How about a Mensch Index?

From (as of the 8 December 2010 edit):

Mensch (: מענטש mentsh; German: Mensch, for “human being”) means “a person of integrity and honor”.[1] The opposite of a mensch is an unmensch (meaning: an utterly cruel or evil person). According to , the Yiddish maven and author of , mensch is “someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being ‘a real mensch’ is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous.”[2]

I bring this up because responses to my post yesterday by the two people who had the most cause to be defensive about it — (@Azeem, @peerindex) of PeerIndex and (@Petervan) of Petervan’s Blog — were quite menschy. In addition to tweets here, here and here, correspondence followed (including this comment here), in which it was clear to me (and them, I’m sure) that we’re all just learning here, and putting those learnings to work on a new world that is still new and ripe with opportunities that we make rather than take. I mean, they could have been defensive. Instead they responded more than graciously: namely, constructively.

Which brings me to my three favorite takes on construction. One is Stuart Brand’s How Buildings Learn, which belongs in civilization’s canon. Its core point is that a useful building is both adaptive and never finished. (Like human nature at its best. And technology too, as Kevin Kelly makes clear in another book for the canon: What Technology Wants.) Another is Dave Winer’s “developers and users, diggin’ together” and “Ask not what the Web can do for you, ask what you can do for the Web.” The third is Craig Burton’s model of the whole Net as a world we are only beginning to .

Azeem and Peter are both constructive guys. They’re also open-minded and ready to dig with users. It’s probably not possible to assign a rank to that, any more than it’s possible to assign a rank to gratitude. But we do need to be conscious of what’s constructive and what’s not.

I remember long ago telling one of my kids, after they did something bad, “We always have two choices in life: we can hurt, or we can help.” Soon as that line came out of my face, the unconscious one that followed was, “He teaches best what he most needs to learn.” In the last 24 hours I got schooled again by Azeem and Peter. And I look forward to diggin’ with them both.


  1. azeem’s avatar

    hi Doc

    Thanks — appreciate the kind words!

  2. Steve’s avatar

    Interesting that you chose a definition from Wikipedia instead of another source. However, that doesn’t matter–it’s really interesting to know what the word “mensch” means! Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Steve, I almost always go to Wikipedia first (and sometimes to the latest revision’s link) when I point to something that’s elsewhere as well. This includes biographical information about people, and sometimes even my own projects. Unlike, say,, Wikipedia isn’t busy tracking visitors, and is less likely to disappear sometime in the future than other possible sources.

    As for knowing what “mensch” means, I’ve always had lots of Jewish friends, worked in many businesses where Yiddish was thrown about constantly (wholesale produce in the Bronx, retailing in New Jersey, radio all over the place), and knew what a ‘mensch’ was early enough to also know it was a compliment worth aspiring to.

  4. lesley’s avatar

    I like the idea very much, and when I read your comment about ‘can we hurt or can we help’ it reminded me of the quote I have taped to my computer “Is it better to be right or to be kind?”

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