Communities Are As Communities Do

Right there are the beginning of Esther Dyson‘s ten-year-old book, Release 2.1, she alerts us to the Web 2.0 challenge we’re we’re now beginning to understand:

The challenge for us all is to build a critical mass of healthy communities on the Net and to design good basic rules for its public spaces so that larger systems do self-organize and work effectively. Rule-making is not the job of legislatures and governments alone. You can make your own rules by designing an online service — or by setting up procedures in your workplace. Anyone you offers a service or product, anyone who votes in a PTA or discusses corporate policy with her boss, is a rule-maker. What will make this world a better place for you and your children (or friends) to live in? It’s up to you to figure it out and to make it happen.

That is, the communities are real, and they’re self organizing and policing, but do we yet understand them?

I’m surely not the only one who smiles kindly and feels bad for those who look for some authority to “fix” Wikipedia, but take a look at the arguments about what is or is not offensive in Flickr and we find it: that’s a community struggling with the Dyson’s challenge. That’s the struggle that makes Flickr’s status as a community undeniable.