A Swarm Can Only Grow On Its Edges

A swarm only grows on its fuzzy edge. At the swarm’s center, everybody is already involved at the highest level. This leads to an important insight: the people who are most active can’t recruit anybody to the swarm.

The people leading a swarm must be acutely aware that they can not influence a single individual to join the swarm. The swarm can only grow at its edges, where people who have joined the swarm know people who have not yet joined. There, and only there, are there social links that can be used to communicate the values, mission and enthusiasm of the swarm to gain new recruits.

But it is still the responsibility of the most motivated people to grow the swarm, despite the fact that they can’t do so personally. Rather, it is their responsibility to enable the people who can recruit new people to do so, despite that the people in a leading position have no idea who these people are.

To do this, a couple of key components must be communicated to the entire swarm at regular intervals. This must be done by the people with the most experience in talking about the swarm.

Rhetoric. The newly-joined people who know the most not-yet-joined people are also the ones who are the most insecure in their rhetoric about why the swarm is important, fun and skilled. This can be done in many ways — one of the most straightforward and successful is to supply direct quotes that can initiate a conversation, or sample responses to typical questions.

Confidence. This brings me to the next point — these people who are in a position to recruit must also be supplied with the confidence to do so. One of the easiest ways is to enable them to use stickers or pins with the swarm’s symbols that in turn leads to conversations like above. If they’re not confident enough to initiate conversations, just identifying with the swarm gets part of the way there.

Urgency. When these people are in a rhetorical and confident position to recruit new people to the swarm, they also need to want to do so. Telling them in a mass mailing is obviously not enough: they must actively want to recruit themselves. If they believe in the swarm and its mission, part of that mission must be to grow the swarm itself and how that contributes to the swarm’s end success.

A swarm grows through people talking to one another, one conversation at a time. The Pirate Party grew to 50,000 members one person at a time, one conversation at a time. These conversations are the key to the long-term success of the swarm.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. Ann Markström (@Annoula64) (@Annoula64) (@Annoula64)

    RT @piratbloggar: Falkvinge on Infopolicy: A Swarm can only grow on its edges:
    A swarm only grows on its fuzzy edge. At the… http://tinyurl.com/4qzvjaw

  2. RT @falkvinge A Swarm can only grow on its edges http://is.gd/8pqWb4 #swarm

  3. Piratska Partija (@piratskapartija)

    Pirati, pogledajte zašto je bitno da prenesete info drugima u vezi sa pp Srbija! http://fb.me/OVLiJoRk

  4. That "Ball" Guy

    Not going to lie, it sounds rather cultish

  5. That "Ball" Guy

    “This leads to an important insight: the people who are most active can’t recruit anybody to the swarm.”

    Bollocks. Do the people that are most active only mingle with fellow Swarmlings? Suppose the catalyst, or champion (to use the terms from Brafman and Beckstrom’s “The Starfish and the Spider”) goes to the pub and meets a chap unfamiliar with the swarm?

    1. Mister Ego

      Missing the point, that “champion” does not have the time it takes to give that person self-initiative. It takes probably months for somebody to grow to that point, where he does not require constant “maintenance” in order to maintain his affiliation with the swarm.

      Volunteerism is hard.

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