The Project PM Schematic

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Barrett Brown

I am the founder of the distributed think-tank Project PM and a regular inactive to Vanity Fair and Skeptical Inquirer. My work has also appeared in The Onion, National Lampoon, New York Press, D Magazine, Skeptic, McSweeney's, American Atheist, and a couple of newspapers in the U.S. and Mexico as well as a few policy journals. I'm the author of two books and serve as a consultant to various political entities and private clients.

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15 Responses

  1. Avatar Jason Kuznicki
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m sympathetic to the idea of limiting initial access to people who already have a high reputation and can be expected to produce quality content. But then I also recall that Facebook started out in the Ivy League, and it’s not exactly taking over the world with its erudition.

    Letting people decline to pass things forward, or letting people sever links in the network, doesn’t seem intuitively to produce more erudition. It seems more likely it will produce a number of compartmentalized, complacent echo chambers of the sort we already have plenty of.

    What prevents mere agreement from substituting for rational thought? And when you have a choice — smart post you agree with versus smart post you disagree with — which one gets bumped, on the margin? The answer is obvious.

    You may have produced a way for people to signal that they wish to be thought erudite, but I’m doubtful that you have produced an erudition aggregator, at least for contentious issues. If you have, I don’t see it in the video. (For a relatively neutral analogy, consider your aggregator working not on the newspaper’s front page, or the science page, but on the sports page. Would it not splinter into rival fandoms?)

    This is not to say I think the project would obviously fail — I’m not nearly that bold — but I don’t yet see how it delivers. I’m interested, and I will continue to watch closely, but I’m definitely a skeptic.Report

    • Avatar Barrett Brown in reply to Jason Kuznicki
      Ignored
      says:

      Facebook does not operate under the same schematic, and even if it had, beginning with Ivy League students as the foundation from which to grow is hardly a plus in my book; I’ve started this off with a group of people of whom I think you’d approve (and I’ll show you our member sheet if you’d like to e-mail me). Meanwhile, you are certainly correct that problems can come up in terms of agreement substituting for rational thought and the other things you’ve mentioned, but I haven’t said otherwise; I am not billing this as a perfect system that will provide a perfect framework by which to erase all the imperfections of its users, but rather merely as a superior framework than what is currently available. For instance, what would you consider to be the best framework currently in existence for not only aggregating this sort of content but also facilitating communication between a great number of parties?Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Barrett Brown
        Ignored
        says:

        What’s the best framework? It’s my own RSS feed.

        Is it perfect? Of course not. But it is, in all possible worlds, the very best thing that I could be made to tolerate anyway, given my prejudices. (Like everyone else with an RSS feed, I do skip plenty of articles, and I trust that if something is sufficiently important, I will learn about it sooner or later.)

        I’ve been thinking about my admittedly grumpy comment in the meantime, and I’d like to give it a bit more formality if I may. You’re designing the ground rules for a spontaneous order, as I am sure you are aware. In such an order, actors will respond to the incentives that they face, and not to your intentions as the designer.

        My real concern here is that you are allowing your intentions to do some of the work that will need to be done by incentives, if it is to be done at all. Providing those incentives is a really difficult problem, as you rightly note when you consider other aggregators. Have you solved that problem? I’m unsure.

        In any case, I believe you have my e-mail. I’d love to see your participants.Report

        • Avatar Barrett Brown in reply to Jason Kuznicki
          Ignored
          says:

          I can assure you that, of all people you are likely to encounter throughout the entirety of your life, I am the last to expect others to subscribe to my intentions.Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Barrett Brown
            Ignored
            says:

            What you appear to be after is an incentive that rewards intelligence, not eyeballs. The latter is great for advertising and easily measured to boot. That’s not what you seem to want. Do you supply a reward for what you do want? The blogosphere is perfectly capable of producing enclaves of smart people, but if you cast the net a bit wider — and by most objective measures — it’s mostly a giant ocean of stupid. Still, it works pretty well.

            Also, what do you do when smart people disagree vehemently with each other, and even down to the level of their qualifications as “smart people”? For example, what would you make of the recent dust-up between Henry Farrell and Megan McArdle?

            I know them both, I consider them both really intelligent, and yet not so long ago Henry basically drummed Megan out of the smart, polite, intellectually honest camp — at least by his own lights. It was very, very rough treatment, and I don’t personally know whether it was warranted. I’m so thankful that I haven’t had to take a side that I even hesitated to bring it up. The blogosphere churns on. How do you think your system will treat it? More importantly, what incentives would the actors and audience in that little drama face?Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jason Kuznicki
              Ignored
              says:

              (Minor edits for grammar. I blame my French press, which broke this morning.)Report

              • Avatar Barrett Brown in reply to Jason Kuznicki
                Ignored
                says:

                Sorry for the delay in responding. I’m going to share with you our partial membership roster, the sci-journ participant list, and some other odds and ends as promised. I’ll also try to address your other points in a future post when I answer the other questions submitted by Dr. Lipp.Report

            • Avatar Koz in reply to Jason Kuznicki
              Ignored
              says:

              For the life of me, I can’t figure out the intensity of Megan hatred on the Left. I want to say it’s a manifestation of substantial psychological problems on the part of the haters, but that seems a little too convenient for anti-Leftists such as myself. But if not that, what?Report

  2. Avatar Kenneth Lipp
    Ignored
    says:

    @Barrett
    Thank you, I’ve actually been rolling this idea in close propinquity with your post yesterday in re “AI Box.”
    I have some much more specific questions for you, which might at this point be scholastic, but would appreciate your response to. I’ve pdf’d a document with selected references, and a few po-ironic photographs to beg attention.
    KennethReport

  3. Avatar MFarmer
    Ignored
    says:

    If F, who factors in douche-baggedness, distantly, yet subtlely, assigned to erudite D, and E, after assuming the best of B, who C never fathomed to begin with, and actually referred to B as a honkyfied pissant, diefies F’s erudite explanation of erudite D’s douche-baggedness, and B never hits the mark, could C ever attain a readership which appreciates her significance, especially if G and F were aligned to obstruct the dissemination of opposing positions wich could marginalize the exposure of not only C, but of H, who perhaps hearts B’s stylish riffs, but would do anthing to block D because H thinks D is pretentious, overrated, and not all that, yada yada?Report

  4. Avatar Kenneth Lipp
    Ignored
    says:

    I’ve changed my mind. MF, I am completely lost as to what if any correspondence this comely assemblance of grammar has with inter-subjective reality, but your contribution’s presence put the entropy of what I earlier noticed in sharp relief with it’s perfect defiance of explanation for its occurrence. I can only assume, and am informing you as a courtesy of my intent to report, that you have some weapon or potent threat and have forced those words together against their will.Report

  5. Avatar Kenneth Lipp
    Ignored
    says:

    Or are you fellas really talking about something? I’ve been wrong.Report

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