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Mar. 24 2010 - 9:02 pm | 2,114 views | 1 recommendation | 32 comments

Project PM

This page will serve as a temporary repository for information on Project PM until such time as the complete manifesto is released. The text below provides a detailed description of the blogger network around which the project will be centered. Having been written for information technology and new media professionals, bloggers, and other participants with an interest in the specifics of how this network will serve as an improvement over existing mediums, it is necessarily a bit technical.

Note that in addition to bloggers, we’re also looking for people to participate in a sub-network which itself will be responsible for advancing the project by incubating ideas and “voting” on them. Joining this body does not require any commitment; inactive members won’t be detrimental to the network. If you think you might have some ideas down the line, or would simply like to have some influence in how the project proceeds, consider joining up.

Get in touch with me at barriticus@gmail.com if you’d like to get involved  or have any questions. Related materials involving concepts and implications related to this project may be found here and here. For more on the extent to which the media and the U.S. pundit class in particular has failed our republic, Google my name along with those of Thomas Friedman, Charles Krauthammer, Martin Peretz, National Review, Weekly Standard, The New York Times, or CNN, or read the work of blogger-journalists Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, and Allison Kilkenny.


Introduction

This effort is called Project PM. The major goals are (a) to reduce the negative influence of incompetent yet nonetheless well-regarded pundits such as Thomas Friedman and Charles Krauthammer and (b) to increase the positive influence of the more capable segments of the blogosphere. Both of these goals are to be pursued in part by way of the deliberate generation of critical mass among bloggers in such a manner as that segments of the traditional media will be prompted/forced to address certain critical issues as determined by a collective array of the most erudite and dependable bloggers in existence. A third goal that does not require the same critical mass or temporary control over the traditional media infrastructure involves the development of a communicational schematic that is superior to anything else in existence in terms providing bloggers with the best possible feed of raw information by which to produce content, as well as the best method by which readers can most easily find the best and most important of this content without having to sift through duplicate or sub-standard info, which is to say that it will discard some of the problems inherent to reddit, memeorandum, and other such sources as exist today (more on how this is to be accomplished may be seen below). All of this is to be achieved by way of Project PM network, which itself will make use of open-source software being designed for the purpose and developed by a fellow with a brilliant track record in innovative IT implementations.

Obviously, this is not some magic bullet that will turn the media into an optimal system, but it will certainly have some positive effect, and to the extent that we can integrate more and more people into the network, this effect will of course be amplified. Meanwhile, others will no doubt adopt some of the methods we have developed for use in their own efforts. Perhaps most importantly, this will demonstrate to others that we are nowhere near fulfilling the positive potential of the internet as a medium, and get them thinking about the manner in which the internet provides us with the ability to provide for a degree of actionable collaboration among some of the world’s most reasonable people in such a way that would have been impossible only a decade ago. Insomuch as that collaboration is the means by which human affairs are driven, such a grouping as makes use of intelligent, honest, and influential individuals and then gives them a means of communication and action that is even slightly superior to any other in existence would have unprecedented potential to achieve positive change, particularly by means of perpetuating information – information being, again, the fuel of human activity.

Project PM Network Summary

The institutions and structures that have developed over the past two decades of accelerating public internet use have had what we reasonably describe as a wholesome effect on information flow. But the information age is a work in progress, and thus there are potential improvements to be made. More importantly, there are improvements that can be made by an initially small number of influential participants working in coordination. The purpose of Project PM is to implement these solutions to the extent that participants are collectively able to do so, as well as to demonstrate the beneficial effects of these solutions to others that they might be spurred to recreate or even build upon them independently of our own efforts.

The Problems

Project PM is intended to address the following inefficiencies:

(a) Watering down of contributor quality within participatory networks: Open institutions such as reddit.comtend to peak in terms of the erudition of the content conveyed a few years after coming about, with this being due to the particular dynamics of network growth. By definition, early users are early adapters, who themselves tend to be better-informed and otherwise relatively capable in terms of the value they bring to the network. To even know of such networks early in their existence is to pass a certain sort of test regarding the potential quality of one’s contributions; as knowledge of the network expands, this “test” becomes easier, and to the extent that it does, the network is less “protected” from those who did not pass such a test by virtue of the fact that they did not know of the network until knowledge became more common. Obviously, failing to be aware of some particular institution does not come anywhere near precluding one from being intelligent and knowledgable in general and thus of value to the institution, but the influx of valuable participants versus damaging participants appears to decrease after a certain level of notoriety is reached. Again, the decline in the intellectual relevance of content at reddit.com is a good example of this.

