Stanford Seminar - Online communities as model systems for commons governance

Stanford Seminar - Online communities as model systems for commons governance

Studying Online Communities

  • Online communities serve as model systems for studying collective behavior and institutional design.
  • Advantages of studying online communities include observing large numbers of societies, collecting multi-level data, and studying emergent properties of individual interactions.
  • Research questions include studying folk theories of collective action and analyzing governance structures in different types of online communities.

Minecraft Server Governance

  • Analyzed governance choices made by players on Minecraft servers.
  • Most players opted for communities with a small core group size.
  • Core group size is proportional to target size for successful communities.
  • Most governance effort goes into managing bad behavior.
  • Bigger servers have more focus on empowering the administrator and managing bad behavior.
  • Institutional diversity is correlated with success.
  • Norms are more common than rules.
  • Constitutive rules define abstractions and regulate behavior.
  • Administrative governance style is positively selected for, while other styles are driven by drift.
  • Empowering administrators is effective because Minecraft doesn't offer choices and users can easily leave servers.

Apache Software Foundation Governance

  • The Apache Software Foundation has a specific governance style called the "Apache way" that projects must adopt to join the community.
  • The Apache way includes principles such as running on earned authority, being a community of peers, having open communications, consensus decision-making, and responsible oversight.
  • Research question: how do foundation policies relate to project operations and performance?
  • Data used includes Apache Foundation policies, developer emails for 200 projects, and information about people involved in the projects and project-level metrics.
  • Natural language processing techniques are used to analyze developer emails and compare them to written rules.
  • Introduced "institutional grammar" to analyze unstructured policy documents and represent them in a structured manner.
  • Clustering is performed to identify topics related to governance activity, and the rules and discussions about the rules are extracted.
  • There is no correlation between the number of rules about a topic and the amount of discussion about it.
  • The more rules there are about a thing, the less people internalize them.
  • Internalization is measured as the semantic distance between an email sentence and its nearest rule.
  • Internalization of standards is important for getting things done in projects.
  • Policy plays a role in encoding precedents and shaping language use.
  • The quality of rules can impact their internalization and adherence.
  • Communities do not always run according to their stated policies, and successful projects tend to govern themselves along domains with less formal structure.

AI Governance and Online Community Management

  • AI models are becoming increasingly prevalent, and there is a need for governance and licensing frameworks to address their use and compliance with open-source principles.
  • Tension between the responsible AI community and the open-source community regarding restrictions on AI use.
  • Focusing on helping people internalize basic governance skills may be more important than creating new structures and processes.
  • Trolls are attracted to rules in online communities, leading to difficult conversations about rule enforcement.
  • Minecraft focuses on regulating behavior rather than civility, while Apache emphasizes earning authority through coding skills.
  • Well-defined user and resource boundaries are crucial for managing trolls effectively.
  • Different platforms have varying affordances for enforcing restrictions, impacting the types of rules that can be implemented.
  • As online communities grow larger, traditional governance strategies based on social relationships and trust may struggle.
  • Democracies and voluntarist systems require a strong foundation of shared skills, norms, and values to function effectively.
  • Providing training on how to run meetings and manage online spaces could potentially enable larger-scale democratic governance.
  • Bottom-up strategies for shifting the scope of conversations or rule sets in existing institutions can be challenging, with examples of both successful and unsuccessful cases.
  • Wikipedia and wikis offer valuable case studies for studying how online communities manage large influxes of new members.
  • Minecraft's "jubilees" institution supports legitimacy, social support, and trust.

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