Article



  • I read this article column ponderings... transcript... text... thing.

    I liked it.

    Hence, I link.

    Clay Shirky on Online Group Dynamics.

    Some fun quotes, to get the saliva running:

    I can't tell you why it took as long for weblogs to happen as it did, except to say it had absolutely nothing to do with technology. We had every bit of technology we needed to do weblogs the day Mosaic launched the first forms-capable browser. Every single piece of it was right there. Instead, we got Geocities.

    All groups of any integrity have a constitution. The constitution is always partly formal and partly informal. At the very least, the formal part is what's substantiated in code -- "the software works this way."

    The informal part is the sense of "how we do it around here." And no matter how is substantiated in code or written in charter, whatever, there will always be an informal part as well. You can't separate the two.




  • It raises some interesting questions, but the conclusions are the same tired old stuff that I've been seeing from commentators for years: people are stupid, therefore we should build stupid systems.

    He's correctly identified the problems, but in analysing them he makes the same mistakes that caused the problems in the first place, and so he concludes that the problems are intrinsic rather than created. A disappointing ending.



  • @asuffield said:

    It raises some interesting questions, but the conclusions are the same tired old stuff that I've been seeing from commentators for years: people are stupid, therefore we should build stupid systems.

    He's correctly identified the problems, but in analysing them he makes the same mistakes that caused the problems in the first place, and so he concludes that the problems are intrinsic rather than created. A disappointing ending.

    What's a "stupid system" in your eyes? Because I can't really see that proposal in the article -- on or between the lines. Something of the opposite, actually, though there's no actual explicit, definite resolution in the text.

    (for which he ducks and covers a little:

    So there's this question "What is required to make a large, long-lived
    online group successful?" and I think I can now answer with some
    confidence: "It depends." I'm hoping to flesh that answer out a little
    bit in the next ten years.
    )

    Speaking generally, what I got from it was:

    Here's some stuff I've noticed about things. In order to make the world a better place, I've made them explicit so they may be referenced and studied.
     

    But I agree that the text describes a completeness of the ideas, even though his Four Things to Design For are based on what has happened so far, with the tools and software we've used to far. In that it actually resembles ID's "irreducible complexity" argument, which requires a total understanding of a system, which nobody actually has; and it trips and falls. Point: who knows what sort of system idea someone will have at some point in the future.

    Then again, what's currently available is pretty fundamental already. There's a way of letting people say: "Hey I want to talk about this!" and there's a way of letting people reply to what's said before. That's a conversation thread, and that form is everywhere. It doesn't get any simpler than that. The difference -- ignoring subtleties for a moment -- between message boards, weblogs with comments, IRC, and email is the storage method.

    So if the system is as basic as possible and is perfectly predictable in and of itself, what's left for the problems to be caused by? The people. I don't see how the problems are, as you say, created (notwithstanding the notion that basically everything a human being does is "created" as opposed to natural). It's what happens when you have a lot of hightly similar autonomous agents designed to communicate with and relate to eachother, and then give them a system that facilitates this in some way.

     



  • @dhromed said:

    @asuffield said:
    It raises some interesting questions, but the conclusions are the same tired old stuff that I've been seeing from commentators for years: people are stupid, therefore we should build stupid systems.

    He's correctly identified the problems, but in analysing them he makes the same mistakes that caused the problems in the first place, and so he concludes that the problems are intrinsic rather than created. A disappointing ending.

    What's a "stupid system" in your eyes? Because I can't really see that proposal in the article -- on or between the lines.

    To pick out an example at random, he suggests that systems should be designed to encourage the natural manner in which people process their idea of reputation. The problem with this is that the natural manner is really stupid: it's crippled by confirmation bias and we have an entire field of endeavour dedicated to exploiting it (politics). Ultimately it always leads to the ad hominem fallacy.

    The problem I have is with his attitude: he wants to build things to support what people currently are, regardless of how good or bad that may be, rather than building things to encourage people to be better. It's just another form of accepting mediocrity, the same malaise that we see all the time in the software industry, where people would rather accept a flawed solution than work towards a better one.

     

    So if the system is as basic as possible and is perfectly predictable in and of itself, what's left for the problems to be caused by? The people. I don't see how the problems are, as you say, created (notwithstanding the notion that basically everything a human being does is "created" as opposed to natural). It's what happens when you have a lot of hightly similar autonomous agents designed to communicate with and relate to eachother, and then give them a system that facilitates this in some way.

    I'm not really sure how to explain this - it's one of those things that you either see or you don't. Almost all of the problems here stem from attempting to divide the world into "them" and "us", in a variety of different contexts; it's an adversarial model of the world, and when you look for adversaries you will usually find them.

    When people look at something like an IRC channel, they see the problem as one of deciding who to let in and who to keep out - but that isn't the goal, it's just an artificial construct created in the process of designing the system. An intrinsic problem is one that the goals require you to solve; a created problem is one that you made up in your attempts to reach the goal, and therefore could be avoided if you took a radically different approach. The real goal is to find effective ways for people to communicate, and I really don't think that cliques are the only way to do that. We should be able to design systems which aren't based around that concept.


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