Just starting to wrap up day one here at the Berkman@10 Conference. The second session of the day was hosted by center Executive Director John Palfrey and focused on politics and the Internet.
John brought in lots of the distinguished members of the audience to talk about the effect of the blogosphere on politics and elections and the efforts to censor the Internet in many parts of the world. One interesting site mentioned was opennet.net, which tracks censorship of the Internet around the world.
This was followed by a session that included Berkman professor Yochai Benkler and Jimmy Wales, of Wikipedia and Wikia.
The focus of this session was cooperation, specifically focused on issues such as crowdsourcing and community-built resources, with Wikipedia being the prime example.
Like some of the other sessions in this conference, many of the individual points and anecdotes have been made before, such as Wales’ always good metaphor of starting a steak house where, since you give the customers sharp knives, you’ll need to put them in cages to stop them from hurting each other.
Toward the end of the session the conversation turned toward compensation models for crowdsourcing and user-generated content, which generate revenue for sites but typically provide no or limited compensation to those who contribute. Not surprisingly, not many solutions were proposed. On the idea though of business models that at first glance don’t seem to make sense, Jimmy Wales made a very excellent point.
Wales was speaking about Craigslist and the perception that it could make a lot more money. Wales said that he sees Craigslist as having a brilliant and even classic business model. Essentially, by sacrificing not making every last penny it could, it has become a dominant brand-name trusted source in its market.
The final session of the day was a panel discussion with an interesting collection of participants. The panel consisted of Michael Fricklas, general counsel for Viacom; former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt; and Esther Dyson. The panel was moderated by Charles Nesson, founder and faculty director of the Berkman Center.
Like most panel sessions this one ranged over a wide area of topics, including retaining the open nature of the Internet and the issues surrounding intellectual property rights and access. They also spoke about the costs and limitations of gaining Internet access around the world and about the benefits of open education.
The Berkman@10 Conference continues May 16. Those interested in seeing videos of the sessions from the conference can find them at http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/events/berkmanat10/webcasts.