Losing Faith in Openness

February 10th, 2005

Or perhaps feeling as if I don’t entirely understand it. Two recent experiments one I participated in, and one observed in being open about things which are traditionally secret seem to be paying off poorly.

The first was the decision by Groundspring to post our design and spec documents for our “community relationship management” tool to the public as we were building them. The idea was that this would engage people in a discussion of which features were meaningful to the organization. In fact what it did was make it very simple for a me too project to slap together a very similar sounding spec followed by a mail blast to every relevant tech mailing list asking for feedback on their new spec.

The second is Robot Co-op’s decision to disclose their relationship with Amazon which rather then quieting down the conspiracy theorist seems to have brought them out of the wood work with demands for even more disclosure.

I’ve done some thinking about how a different space for dialogue might have been created for the first experiment, but I think largely we’re still dealing with a culture that isn’t really trained to engage in dialogue, and responds much better to being rebuffed, fed press releases, and kept in the dark.

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