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October 01, 2005

Sandbox tenet: Beg Forgiveness

I recently listened to Stefan Magdalinski's ETech presentation, "Forgiveness, not Permission," the title of which sums up what I think is a foundational tenet of the sandbox. In it, he explains creating TheyWorkForYou.com, which tracks the performance of British MPs. He describes how he essentially pirated information copyrighted by the Parliament to encourage openness and transparency in governmental matters.

This sentiment is clearly core to the sandbox. I doubt Paul Rademacher asked first before mashing up Craiglist housing information and Google Maps.

Things are moving too fast for people to strike deals, sign contracts, make agreements. Anything that inhibits the execution of ideas is essentially ignored. And the smart response from the entities being used is to let it happen.

This is not a web phenomenon. Last week's New Yorker includes a feature on Wuhu, a city in China where auto manufacturing is taking off. From the article:

In secret, Yin built an automobile assembly line in Wuhu. National regulations forbade new auto manufacturers from entering the market, so the officials in Wuhu named the enterprise an “automotive components” company. The factory made its first engine in May of 1999. Seven months later, it turned out a car. It used Jetta parts, from suppliers who were supposedly exclusive to Volkswagen. VW was furious, and so was the central government.

But, during the Reform era, as authority has become decentralized, this is a common strategy: push the boundaries first, then ask forgiveness. For more than a year, Wuhu’s officials negotiated with the central government, finally receiving permission to sell their cars nationwide in 2001.

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Posted by peterme at October 1, 2005 11:51 AM

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