I have been thinking about your “networks have lower transaction costs than firms” idea as we have been playing out an example here in Baltimore.

There were 7,000 emails generated by city officials pertaining to the riots in April. The local newspaper did a PIA request to obtain them, wrote a couple of stories, then moved on.

Gus Sentementes, a friend and former reporter who’s launched a community live streaming and public transparency project, figured if we could get a copy of that archive and let the network analyze it, more interesting stuff would be found.

So he contacted the city and they wanted $375 for the 7,000 emails. He posted this fact to Facebook. Within an hour we had raised the money from various $50 and $25 contributions.

He received the emails a few hours later and then promptly posted them to Google Drive and made them available to the local community as well as the international media for free.

Within a day or two, some major stories started to break over the contents of the emails… both locally and internationally.

Now, he’s crowdsourcing fees associated with FOIA requests for many more document troves: from the state, DHS, police, and other sources. His model is simple — get the primary source documents into the hands of the network and then let the network do analysis around what it thinks is important.

This seems to me to be thoroughly disruptive to the “newspaper as gatekeeper” model; while a bit reminiscent of Wikileaks et al, it doesn’t rely on subterfuge: it works entirely in the confines of the current laws but uses networks to lower transaction costs to zero, ultimately.

Anyway, this is an interesting new model and it’ll be fun to see how it evolves. Gus’ website is http://cityexplainer.com

Disinformation researcher, thinker, writer, entrepreneur, TED speaker, and data visualization geek. Twitter: @davetroy Email: davetroy@gmail.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store