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This is Clay Shirky‘s talk from the Web 2.0 EXPO 2008.

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Very informative presentation with great examples to illustrate it. However, as it often happens with things that I want to apply into Romanian context the cognitive surplus seem to have a different history back home.

For what did the Romanian society used its cognitive surplus while building up its “industrial” society during Communism? I cannot answer this yet. For sure though the answer will  not be TV because during those years we had access to the most 3 hours of broadcasting per day (one of them being dedicated to news about the most beloved leader and his wife….) However,  part of it is, I am sure, connected to reading. I talked a little bit about this and its very interesting to see how books and reading were really a pilot for social web of today. Sharing was a key factor of those informal networks that circulated the good books and people were often breaking the laws contributing to these communities.

For almost 20 years now the “original” democracy in Romania has been pushing hard the sitcoms and sitcoms-like-news on the little cognitive surplus left of people after working hard for their daily bread. Not being used to speak their mind they got easily tricked by the media and accepted their passive position as receivers.  Can we hope that the Web will change this?

Part of the Romanians that get online are using the Web as presented by Shirky. Is there any connection between the good readers during Communism and the good web users today? My intuition would say yes, there should be a relation and I feel it is not determined by the financial status. I wish I would have time to look more into this!

How about the rest of “everybody”?  If they were not reading, what were the people doing with their cognitive surplus during Communism and what are they doing with it now? What does the Web has to offer in order to get them to turn the TV off and participate?

No, Romania is not behind the TV looking for the mouse…but it is aware of what a mouse is and that is a start.


If I were to use this title, in Romanian, about my relation with some other person the implication would be that we are helping each other get a clean image even though we are doing some kind of dirty business. Until yesterday it never occur to me that this can be a positive expression about help, forgiveness, community.

Due to some unfortunate events I ended up having a heavy burden that I was supposed to carry with me for a number of years. Because it was partially my fault I accepted it. At the beginning I was confident I will be able to pull it along however I soon realized that month after month the burden seemed heavier. One evening I had a thought that I should confess to somebody about it. I knew a member of our church community works with more or less similar problems so on Sunday I just asked if I can talk with her. She listened and understood my physical and psychological burden from my few sentences. More than that she promised to look into my case and see if there is any way she can help.

The next day when I talked with her on the phone and she told me she was able to waive my dept, I literary felt like my burden was taken away from me, like I had this dirt on me and it got washed off. It felt somehow similar to the feeling you have after confession and communion in church but different in the same time. It surprised me and reminded  me about the meekness we should have to see God’s mystery and grace coming so powerful from a regular person. I felt like a hand that just got cleaned and can now clean another hand.

One hand washed the other and both the face goes the saying. Through this experience I learned though that one hand washes the other and both can and should wash the feet of the persons we meet everyday in our life.

I confess I tried to elude my birthday this year. Don’t have a lot of time to analyze why. Some say it’s because I am getting older 😛 and I say it’s just because there are better things that I should care about than my birthday…

In any case, to all my family, friends, professors from Romania and abroad who stubbornly remembered me on my birthday: Thank you!

IREX Romania is the lucky organization that was chosen by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to plan for a program to provide public access computers with Internet access in Romania’s public libraries, as it is stated here. This is a five year program and we are approaching the end of the first year.

As a mean of communication with librarians involved in the program and not only, a web page, a forum and blog were developed. After a couple of months of healthy conversation on their forum  IREX Romania decided that critical messages are not welcomed there anymore. Four of my messages are gone and at least two other people experienced the same treatment on  While trying to find my posts I managed to come across a reply that was posted on the blog by veveritablonda, a critical voice on  Because there is no public access to that message anymore I will post it here.

This is very nice, Shannon, finally somebody who appreciates the progress we’ve made and the potential we have. Still, because the title of your post is “Return to Romania” (taking from another famous project initiated by IREX Bucharest) I would be curious to find out how many Romanian graduates who studied in the US, are working now for you, in this Global Libraries Project. As far as I see, none. Don’t you guys put your money where your mouth is? Is IREX now the cemetery of old employees coming from USAID, CHF, WORLD LEARNING and so on? It is very disappointing to see how all our youth emigrates, because at home nobody needs them, not even those who trained them to be “the future of Romania”. Don’t you think this situation is very sad and proves rather poor strategic vision in terms of investment return? Why is the US training so many Romanians, who come back with stunning degrees, when none of them is needed in your own organizations? 🙂

As you can see there were several questions asked on this reply from May 2008.  Not only that nobody answered them but they cannot be accessed anymore. I do not have any kind of prove to sustain veveritablonda’s statement but it sure sounds interesting. Since it got such a reaction from IREX team…it must have touched some sensitive problems. Don’t you agree?

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