articles. I love to read articles like that. Just add more pics :)
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