Growing Digital Commons in a Modern Ecosystem

A look into digital commons and how they can succeed, how 16 companies dominate google search results, and alternative investments

Good morning

In today’s issue:

  • A look into digital commons and how they can succeed

  • How 16 companies pretty much own most media websites and dominate top Google search results

  • A theme this week: Alternative Investments

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Digital Commons

In an age where AI and consumerism are slowly overtaking our digital world, a movement driven by online communities has been steadily rising: Digital Commons. While this idea isn't new, now more than ever, we need a way for online communities to organize and share quality digital resources that are catered to humans.

What are Digital Commons?

Imagine a digital landscape where resources, like software, information, or art, are not locked behind a paywall, or you do not have to sell your digital identity to use a "free" product. Instead, these resources are part of the digital commons, collectively managed by a global community and freely accessible. This is what digital commons are all about.

Digital commons allow communities to fight against the centralization of information and wealth in the digital domain. Creating more equitable and democratic communities around maintaining a digital resource, like open-source software or shared information, can ensure impartiality and that the resource's direction stays true to its mission.

What are some examples of digital commons?

Digital commons represent a large portion of organized information on the web. Examples would be Wikipedia and OpenStreetMap. Both are driven by community contributions and are freely available to anyone who can access them.

Some other rising examples are decentralized social media platforms like Mastodon and Bluesky. Anyone can join Mastodon and host their own "instance." Each instance is independent from another but still connected. It can set its own rules and moderation policies, allowing for unique common areas while still being connected to the rest of the platform.

What impact can they have?

The impact these digital commons can have is enormous. They force communities to self-govern in a way that always supports the mission of the resource they are cultivating, whether geographic data or an open-source web browser. These commons should reflect the diversity and richness of their users.

Digital Commons in the AI Age

As we approach the broad adoption of AI tools, it is hard to understand whether what you are reading or downloading has been generated by AI. Overall, this may be fine. AI makes creating large swathes of text, code, and images very easily, saturating original content and making "organic data" (idk if this exists, but I'm using it as non-AI-generated data) harder to find. This may not be an issue to some, but there is some unwritten form of trust a user puts in the "owner" of the content they are consuming. If what they are consuming is led to be X, but it's actually Y, that is a problem, and the trust will be broken. AI makes it easy for people to do this. Digital commons can help mitigate this and cultivate digital gardens of organic data that are vetted and curated to provide value to the community it is serving by design.

How do Digital Commons Fail?

The path forward isn't without an uphill battle. An economic theory called the tragedy of the commons details how commons can fail by being taken advantage of. An example of a tragedy today is Space debris in orbit around Earth. Unrestricted access to space (relatively speaking) with little care or need to recover decommissioned satellites and other space trash has caused large amounts of debris in space, making limited locations for new satellites and a fragile orbital ecosystem. In the digital space, this is very easy to do. Think of a free resource online that someone maintains, like an API or a tool. If usage of this free tool gets so high that the website crashes, this would be a tragedy of the commons.

When are Digital Commons Considered Successful?

True commons believers would say that the more people that use the resource, the higher the benefit to each one (often called "comedy of the commons"), no strings attached. Looking at Wikipedia, the more people that read it, the more people will contribute, and so on.

A Closer Look at digital commons when applied to open source software

Another tragedy of the commons can be when large corporations take advantage of open-source software or crowd-sourced data without contributing back. The back contribution can be helping write code, contributing data back, or via an exchange of resources, like compute power or money. This is up for further discussion as there are arguments on both sides of whether there should be a back contribution.

I think it depends on the user's incentive to use the digital common. If capital-driven, there should be a contribution back; if it is for some other greater good, then use away.

This creates an ecosystem around larger digital commons. Consider the other open-source code generated due to another tool or piece of software being open-sourced.

True-commons believers argue that there should be no restrictions and no expectation of a contribution back, as the more users a common has, the more each person will benefit from the common. A little regulation helps keep the common healthy and sustainable for both the contributors and the users of the resource for the common.

An example of an attempted implementation of a form of restriction to help the common is a license or terms of use to govern how it is used and to help with abuse. Even still, this can still not be enough.

Looking at open source software again, while there are licenses in place to allow for specific use, a big tech company can take the software, use it to support their business, make billions of dollars, and contribute little to nothing back. This is becoming increasingly the case, especially as tech giants are making more and more money. I would call this a tragedy of the commons.

There has been good in-between growth with the open-core model, but you could still argue that it is a tragedy of the commons due to potentially limiting features behind the commercial version's paywall. Further discussion is getting out of the scope of this write-up, but for more reading, I would look up "comedy of the commons" or "successful commons."


Overall, if done right, digital commons can be successful and create a healthy ecosystem of digital information, entertainment, and knowledge, benefiting people as long as we still have computers.

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Interesting Reads

5,800 pounds of batteries tossed off the ISS in 2021 will fall to Earth today (

Sam Altman Rejoins OpenAI Board Along With Three New Directors (CNBC | Tech Crunch)

How 16 Companies are Dominating the World's Google Search Results (Detailed)

Apple backtracks, reinstates Epic Games’ iOS developer account in Europe (PC Gamer | Ars)

How Automated Content Moderation Works (Even When It Doesn’t) (The Markup)

Cool Finds

This week’s theme is “Alternative Investments”

JKBX is a platform that allows users to invest in music royalty shares, earning returns as songs are streamed. It offers securities regulated by state and federal laws and aims to provide a new way to engage with music. Investors can start with as little as $100. is a non-profit organization that supports solar energy projects in the Global South. By investing in a $25 Panel, you're lending money to the Renewables Fund, which finances solar projects in these areas. You get your money back as the projects generate and sell clean electricity.

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I asked ChatGPT to tell me a joke about Mondays. Enjoy:

Why don't Mondays work? Because they're always part of a weak start!

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