Lazy webs and busy meters

More on the LazyWeb: Clay Shirky, one of the forces behind the LazyWeb project, writes about it at OpenP2P: LazyWeb and RSS: Given Enough Eyeballs, Are Features Shallow Too? There’s some good stuff in there, including this tasty little pretzel from Stefano Mazzocchi: “Good ideas and bad code build communities. The other three combinations do not. This is extremely hard to understand; it’s probably the most counter-intuitive thing about open source dynamics.” It’s an intriguing thought.

While we’re on the topic of speeding up community cross-pollination and feedback, take a look at netmood.net [via kottke.org]. The idea is to provide stock ticker style feedback to people who visit your site. How much do you like my site? How much do you like it now? How about now? This exercise may seem a little silly, but there’s no mistaking the fact that that which gets measured improves. Maybe netmood widgets will fuel dramatic improvements in web sites over the next year. It reminds me of a recent Bill McKibben article about the new Honda hybrid gas-electric car: Small Change (Orion Magazine). McKibben points out that once they put a gauge on the dash that says what your gas mileage is, you naturally want to start keeping score (“What’s my average today? Is that better than my brother-in-law?”). I happen to know that my friend Nabeel does the same thing with his his sleek Audi A4. Here’s McKibben.

What if your thermostat gave you an updated oil consumption readout every time you went to turn it up? What if your faucet showed you how much water you’d used in the last day, and how it differed from your annual average? Would you change your behavior? I think you likely would — that you’d reach for a sweater if it was just a tad chilly around the house, that the average shower would get a little shorter. Not because you cared about the environment, or even the money you were burning in your furnace, but because — well, because it’s a number, and our instinct is to improve it, to notch it up. You’d meet the neighbors on the street and just happen to mention that you’d gotten through the winter on 44 gallons of crude, thanks to the nifty new cellulose insulation in the attic.