(b) Data overflow: The watering down process described above does not only result in one coming across information of relatively low quality, but also in having to contend with more of it. On reddit.com, for instance, a user who scans new submissions will find not only a certain amount of potentially useful information, but also some amount of almost certainly useless information. The watering down of contributor quality also contributes to the extent to which the latter is perpetuated within the network itself insomuch as that lesser contributors are more likely to vote up useless information, thus helping to ensure that the barriers built into the network in order to facilitate the viewing of important rather than unimportant content – in this case, a pre-established threshold of up votes necessary to bring something to the front page – will thereby lose their effectiveness.

(c) Barriers to obtaining raw data: The obvious fact of data overflow – that some data is more useful than other data – is dealt with by means of selecting certain sources of information which one has identified as being a provider of quality output relative to other sources. Bloggers and others who require a steady stream of data in order to operate have certain methods of obtaining that data, and there is of course no reason to believe that any of these methods could not be improved upon to an extent that these improvements would be worth adapting. One has RSS feeds flowing from sources one has selected (and by virtue of having been selected, the sources must have been necessarily known to the blogger in the first place); one has algorithm-based sites like Memorandum.com (which merely shows what bloggers are talking about rather than necessarily providing any insight into what they should be talking about); one has democratic or pseudo-democratic sites such as reddit.com and digg.com; and one has the fundamentally one-way outlets of television and newspapers, the content of which is decided upon by a handful of producers or editors (who themselves are working within an incidental structure that does not appear to be of much value relative to what may now be found among the better portions of the blogosphere). A means of obtaining data that improves upon these and all other methods would be of great utility insomuch as that the quality of data is of course one major limiting factor with regards to the quality of output..

The Solutions

By way of a network designed to take better advantage of the existing informational environment, Project PM can help to remedy the problems described above without significant effort on the part of participants, yet with potentially dramatic results on the efficiency of information flow.

(a) Watering down of contributor quality within participatory networks: Project PM will greatly reduce the accumulation of low-value contributors by way of the method by which contributors are brought it. The network will be established with a handful of contributors who have been selected by virtue of intellectual honesty, proven expertise in certain topics, and journalistic competence in general. Each of these contributors has the option of inviting into the network any number of other bloggers, each of whom will initially be connected only to the contributor who brought him in. Each of these new participants also has the option of bringing others into the network in the same fashion as well as offering a connection to any other participant, as will anyone they bring in, and so on. To the extent that the original participants are of value in terms of their judgement, they may be expected to bring in participants of similarly high value, and so on; meanwhile, as the network expands, participants will be likely to form new direct connections to others whom they have determined to be of particular value relative to other participants, and conversely, to disestablish any direct connections they might have established to those whose output they find to be below par. Of course, none of this precludes the network from eventually encompassing participants of low desirability relative to that of the average participant, but to the extent that such a thing occurs, its effect are largely neutralized by way of the dynamic described below.

(b) Data overflow: Information flows through the Project PM network by way of a single button accessible to each participant. When a participant either writes or receives a blog post or other informational element, the participant may “push” the item, thus sending it to all of those with whom he is directly connected in the network. In such a case as a participant pushes forward items that others may determine to be of little merit, the resulting clutter is only seen by the participant who brought such a low-value blogger into the network in the first place, as well as those whom the low-value blogger has to this point brought in himself along with those who have agreed to connect with him from elsewhere in the network. To the extent that a given participant exercises good judgment in establishing connections, then, he will only receive informational elements of value while also being able to quickly transmit them to contributors who will be able to make best use of such information. Meanwhile, below-average participants will have only very limited means by which to clutter the network, as informational elements become less likely to be pushed forward as they approach above-average participants within the network, who themselves are “buffered” from such things by way of the competent participants with whom they surround themselves by way of their connections and who, by virtue of their competence, are unlikely to push forward low-value information.

