Links are Relationships

    March 4, 2005

Two very disturbing developments in regulating the blogosphere — one puts a price on …

links, the other demands bloggers reveal sources.

Jeff Jarvis

There’s a considerable dustup today over an interview with Federal Election Commission Bradley Smith saying that under McCain-Feingold and a recent court decision overturning an internet exemption, the commission will have to go after bloggers, ascribing a value to the links they give candidates as campaign contributions.

Mary Hodder

Valuing campaign contributions as it were, from digital sources who link this way may also not get the true value of the link. The FEC is proposing to apply rules of analog campaign activity to the internet. So bloggers, linkers… are they press… are they contributors of in-kind linking or words… or are they expressing opinion? What is their status and is it based on what they do, or say, or based on self-identification? I’d say it’s as varied as blogs are: blogs are a tool, remember? It’s like asking what is the status of this piece of paper? Is it a letter, a newspaper, a shopping list, a diary? The status depends on how it’s used but the are many possibilities and otherwise it’s just a flexible tool for communication.

Links are a public form of speech, with a value, primarily for the commons. A link is a connection between two peers, initiated by one, usable by all. Commons-based peer production holds that social signals, underpinned by relationships, can drive productivity as an alternative to price or contract signals. A tremendous level of productivity is unleashed when transactions are not valued. Doing so reduces transaction costs and enable the long tail to produce. If every contribution to Wikipedia or link in the blogosphere had a price, they would not exist. However, links are relationships, and in the context of political donations they should be followed — to discover if there are underlying prices and contracts driving activity.

The issue of confidentiality of sources is simply freedom of the press, so i will leave the argument to others. “Just because Apple does not want these publications to report on its activities does not mean that they are not news publications,” said Thomas Goldstein.

Ross Mayfield is CEO and co-founder of Socialtext, an emerging provider of Enterprise Social Software that dramatically increases group productivity and develops a group memory.

He also writes Ross Mayfield’s Weblog which focuses on markets, technology and musings.