Open P2P Communities

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From :

"community-based organizational forms are not just for Open Source / Free Software / P2P software, but they are very important, and as they tend to develop some common characteristics, they can be used therefore for a wide range of situations and disciplines, independently from the degree of technology used. The Open Source / Free Software / P2P phenomenon is therefore important because it made us aware of the importance of community-based models and inspired us to search for similar cases. Moreover, they have shown own scalable and innovative organizational forms, adapted to face the challenges of a knowledge society.

All these cases represent community-based organizational forms, based on collaboration through the sharing of flows of information and sometimes of material resources. While traditional organizations are based on a vertical hierarchy that commands and controls, the Open P2P Communities are based on a horizontal network in which every participant commands itself and contributes to control the whole network. While in the vertical hierarchies the relationships are defined by power (top-down), in the Open P2P Communities they are defined by reputation (bottom-up). The structure is therefore an horizontal reticular type, where the reputation becomes a centripetal force of infuence towards the other participants. These communities can assume forms that are localized or virtual; they share the ability of self-organization during the development of a main activity for the solution of a specific problem, that the neither institutions neither the market had provided satisfactory solutions. Their community nature allows the creation of social capital,that could generate further processes of improvement of the local dimension, through the connections that they potentially can bring between short networks (the interest for the local dimension) with long networks (that involve a wide number of participants)." (



"The cases have been classified by the main activity these communities develop, gathering participants and building collaborative networks.

Collaborative networks that reach a critical mass of participants

   * PledgeBank
   * Meetup
   * Smart Mobs

Collaborative networks that manage informations and knowledge

   * Indymedia
   * The Global Ideas Bank
   * Ohmynews
   * Kuro5hin
   * Slashdot
   * OpenLaw
   * Wikipedia
   * Connexions
   * Silver Stringers
   * NASA Mars Clickworkers
   * Distributed Proofreaders
   * [email protected]

Collaborative networks that develop scientific research

   * The International HapMap Project
   * The Tropical Disease Initiative (TDI)
   * The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi)
   * The SNP Consortium Ltd

Collaborative networks that design

   * Open Source Green Vehicle (OSGV)
   * OSCar - The Open Source Car Project
   * Episodes of collective technological innovations
   * Thinkcycle
   * iCompositions
   * Solar Roof
   * instructables

Collaborative networks that organize business activities

   * Amul
   * Dabbawalla
   * Napster
   * GNUtella
   * Amazon
   * eBay
   * P-grid
   * The Sims
   * Grameen Bank

Collaborative networks that improve their local dimension

   * Terra Madre / Slow Food
   * Open Heatlh
   * Development Gateway
   * BBC’s Neighbourhood Gardener
   * The BBC iCan/Action target=”_blank”>Self-Help Groups
   * Honey Bee network
   * Kiva

Collaborative networks that help other communities

   * Sustainable Everyday Project / EMUDE
   * The New Earth Fund
   * mySociety
   * The Launchpad (Young foundation)


How to design such communities


"I have always said that these Open P2P Communities can self-organize themselves, and this affirmation should be explained better now. These communities are created in order to fix a problem through the development of a collaborative activity. The social relations can already be present but more often, if they develop through time, they rise from the development of the activity. Moreover, we can point out a distinction on the possible types of participation: there are two ways in which Open P2P Communities can self-organize. They can self-organize with:

  • a bottom-up participation: a community gather independently to fix a common problem (for example: Amul);
  • a top-down participation: a (public or private) service that allows the formation of a community and bases on it its operation is offered (for example: YouTube).

The fundamental point is: who takes the initiative and looks for persons in order to form a community? And with which goals?

For example: Free Software is bottom-up, Open Source and P2P could be bottom-up or top-down, Web 2.0 and Crowdsourcing are top-down.

Moreover, from this bottom-up and top-down distinction, we can ask another question: how much these communities are Open and P2P? Data, informations, processes, results are accessible in an Open and P2P way? This is a very important issue and should be studied more.

As a consequence, as designers, we could design for a community in two ways: offering our professional capabilities to existing communities, or designing and developing (public and private) community-based services.

How can we design for a community that gathers around a main collaborative activity?" (

More Information

Massimo Menichinelli's Italian Master's thesis is translated serially on the Open P2P Design blog.