Commons-based peer production
Commons-based peer production is a term coined by Harvard Law School professor Yochai Benkler. It describes a new model of socio-economic production in which the creative energy of large numbers of people is coordinated (usually with the aid of the Internet) into large, meaningful projects mostly without traditional hierarchical organization. These projects are often, but not always, conceived without financial compensation for contributors. The term is often used interchangeably with the term social production.
Yochai Benkler contrasts commons-based peer production with firm production (in which tasks are delegated based on a central decision-making process) and market-based production (in which tagging different prices to different tasks serves as an incentive to anyone interested in performing a task).
The term was first introduced and described in Yochai Benkler's seminal paper "Coase's Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm". Yochai Benkler's 2006 book, The Wealth of Networks, expands significantly on these ideas. In the book, Benkler makes a distinction between commons-based peer production and peer production. The former is based on sharing resources among widely distributed individuals who cooperate with each other. The latter term is a subset of commons-based production practices.[contradictory] It refers to a production process that depends on individual action that is self-selected and decentralized. YouTube and Facebook, for example, are based on peer production.
In Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams suggest an incentive mechanism behind common-based peer production. "People participate in peer production communities," they write, "for a wide range of intrinsic and self-interested reasons....basically, people who participate in peer production communities love it. They feel passionate about their particular area of expertise and revel in creating something new or better."
"commons-based peer production refers to any coordinated, (chiefly) internet-based effort whereby volunteers contribute project components, and there exists some process to combine them to produce a unified intellectual work. CBPP covers many different types of intellectual output, from software to libraries of quantitative data to human-readable documents (manuals, books, encyclopedias, reviews, blogs, periodicals, and more)."
First, the potential goals of peer production must be modular. That means, objectives must be divisible into components, or modules, each of which can be independently produced. This allows production to be cumulative and asynchronous, merging the individual efforts of many people, with diverse backgrounds and skills, who are available at various places and times.
Second, the granularity of the modules is essential. Granularity refers to the degree to which objects are broken down into smaller pieces (module size). Different levels of granularity will allow people with different levels of motivation to work together by contributing small or large grained modules, consistent with their level of interest in the project and their motivation.
Third, a successful peer-production enterprise must have low-cost integration — the mechanism by which the modules are integrated into a whole end product.Thus,integration must include both quality controls over the modules and a mechanism for integrating the contributions into the finished product at relatively low cost.
Examples of projects using commons-based peer production include:
- Linux, a computer operating system
- Slashdot, a news and announcements website
- Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia
- Distributed Proofreaders, which proof reads public domain etexts for publication on Project Gutenberg
- SETI@home, a project which searches for extra terrestrial life
- Kuro5hin, a discussion site for technology and culture
- Clickworkers, a citizen science program
- Sourceforge, a software development organization
- RepRap Project, a project to create an open-source self-copying 3D printer.
- Pirate Bay, a shared index of bittorrents (under legal scrutiny in Sweden as of February 2009)
- OpenStreetMap, a free map of the world
- Appropedia, a project for development of Open Source Appropriate Technology
- SENSORICA.co, an open, decentralized, and self-organizing network dedicated to high tech open innovation
- Wikiprogress, a project for collecting information and data on measuring the progress of societies
- Ushahidi, crowdsourced maps
- Energypedia - a resource pool for knowledge exchange and learning on renewable energies in the context of development cooperation
- howtopedia - a platform for practical knowledge and simple technologies
- Fabwiki - community-built source of information about Fab Labs
- Traduwiki, crowdsourced translation
Several outgrowths have been:
- Customization/Specialization: With free and open source software small groups have the capability to customize a large project according to specific needs.
- Longevity: Once code is released under a copyleft free software license it is almost impossible to remove it from the public domain.
- Cross-fertilization: Experts in a field can work on more than one project with no legal hassles.
- Technology Revisions: A core technology gives rise to new implementations of existing projects.
- Technology Clustering: Groups of products tend to cluster around a core set of technology and integrate with one another.
Related concepts 
The ease of entering and leaving an organization is a feature of adhocracies.
Open community 
Open Community is an application of the idea of open source to other collaborative effort. What distinguishes an open community from a closed one is that anyone may join and contribute, that the direction and goals are determined collaboratively by all members of the community, and that the resulting work is made available under a free license.
