So after a hiatus I would like revitalize MeshForum for 2014. 10 years after I first started working on MeshForum I think there is still a great need for a interdisciplinary approach to the study of Networks. Networks are if anything even more crucial to understanding the world today than they were 10 years ago - and new approaches have been arising all around us. 

But it is still the case that thinkers about Networks in different contexts rarely interact and learn from each other - academics don't always talk with business leaders, government agencies or non-profits. 

To take just one, big, example the rise of Bitcoin and the ecosystem around it - miners, hardware companies, businesses that take and exchange Bitcoins as well as the infrastructure of the cryptocurrency itself are all deeply Network related - and like many networks they have a structure and characteristics that are important to understand as they point to both flaws and opportunities. 

My personal interest in starting MeshForum a decade ago was to further my own personal hypothesis that all of Economics could be understood from a Network lens. I remain convinced of the importance of this approach and in 2014 I hope to collaborate with many of you to further Interdisciplinary approaches and opportunities around Networks. 

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Good to see meshforum alive and well on G+, and glad to be a part of this community. I first heard of meshforum from Shannon long ago and when it was just an idea in his head. Now, after tons of hard work by many, and several successful conference events, it is itself, an inspiring & comprehensive network that I look forward to learning from and contributing to. Way to go Shannon on always following through on your ideas, visions, and dreams. I will be giving the +meshforum a mention on where I attempt to decode how top earning networks generate revenue . Thank you for the invite and keep us up to date on the next event, big or small, I will do my best to participate. -Shane

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There are many forms of networks on and offline - and while the biggest "social networks" dominate the news and are literally the stuff movies are made of, there are many other smaller scale networks that are worth paying close attention to as models for many other industries and organizations.

I am a gamer - not in the digital form of games (though I enjoy those as well when I have time and a chance to play them) - but in the older forms of games. Since I was 4 I have played many games at times highly competitively. In high school I was a very serious chess player - captain of my school's chess team for 3 1/2 years and though I haven't played a lot in recent years I was in the past around a 2000 or so rating strength player (though my actual official rating was lower since I rarely played rated games since high school)

But that early experience with "organized play" - in the form of competitive high school chess was also an early exposure to International Chess - which has been a community of organized competition for decades (over a century now). These networks of games while on the surface may seem both simple and trivial are, in fact, extremely complex and expose many subtle but powerful elements of effective social networks.

Based on my personal involvement with many forms of Organized Play over the past 25+ years here are a few of the key lessons I have learned.

1. Central authority to set standards but dispersed responsibility to set details

All of the successful organized play examples I've participated in and in many cases helped with as an active volunteer have had a small core group that set the rules and basic standards for the organization. Even International Chess has a centralized rules body (of a sort) that adjusts the rules over time and which sets the rules not just of the game(s) played but the structural rules the rules that set the boundaries on what "counts" for the purposes of the organized play.

i.e. in the case of chess these are the rules outside of those that control how say the pieces on the board move - the rules for things like the duration of a game, how games are played in competitive settings, what devices are allowed/disallowed, how records and rankings will be tracked over time etc. These "meta" rules create the basic framework around which people active in the organized play can create events and run games.

It is these standards that allow a very unique property of most organized play - the participation in a game of a stranger potentially someone from across the planet. Unlike say game night at your home where the only people who play are those whom you invite to join you, organized play generally thrives on events which are public and often open to anyone to participate (provided they follow the rules - which may include entry fees or memberships)

2. Trust your volunteers

If you set a good example and have clearly communicated standards (so that anyone playing in Organized Play anywhere in the world can have a similar experience) you can then put a lot of trust into your volunteers. The best groups I have seen have an immense network of volunteers each with their own personal styles and passions but who come together to co-create amazing experiences for themselves and players on a very frequent basis.

In active regions this can be as often as multiple times a day. These volunteers often organize incredible events for free (and often spend their own money supporting their hobby) but in the best of these cases they are supported by the central organization with at least recognition and appreciation.

