You Can’t Herd Cats

Well you can, if you move they’re food!

I’m not quite sure where I first “herd” this quote but for some reason I’ve been thinking about it lately.  It breaks down to the basic idea that in many cases changing the way a large group thinks or acts is an impossible task.

I think back to a wonderful group of people I worked with called the Marine Breeding Initiative and how this group of professionals and hobbyists alike have built a large community to share information related to captive propagation of various marine species.

In many areas of science, as well as commercial groups reliant on sales to survive sharing of information is forbidden.  To give away intellectual property or that one gem of research finding is looked at as profession suicide!

And yet through the creation of an open space for a community to naturally evolve not only allowed this to happen but it also encourages it.  With the advent of the internet and the incredible improvement of the technology driving it the MBI was able to leverage this pervasive data flow and create something so powerful as to promote open communication of ideas that many would typically hold very close.

The basic idea is not incredibly complex in concept but has grown to an amazingly detailed machine.  Why not create a system where people can openly share findings and successes and track them with a points system to encourage competition in an open manner?

In order to rack up points (and yes get framed awards and a touch of prestige) information *must* be shared in great detail.  Now behind the scenes there is a lot going on to track and award these points but many of the people performing those tasks (as I was for a period of time) find it a somewhat exhilarating and interesting labor of love.

Other examples of course exist elsewhere, there are scientific groups with similar open platforms sharing information on everything from disease to even software (open source comes to mind).  By moving the food from a concept of commercial funding, publishing, and fancy patents to the idea that by sharing the cats can have a higher quality of food as well as a wider prestige base we effectively herd the cats to a better place.

I was originally about to fall asleep but thinking about this interesting phenomenon had me too wired to sleep (or it could be the payday bar I ate).  So a second post was called for just to get this thought out.

And now I’m going to eat the other payday bar in the cupboard.

~J

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