Parasites | Ecosystems | Diversity Ecology

Digging Deep into to the Summit & When the Sleeper Wakes

I have spent the last few days, off the grid, recuperating from the “controversial” Affiliate Summit” in Las Vegas. Ironically, I found no controversy over the issues. Overall I think any critical marketer finds spam, “spyware” and the like- a real problem. Sometimes, depending on the point of view of the observer, many organisms are lumped into the category of “parasite”. It is a matter of one’s Point of View.

I have spent the last several years of my life chasing, investigating and trying to puzzle out WHO are the parasites? It seemed crystal clear to me years ago and I pursued their elimination without really asking- What if…What if they served as a system feedback loop? Maybe I should read more ecology? Who are these people?

Jason on Recession

Jason Calacanis provided some deeper insights to spur my thinking in his blog:

“The current price of Google’s stock is probably the last historic chance to get in on what will be a juggernaut–recession or no recession. Google’s management team is very content with their net worth I’m sure, and given my (limited) interactions with senior Google folks I get the sense that they care much more about their legacy, the thrill of solving big problems, and the quality of their products and organization than they do about short term stock prices.

People who win big in life are typically not driven by financial gain, they are driven by an internal spark that makes them want to win, compete, and solve problems with a community of like minded people. That’s the exact description of the people who “work” at Google (and Apple).”

Note the text in bold. Jason is, based on my own interactions- correct e.g. Google, Genetech, and NEC (who represent the largest homogeneous market the world has ever seen- China) are investing in genetics e.g.

“23andMe, Inc. is a privately-held company dedicated to helping individuals understand their own genetic information using recent advances in DNA analysis technologies and web-based interactive tools. 23andMe enables individuals to gain deeper insights into personal ancestry, genealogy and inherited traits. 23andMe was founded in April 2006 by Linda Avey and Anne Wojcicki.”

He goes on to make some more observations that are relevant and if it is along my line of thinking- symbiotic relationships are everywhere. Which leads me to thinking which aspects are healthy for the ecosystem and which detract? What is the potential for abuse if power is clustered in one node?

Dunbar’s Number

You will hear this nebulous number much more often. Therefore come to back to community scale and Dunbar’s number-(or to some a misunderstanding of his ideas). I had it pegged at around 100 or so and far less in high immersion environments, Dunbar around 150 MAX, and Allen points to Ross Mayfield’s context to determine said number.

The Nature of Parasites & Ecosystems

Although parasites are often omitted in depictions of food webs, they usually occupy the top position. Parasites can function like keystone species, reducing the dominance of superior competitors and allowing competing species to co-exist.

Diversity is Important

Let me drive it home- “reducing the dominance of superior competitors and allowing competing species to co-exist“. Imagine an Internet with little diversity?

A Scientific Study
Where Disease May Mean Good Health—The Role of Parasites in Natural Ecosystems

ScienceDaily (Jul. 13, 2006) — Scientists have discovered that parasites are surprisingly important in food webs and their findings appear in a report published this week in the Early Edition of the on-line version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientists with the University of California, Santa Barbara, the U.S. Geological Survey, and Princeton University contributed….

Positive Role of Parasites?

This leads me to my current state of thought on e-commerce…

  • What are the real roles of parasites in the system?
  • Who are these parasites?
  • From who do they feed?
  • If all were eliminated what would be the long and short term effects?
  • How could we apply theories in ecosystems to marketing, SEO, affiliate marketing, “social media” (misnomer in my opinion), text ads, etc?

I think the negative connotations of parasites sit on the surface, but perhaps, as marketers, as people, a species in evolution- we need to pause…and Think Big. What if Google ceased to be Google as we know it? The press and pundits are having a field day with CIA and Google theories. See this speculative video…and we think it is just about the Web? I want to believe in Google and I deeply value democracy.

Dangers of Playing in Ecosystems

I wonder what the recently departed, (02.2008): Josh Lederberg, whose pioneering work laid foundation stones for modern genetics and biotechnology, disarmament, genetic engineering, space biology, and artificial intelligence would say? Would he think genetic engineering is great or would he have the foresight to see the dangers of genetic engineering gone wrong?

I really don’t have the answers, but I think there are parallels and I don’t want to be trapped in a Tragedy of the Commons- a social trap where we think short-term for immediate gain rather than long term for the good of all. I believe in “Don’t be Evil”, but it almost rings like Noam Chomsky’s critique of the slogan-“Support the Troops”. What does it mean? I prefer “Support the Troops- Bring them Home” or to others “Support the Troops- Equip Them Properly, or “Don’t Be Evil and let Diversity Thrive.”

