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Group Dynamics

Posted by daniel on July 24, 2003 at 8:37 AM PDT

Clay Shirkey recommends that when you are constructing social software to support large and long-lived groups, you need to build in barriers to participation. For some groups this is a binary switch - you are in or you aren't. For others, non-members can do certain tasks (like reading the content posted on java.net ), while members can post replies, and higher levels of membership can host projects and perform other tasks. But, Shirkey stresses, "ease of use is wrong."

Today we link to Shirkey's essay A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy. In it he explains:

The user of social software is the group, not the individual.

I think we've all been to meetings where everyone had a really good time, we're all talking to one another and telling jokes and laughing, and it was a great meeting, except we got nothing done. Everyone was amusing themselves so much that the group's goal was defeated by the individual interventions.

The user of social software is the group, and ease of use should be for the group. If the ease of use is only calculated from the user's point of view, it will be difficult to defend the group from the "group is its own worst enemy" style attacks from within.

Shirkey's article includes other principles for designing social software. He also makes the following three points explicit.

  1. "You cannot completely separate technical and social issues."
  2. "Members are different than users"
  3. "The core group has rights that trump individual rights in some situations."

Today's featured Weblog is Marc Hadley's W3C XML Protocol WG Publishes SOAP MTOM Working Draft. The Message Transmission Optimization Mechanism "provides a standard referencing mechanism [...] to allow

references to attachments from within the SOAP envelope.

In the Also Today section, Janice Heiss has another interesting interview on java.sun.com. In Computer Visions: A Conversation with David Gelernter, the Yale University professor looks beyond the web to a world centered around information beams and a cybersphere. We also link to a commercial offering called Droplets that makes it easier for you to provide rich thin Java clients for server based applications.

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