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Inventing the Post-Web World
The O'Reilly Peer-to-Peer and
Web Services Conference

Washington, D.C. -- November 5-8, 2001


Dark Matter, Sheep and the Cluster: Resolving Metaphor Collision in P2P

Rael Dornfest, Founder and CEO, Values of n, Inc.
Steve Burbeck, Senior Technical Staff, IBM Software Group
Cory Doctorow, Canada-US Fulbright Chair, Annenberg Center on Public Diplomacy, University of Southern California
Clay Shirky, Decentralization Writer/Consultant,

Track: Overview/Infrastructure
Date: Monday, November 05
Time: 11:15am - 12:00pm
Location: Washington Ballroom

On this panel, their proponents explicate three metaphors for P2P, and an attempt is made to find the grand, unifying metaphor of P2P. In other words, we're gonna find the koan that awakens P2P enlightenment in even the most clueless of seekers.

The three metaphors:

  • The PC is the Dark Matter of the Internet
    90% of the Internet is invisible. P2P is significant as the Internet for the Rest of Us.

  • The Internet as Cluster Organism (Steve)
    The stand-alone PC is an amoeba. The P2P Internet is a cluster-organism. Successful cluster-organisms exchange messages (XML); sucicidal ones exchange DNA (mobile code, Java). The P2P strategies that succeed will be based on messaging, not RPC.

  • The Sheep that Shits Grass (Cory)
    The thing that's exciting about P2P is Metcalfe Squared. Not only does the network gain utility with each additional user, it also gains capacity. IOW, each user provisions the resource he consumes. Forget the Cornucopia of the Commons -- this is a Commons where the sheep shit grass.

Each panelist spends 1-5min introducing their metaphor. The next twenty minutes are devoted to talking about the strengths and weaknesses of each metaphor. Remainder of time: Audience participation (suggesting new metaphors). Home | Conferences Home | P2P & Web Services Home
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