An Open Community Project is a software project that offers a "Free Space" to people around a topic that unites them and is open to the whole Worldwide Community.
Open means free as not having to pay for contribution or adherence while not forcing discrimination in a way that some group would be excluded to participate in developing the project.
Open Community Projects take place in the Real World as well as in the "Virtual World" and are often supported by Open Software such as Wiki's, mailing lists/discussion fora, chat, polling tools and many more.
A basic example of where the term is used: "It would be a good idea if the United Nations, the USA and the EU and other democracies would also offer the free Hard Disk space they have to their communities for them to develop Open Community Projects on them and a Free Space, thus to foster participation of their and other citizens into democracies and keeping the democratic level in their democracies as high as possible."
Peer production enterprises have two primary advantages over both markets and firm hierarchies:
- Information gain: Peer production allows individuals to self-identify for tasks that suit them. Many individuals can generate more dynamic information which reflects individual skills and the "variability of human creativity."
- Great variability of human and information resources: leads to substantial increasing returns to scale to the number of people, and resources and projects that may be accomplished without need for a contract or other factor permitting the proper use of the resource for a project.
Some believe that the commons-based peer production (CBPP) vision, while powerful and groundbreaking, needs to be strengthened at its root because of some allegedly wrong assumptions concerning free and open source software (FOSS).
The CBPP literature regularly and explicitly quotes FOSS products as examples of artifacts “emerging” by virtue of mere cooperation, with no need for supervising leadership (without «market signals or managerial commands», in Benkler’s words).
It can be argued, however, that in the development of any less than trivial piece of software, irrespective of whether it be FOSS or proprietary, a subset of the (many) participants always play -explicitly and deliberately- the role of leading system and subsystem designers, determining architecture and functionality, while most of the people work “underneath” them in a logical, functional sense.
See also 
- Anti-rival good
- Citizen science
- Cognitive Surplus
- Collaborative software development model
- Knowledge commons
- Flow (psychology) - a theory describing the conditions under which work can be rewarding without compensation
- Gift economy
- Mass collaboration
- Peer review
- Open Business
- Open innovation
- Open Music Model
- Open Source Appropriate Technology
- Formal education
- Nonformal learning
- Steven Johnson (September 21, 2012). "The Internet? We Built That". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-09-24. "The Harvard legal scholar Yochai Benkler has called this phenomenon 'commons-based peer production'."
- Coase's Penguin or Linux and The nature of the firm The paper also includes a long study of what motivates contributors.
- Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything (2006), by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, Portfolio Books, p 70
- Krowne, Aaron (March 1, 2005). "The FUD based encyclopedia: Dismantling the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt aimed at Wikipedia and other free knowledge sources". Free Software Magazine.
- Benkler, Yochai; Nissenbaum, Helen (2006). "Commons-based Peer Production and Virtue". The Journal of Political Philosophy. 4 (14): 394–419. Retrieved 22 October 2011.
- Robert C. Allen (1983): Collective invention. In: Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 4(1), p. 1-24
- Ugo Pagallo, Massimo Durante, Three Roads to P2P Systems and Their Impact on Business Practices and Ethics, Journal of Business Ethics, 2010, 90, S4, 551
- Benkler, Yochai; Nissenbaum, Helen (2006). "Commons-based Peer Production and Virtue". The Journal of Political Philosophy. 4 (14): 394-419. Retrieved 22 October 2011.
- Magrassi, P. (2010). Free and Open-Source Software is not an Emerging Property but Rather the Result of Studied Design" Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Intellectual Capital, Knowledge Management & Organisational Learning, Hong Kong Polytechnic, Nov. 2010
- Wealth of Networks - Yochai Benkler's 2006 book about commons-based peer production.
- Open Source Drug Discovery Foundation - Open Source Drug Discovery Foundation is an international non-profit foundation based in India to accelerate drug discovery for infectious diseases.The foundation is based in India.
- The Foundation for P2P Alternatives - Function as a clearing-house for open/free, participatory/p2p and commons-oriented initiatives.
- The Emergence of Open Design and Open Manufacturing Michel Bauwens, We Magazine Volume 2
- Peer-to-peer production and the coming of the commons Michel Bauwens and Hilary Wainwright, Red Pepper, July 2012
- Peerconomy.org - Wiki on peer economy.