Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Thu 5 Nov 09 09:07
What types of communications are those?
Ari Davidow (ari) Thu 5 Nov 09 09:16
Anything that benefits from actual discussion, as opposed to being drive-by commenting opportunities. This would be true of support forums, online classes, political/cultural discussion boards, etc. What I think we're re-discovering is that there is more to conversation than encouraging people to drive by and drop whatever lack of thought is at their fingertips at that moment. And, that the patterns to support such conversation include logins, often include verifiable (at least to the sysadmin) ID of some sort, ways to see what is new to you, ways to find things of interest to you, and ways to keep track of what you have seen, and where you have posted. Probably more, but in keeping with the current metaphor, this is what comes to mind on one foot.
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 5 Nov 09 10:29
I see what you are saying. Group conversation and context over time (the key thing that makes authentic community) will be very different without some continuity of identity of participants, and some participants who persist in interacting. I think we often forget the differences between the metaphor of a forum -- people take turns speaking and reply to one another -- and the metaphor of a bulletin board -- people put notices up on a board with a push-pin, and if you want to contact them you typically reply to them via backchannel methods, like a phone call, since a conversation is not the main goal of a physical bulletin board. Currently site designers often choose tools that are fine for what Ari calls "drive-by commenting opportunities" or bulletin-posting, but weak for sustained conversation and keeping your place in an asynchronous dialog over time.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Thu 5 Nov 09 10:43
missed my van this morning ("by *that* much!") and so I'm falling further behind in my reply cycle. Fortunately, last night I drafted a skeleton mapping out the various points I wanted to grapple with from Ari et al. Instead of these essay-like soliloquies, which I think tend to ossify the dialogue, I'll try responding with a series of smaller discreet observations, any of which may yield their own tangent. Just trying to break the logjam. I actually think the question of whether things like forums (and even blogs) that may seem like old hat next to the new shiny are being given short shrift in a landscape like ours is a really good one. I know at times that not only were we probably oversimplifying the issues around tagging but that we were almost certainly only going to be able to scratch the surface on topics like discussion boards and weblogs, each of which could (and have) justify entire books. We probably retreated there to the interface surface and may have to some extent missed some of the more salient points or imposed a frame on things that obscured older wisdoms. I'll have to look at that carefully.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Thu 5 Nov 09 11:03
I've begun teasing out what I hear as the key aspects of Ari's initial question in (25), parahprasing: teasing out of the threads, then tackle each 1. The issue with material in the book proving "much more tentative and incomplete than expected" 2. The question of the use or awareness of prior art (Design of Sites in particular) and whether their insights have been lost or bastardized, and to what extent we successfully absorbed the foundational learnings of the past and used them as underpinnings for our own work 3. The question of how tested are the patterns we present in the book and what level of confidence we attribute to them, and a possible ambiguity with regard to whether the book is a guide to Yahoo!'s own interanl standards vs. a work of capturing broader web-emergent standards. This might also be an opportunity to address <jonl>'s followup about the influence and impact patterns (in the Yahoo! library *or* in this book) have on Yahoo! product design. 4. Specific (thank you!) critiques of patterns and to some extent of Yahoo! experience that may or may not exhibit those patterns (I'll bank the occasional praise, back-handed or not): specifically problems with Yahoo sign in (I may ask someone from reg to talk about this), in particular federation with Flickr ids. 4a. Specific questions about registration: the need to get more info to put flesh on social bones, the idea of chaining the sign-up pattern to the "encourage more completeness" engagement pattern, such as LinkedIn's "profile is 60% complete" or "complete profile to unlock feature x" strategems, the idea of optional upsell requesting more information and explaining the value of doing so / funnel pattern 4b. Discussion of potential errors or problems or ambiguous levels of confidence around forum patterns. 4c. Anything else Ari comes for with (you promised to call out "blatantly wrong patterns" which for all I know may be misdiagnosed antipatterns). sorry, it's the IA in me that keeps wanting to sort this info to parse it and respond. I'll next take on (1) above.