“Think Big” said Sam Harrelson in a previous post…I searched on those two words to help me Think Big, I read about it Wikipedia. In the end I picked up a book and began reading: When The Sleeper Wakes, by H.G. Wells. First Edition, first run 1899. You won’t find many of those around…and I am still reading.

Let’s think beyond ourselves for a moment and how we can balance a world, technology, population, food, the web, and our role- no matter how small it may seem and come up with either viable debate or solutions.

*Keystone Species: A keystone species is one that has a disproportionate effect on its environment relative to its abundance, affecting many other organisms in an ecosystem and help in determine the types and numbers of various others species in a community- Paine, R.T. (1995). “A Conversation on Refining the Concept of Keystone Species”. Conservation Biology 9 (4): 962-964

Addendum: (cough) Minor edits made to placate those who do not appreciate Appalachian dialect. e.g. grammar.

About Wayne Porter

Wayne Porter is one of the original founders of, and served as the CEO and founder of XBlock Systems a specialized research firm on greynets and malware research before being acquired by unified communications security leader, Factime Security Labs. His work includes serving as a panlist at the Federal Trade Commission to shape legislation on software and the creation of two patent-pending technologies for corporate networks. Wayne is a frequent speaker at e-commerce & business events including CJU, ASW and RSA and frequently cited in the press. He has been designated a Microsoft Security MVP three times and is recognized on Google’s Responsible Security Disclosure page- in addition to receiving the first Summit Legend Award. Wayne currently works as a Security Consultant on Social Media and operates a consultancy on digital worlds. His hobbies include reading science fiction, playing chess, fishing, writing, collecting shiny digital gadgets, playing racquetball and studying memetic engineering. He maintains a personal weblog at detailing his explorations in security, web 2.0, and virtual worlds.
You can follow Wayne on Twitter: @wporter.

7 Responses to Parasites | Ecosystems | Diversity Ecology

  1. Roman says:



    Parasite and host may simply be a question of POV. The dog may see the flea as a parasite but does the flea? And in looking at the flea as a parasite, do we ignore that it may be bringing beneficial microbials to the dog? And does the dog recognize it?

    Which leads me to wonder, how we recognize symbiots? When one sees the crocodile patiently allowing the little bird to pick it's teeth, how did the reptile come to recognize that allowing this act had more value than an easy meal? This seems ot me to be nescessarily evolved behavior. As the recognition of symbiotic value must be.

    I guess in the end we are all symbiots , with the possible exception of politicians.

  2. […] revenue generation and Web 2.0- and pollution- not to mention concentration risk. See my latest on Revenews. Augmentation, immersion, Moo, MUD, revenews, Rick van der Wal, Second Life, Terra Nova, Video […]

  3. Wayne Porter says:


    Thank you. politicians- heh. (Thanks as well to the three others that noted a higher message).

    Think Big…Sam- it is time to get Greek (koine?) on the readership- so they think- this is Ferengi Culture. (No comments from MVW please- applauds the various artistic zealots.)


  4. […] not claiming to understand everything in this post – because I don’t – but it’s well worth wrapping your head around, as Wayne Porter […]

  5. Wayne Porter says:


    If you want to get philosophical about it online e-commerce is a string of "parasitic" relationships. That does not mean it is bad I only call it as I see it.

    Affiliate is a parasite of the merchant.

    the merchant is a parasite of brands they carry.


    This is why I do not like the term "parasites" for adware. Is their behavior parasitic? Yes. Are affiliates parasitic? Yes

    The only ones at the top of the food chain would be the OEM…for whatever reason they have yet to fullfill their promise of going direct to the people. (Consumer if you prefer the marketing locust term.)


  6. Roman says:

    There are so many variations that don't fit the term. I am not overly fond of it either . Remember I got sued by much of the media for a search engine I had and at that time the articles in the same media that sued me dubbed it a "para-site".

    I think it is probably indeed wiser to return to the notions of producers, distributors and consumers. Not all distributors are parasites. For example, take the music distribution industry. Oh, forget that.

  7. Wayne Porter says:


    Correct me if I am wrong, but wasn't your case over deep linking or framing?

    You were a rabble-rouser