Benjamin Mako Hill on When Peer Production Succeeds

Why do some free software and free culture projects succeed where others fail?

Hear Benjamin Mako Hill speak on a topic he has researched extensively.  If you are involved in a free software, "open source," or free culture project, or simply want to know how they succeed (and why they sometimes don't), this is an amazing presentation you won't want to miss.

Hill will refer to research on free software and free culture communities and suggest that the ideal of peer production is only rarely realized. He will show how free software, and free culture, only very rarely look like their poster children: the Linux kernels and the Wikipedias. Hill will present some of his research comparing failed free culture projects to successes to both suggest a methodology, and a potential set of answers, in order to answer the question: Why do peer production projects like Wikipedia work?

Hill will suggest, and try to show, that by learning from our failures, instead of ignoring or sweeping them under the rug, we can make both free culture advocacy and free culture practice more effective.

Presentation Outline

-- What is peer production?
-- How does peer production work? e.g. in cases like Wikipedia
-- Why does peer production work?
-- Study peer production failures
-- Learn about peer production success
-- Q&A with Benjamin Mako Hill

About Our Speaker

Benjamin Mako Hill ( is a scholar, activist, and consultant working on issues of technology and society. He is currently a researcher and PhD Candidate in a joint program between the MIT Sloan School of Management and the MIT Media Lab, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and a Research Fellow at the MIT Center for Civic Media. His research focuses on sociological analyses of social structure in free culture and free software communities.

Hill has been a leader, developer, and contributor to the Free and Open Source Software community for more than a decade as part of the Debian and Ubuntu projects. He is the author of several best-selling technical books, and a member of the Free Software Foundation board of directors. He is an advisor to the Wikimedia Foundation and the One Laptop per Child project. Hill has a Masters degree from the MIT Media Lab.

Meeting Logistics

Akamai has generously agreed to provide space and 'free as in food' (pizza) for this meeting.
Thank you to our sponsor!

We will meet in the lobby of the building and be escorted past security to the meeting space.  If you arrive late, let the security guard know and someone will come to get you.

Our March meeting ended a little abruptly at 8:30pm because of scheduling confusion.  Apologies to anyone who was inconvenienced.  We will have more time to mingle and chat at the end of April's meeting.

Transportation & Parking

The Akamai office is a short walk from the Kendall Square T stop and other public transportation.  Metered parking should be available near our location (Ames St, south of Main St, is a good place to look for parking).

More Events & Announcements

Low-cost, Small, Fast, Energy Efficient Devices Capable of Running Linux, April 17

Students for Free Culture Conference FCX2013, NYC, April 20-21

International Day Against DRM, Fri May 3
The FSF will deliver a petition to the W3C demanding that they turn down a proposal to build DRM support into the fabric of the Web. The campaign is being dubbed "We don't want the Hollyweb."

For the petition delivery, we're going to be delivering an Oscar to the W3C, to poke some fun at their potential collusion with Big Media. And we won't stop there; we've got a red carpet, and we're all going to dress like movie stars! The more of you that can come and help us class up the joint, the better.

We're going to meet at 2:00 PM at MIT in Cambridge, exact location TBA. If you'd like to come, please email [masked].

Sign the petition here:

Join or login to comment.

  • Will R.

    In celebration of Day Against DRM (today), O'Reilly is offering 50% off DRM-free books and videos (today only).

    May 3, 2013

  • Will R.

    Thank you Mako for a wonderful talk!! And thank you to our audience members who had some engaging questions! Everyone is welcome to send me topic suggestions for meetings. Also, here is the link to the Stop DRM in HTML5 petition:

    May 2, 2013

  • Merejo

    Very straight forward and Humbly honest.Mr.Hill opened a world of possibilities with his informal discussion.

    May 1, 2013

  • Rafael

    Sorry, I cannot assist tomorrow.

    April 30, 2013

    • Will R.

      Sorry we'll be missing you Wednesday night. Hope to see you at another event soon!

      April 30, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Will there be a video of the presentation posted somewhere? Or perhaps slides?

    April 30, 2013

    • Will R.

      There won't be a video unless someone volunteers to take one. For a couple of our past meetings, a member in attendance recorded audio. With permission of the speaker, we will post audio (if someone records it) along with the slides, however although it's something we like to do, I can't guarantee that at this time.

      April 30, 2013

  • Dave M.

    Thinking about buying a new laptop, but can't decide between a Macbook and maybe a hybrid with Linux instead - any recommendations?

    April 20, 2013

  • Brendan K

    I would like to go but I am not available next week. Have a good time.

    April 24, 2013

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