A most excellent essay on groups by the amazingly insightful Clay Shirky.

Here are two lists stolen from there.

Things you must accept about online groups:

  • The social and technical are deeply entangled, you can’t partition them.
  • Members are different from users. “… the group within the group that matters most.”
  • Sometimes the rights of the core group trump those of individuals.

Things you really really ought to design for:

  • Participants must have handles that can enable continuity, aggregate reputation, and be discarded
  • You will need some scheme that recognizes members in good standing: handle, member since, introduction, karma points.
  • You need barriers to participation, so the core can defend the group.
  • Some protection against scale (or the tragedy of the commons)

I’d add that there needs to be a shared enterprise, often a document, around which the group revolves. But that’s probably optional.

0 thoughts on “Groups

  1. Santiago Gala

    Thanks for the reference. I enjoyed a lot this paragraph:

    Now, this pulls against the cardinal virtue of ease of use. But ease of use is wrong. Ease of use is the wrong way to look at the situation, because you’ve got the Necker cube flipped in the wrong direction. The user of social software is the group, not the individual.

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