There’s a lot of talk about “sharing culture” as a new required skills to succeed in today’s world. The idea is that the web collaborative culture leads ultimately to sharing everything that is electronically reproducible.

I disagree. I think we need to consider the importance of a sharing literacy, not culture. The difference is that we don’t have to learn to share everything, but to understand what is useful to share and what is not.

Overall, its not a dramatic shift to post-capitalism where goods are shared freely just because they can be shared. There is no industry where the price is equal to the marginal production cost.

Of course we share more, and we share earlier than the final product. But we don’t share everything. We share what is interesting enough to attract the attention of people, and to get their attention and comments in return.

It’s like the backstage of a movie: it doesn’t show everything that goes on behind the scene, just a little bit more.

We need to start codifying what is shareable and what is not, under which conditions. This is the literacy I refer to.

For instance, in my case, I typically share my bookmarks on Diigo (see column on the right). But when I am researching material for preparing a tender, I don’t make my bookmarks public because it would be easy for a competitor to just grab my material – because my competitors know me and are researching these same materials at exactly the same time as me. I can’t share when there is a direct risk that it will affect the bottom line of my business.

Yet while I deliver a report, I’m very happy to open up all the background research material, because I don’t face a direct risk, and instead I can gain a lot from the attention to the report. And crucially, because my business model is not built around re-selling the same products.

Yes, sharing is an instinct and the new “default” behaviour, at least from me. But it’s strongly limited by rational choices.