3. Open beats closed

The core principle of successful Organized Play organizations is that they are open to anyone, from anywhere in the world to participate in the games. Individual games and events can, at times, be limited to how many people can participate but the overall organization thrives when most events at most times are accommodating of everyone.

This openness requires a lot of flexibility - and it is the core reason for things like Chess ratings - to help set expectations and give guidance when pairing up players to play against each other and when measuring the results of games.

4. "Unique identity for each participant"

This is the flipside to being open. Organized Play generally (though not always) works best when each player has a unique identifier that can track their participation globally. This is also then used to help weed out bad actors from participating and ruining things for everyone else.

When you are organizing something that has a competitive element there will be people who step over the lines and break rules (i.e. people who cheat). Having a unique identifier for each participant helps in removing these bad actors.

Here are some links for some current examples of active Organized Play - I recommend that everyone interested in Networks spend some time looking at these many different organized play groups.

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Politics, Networks and Surveillance

For the past few weeks the Internet (and many of the mailing lists many people in this community are all apart of) have exploded with debates and discussions about PRISM and government surveillance in general.

While clearly there is an important and hard to overlook Network aspect to these efforts by the government (as well as the reactions and responses to them) MeshForum is not a political forum.

Past speakers - many years before any of the recent revelations - talked about the rise of surveillance (and in the words on a past speaker Sussveillance - i.e. the people watching the watchers and each other). See in particular Jamais Cascio's past MeshForum keynote on the Participatory Panopticon:

But I also have to emphasize that MeshForum itself in all forms (including this community) is non-political. Whatever your political views (or role in government) MeshForum is about being a neutral space for the exchange of ideas, best practices and practical experience. To achieve this MeshForum has to be an open forum where anyone can talk (on the record) and where we value hearing about actual experience (as well as theory).

Q&A is another core aspect of MeshForum - the goal at MeshForum is not just to hear great presentations - it is to engage in discussion and at times debate. Debates that are intended to help everyone - speaker and audience alike.

Clearly if MeshForum happens in 2013 we will want to address PRISM (and related government efforts) and perhaps the role that Network analysis and understand plays (played) in these efforts. But MeshForum is not a place for political debate or name calling.    

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This is a great, short podcast that illustrate the key role that hidden networks play in the global economy (i.e. the networks that run ATMs globally) as well as illustrating a key point I often make around the difference between the network connectivity that is generated by active use of banks (in the most basic traditional sense of banks) versus the loss of connectivity and value creation when banking is avoided nearly entirely (either by a segment of the population or as this podcast describes nearly an entire country for 50+ years). 

All in all a fantastic listen from one of my favorite podcasts. 

I enjoyed speaking at MeshForum, and would be happy to do so again!  

I'm looking for a space (or spaces) near Palo Alto where I could start conducting interviews - both in person and via Google Hangout - anyone have a small meeting room I could borrow occasionally? 

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Why MeshForum?

+David Weinberger raises a good point - why MeshForum? Especially when there is another highly respected conference called Mesh that started a few years ago.

When I started MeshForum back in 2004 I was looking for a name and term that would capture what I wanted from a conference. Forum was a homage to PC Forum the highly respected conferences that +Esther Dyson ran for many years. In fact she spoke at the first MeshForum back in 2005.

Mesh came from a search for terms that were related to networks but not tied to only one specific view of networks. While there is indeed a technology called Mesh Networks mostly it is an underused term in tech and business.

As in the picture below Meshes can come in many shapes and structures. I like the photo I took earlier today as an illustration in part because it shows a lot of subtle yet important aspects of networks.

For example it is a photo of a mesh of even squares each constructed by a series of chain links. As a metaphor it illustrates many types of interactions and relationships. Each link is important part of the chain but the chains themselves form structures that in turn connect to other larger structures and which relate to bigger structures they rely upon (in this photo the ground and the not pictured walls to either side.

Do you have illustrations of networks - mesh or other forms from the world around you?

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Another podcast from MeshForum 2006 - this one is +Anil Dash (back when he was working at Six Apart).

Does the existence of the Mesh conference in Toronto give you pause about the name?
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