(c) Barriers to obtaining raw data: The dynamics described in (a) and (b) collectively provide for a means of information inflow that should theoretically be superior to any other medium currently in existence in terms of overall quality, both by virtue of the network’s improved organizational methods as well as the relatively high competence of participating bloggers relative to members of the traditional media outlets as a whole. Accessibility to particularly valuable items of information will be enhanced further by the option to set one’s widget in such a way as to display any piece of information from the network, regardless of “proximity,” if such information is pushed forward (which is to say, approved of other participants) a certain number of times. This should help to ensure that, as the network expands, particularly valuable information does not become unduly “regionalized.” A variant on the widget for use by readers (as opposed to network participants) displaying information that meets similar thresholds of popularity within the network would likewise provide those readers with a source of information above and beyond other existing mediums.

***

In order to keep this effort independent and to allow me to concentrate on overseeing the project, you may make a donation via paypal to barriticus@aol.com; although I am fond of several of the publications for which I write and will continue to contribute to them for the foreseeable, there are others with which I would prefer to disassociate myself in favor of having more time to advance Project PM. Note that the project will remain independent regardless and that I’ll continue to pay incidental expenses myself as necessary; we’ll only be working with other entities to the extent that we retain editorial and other forms of control over all aspects of  the project. Again, your contributions allow me to spend more time organizing this effort while still making rent each month. You’ll also get a lot of bang for your buck in terms of the marginal utility of your patronage, as I am extraordinarily frugal, even Spartan insomuch as that I spend a lot of time sitting around without a shirt on, or pants, or more than one sock. I smoke Top rolling tobacco, which goes for around $3 a package and is sold in many prison commissaries. I eat oatmeal for breakfast rather than endangered condor eggs dipped in wasabi-infused veal compote like Christopher Hitchens does. Anyway, the tobacco is necessary for my work.

Your contributions are not only appreciated, but of significant help to myself as well as those individuals – from influential and conscientious journalists to brilliant software engineers – who are putting their time and effort into this because they have determined that it is a viable way by which to bring needed change. We are growing as an entity much faster than I had expected, and as of now I am required to oversee a large and unprecedented operation while also tending to my existing workload as a writer, author, and spokesperson for a political action committee. I would like to drop the less important segments of this workload in able to have time to run this operation as best I can until such time as the legislative network is prepared to take over these duties in addition to its other functions. Your contribution will allow me to do so. Any funds I receive over $500 in a given month will go into the experimental charity trust described above.


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  1. collapse expand

    Dear god, Barrett, that all sounds so swell, but you sure know how to churn out legalese. Plain English, at which I’m sure you’re quite good, would be so much more effective.

  2. collapse expand

    Second the motion on English, there is enough college debating techniques and legal machinations on display already. One could boil this down to a simple plan in every revolutionary playbook…get control of the communications center and start broadcasting the truth. Truth unfortunately in these days is quite subjective and confusing.

  3. collapse expand

    This is some kind of nerd satire, right? Pitch an impossible scenario in tech manualese? Place a photo of yourself in camo gear?

    • collapse expand

      Glad to have you on board!

      It’s not camo; those are generic hunting clothes. I don’t hunt in regions where camo would be of benefit. This pic’s from Africa. I went there to LARP. LIGHTNING BOLT LIGHTNING BOLT -12 HP X2 ON BLACK WILDEBEEST.

      Seriously, though, I’d be happy to address any actual objections you may have to the proposal.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  4. collapse expand

    I’m a huge supporter of this effort, and this is how you fight against a media machine that has been bought and paid for.

  5. collapse expand

    I’m a newcomer to this blog. I found it through LGF which I also just recently found, and boy, it’s great to see some positive discourse after all the media crap. I’ve been following the hypocritical shenanigans of the political and religious mainstream and felt powerless to stem the tide.
    Now you are here. Thanks.

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    About Me

    I'm the author of Flock of Dodos: Behind Modern Creationism, Intelligent Design, and the Easter Bunny; my second book, Hot, Fat & Clouded: The Amazing and Amusing Failures of America’s Chattering Class (Being a Partial Record of the Incompetence of Our Republic's Mainstream Pundits, Most of Whom Deserve to be Exiled or at Least Have Their Cars Vandalized), will be released in 2010. I'm a contributor to Vanity Fair, The Huffington Post, Skeptic, and The Onion, and my work has appeared in dozens of other publications and outlets. I also serve as director of communications for Enlighten the Vote, a political action committee dedicated to the advancement of the Establishment Clause.

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    What I'm Up To

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    Hot, Fat, and Clouded: The Amazing and Amusing Failures of America’s Chattering Class