Saturday, November 1, 2008

Tragedy of the Commons -- Do all virtual communities break down?

Garret Hardin in his exceptional essay The Tragedy of the Commons (1968), postulated that groups sharing public resources would devolve rapidly when the greed of individuals overburdened the available holdings. As competition for assets and prominence increases the population splits into loose coalitions (cliques) focused on controlling the communal assets and disruption becomes the norm.

The logic behind this interpretation is that the common areas or in this case the forums, will eventually be consumed or severely compromised by the battling factions and all the stakeholders will lose in the long run. Most everyone working with online community runs into this obstacle at some point during their career. In some instances, the forum becomes rife with self-destructive behavior bent on dissolution of the common area. Community development programs must take this issue into consideration and eventually decide how to best allocate the resources.

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