bill braasch (bbraasch) Thu 5 Nov 09 11:04
Facebook is a drive by place, "I'm over here now" but I do see threads when the topic starter steps into a role in the conversation. I think the difference is in the usage pattern which is motivated by the intent. John Hagel does a good job getting conversations going. He's looking to instigate a bit of serendipity around his ideas. Matt Scruby moves some energy around as well, in a more (mattu) context. Facebook itself seems to find it more interesting to divert the stream every week or so with a new interface design.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Thu 5 Nov 09 11:15
As far as "tentative and incomplete" goes, that definitely strikes a nerve for me. On a work like this there is on the one hand the desire to take forever and perfect everything and on the other hand there is the urgency of trying to deliver a product to a marketplace in a timely and cost-effective manner. My primary way of trying to resolve this involves the "unbook" concept <http://theunbook.com/2009/02/18/what-is-an-unbook/>. Basically it suggests that there is a writing project intended to gather some body of knowledge, that it had an author or authors but that rather than being incubated in secret, delivered to the marketplace, and then updated possibly at rare intervals, that it will be created in public, with input from many interested voices, and published at regular intervals when it seems that there is a useful snapshot of material worth packaging for sale. Dave Gray's Marks & Meaning <http://www.marksandmeaning.com/> is a pure unbook. Jay Cross launched the idea <http://jaycross.posterous.com/the-unbook>. As the web started growing up and I came over from publishing, I was also working my way toward this sort of neverending spiral model with the book no longer the central unit or focus of a writing effort. Our book isn't a pure unbook, I think, so I don't mean to hide behind this concept to excuse any error or any idea that might have been amended on further reflection or with further input. Yes, we asked people to review and comment on the wiki, and the manuscript underwent a more formal vetting process, reviewed by outside experts, and so on. Of course there are blind spots and people skim and focus on things they find more salient. Had we identified Ari as a reviewer at an earlier stage we'd probably have been able to strengthen some of the patterns to capture areas where he views us as having made oversights or to be giving wrongheaded or half-baked advice. One of the terrors of publishing is the criticisms that are bound to come in after the trees are felled that you would have given your right arm to hear in time to address the first time around. That's why I hope to unpack these questions and work with Erin to figure out where we think we could improve what we've got so far, annotate it on the wiki, where necessary submit formal errata, and then in future editions make changes. That's why we also hope to drive readers to the website where they can discover when ideas from the book have been undergoing review or rethinking. None of this undercuts the legitimate concern that there is an implicit promise from a book that the contents are authoritative, thoroughly reviewed, reliable, and so on, and I would be very concerned about failing to justify or earn that confidence. In fact, A Pattern Language gives each pattern 1 to 3 stars (or dots, I forget), reflecting the degree of confidence the authors had in them. If just 1 star, the implication was that the pattern is attested in the wild (Alexander's threshold was low: he just needed to see three real examples) but if 3 stars the patterns was actively recommended. The Yahoo! Library similar denotes patterns as Beta, Working Solution, or Best Practice. The book probably should use some similar scheme to signal where something is strong and fierce vs. whether it's tentative, emerging, subject to controversy.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Thu 5 Nov 09 11:18
<bbraasch> FB does seem to combine its use of the "public conversation" (public in the sense of Many Publics and not necessarily the One Big Public) with its relative critical mass to foster some interesting ad hoc discussion often cross-pollinating people from different walks of the original poster's life. I'm not sure how this culture of ad hoc conversations will mature, but its intriguing.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Thu 5 Nov 09 11:22
As to the extent to which we stood on the shoulders of giants and acknowledged it vs. somehow perhaps squandered the accumulated wisdom and reverted to infancy, I don't know for sure how to answer that. Erin and I have both read widely in this realm <http://www.designingsocialinterfaces.com/patterns.wiki/index.php?title=Bibliog raphy>, books, blog posts, magazine and journal articles, and so on. We've also studied and practiced in this area and logged thousands of hours of conversation. We may not have internalized everything and we have almost certainly forgotten things we used to know. We try to point people beyond ourselves to the wealth of supplementary resources, both to acknowledge the richness out there and its contributions to our work and to liberate our project from having to retrace everyone else's steps. We didn't write a "how to launch/manage" an online community book. There are great ones out there, going back to Powazek and all the way up to our sister title at O'Reilly, Gavin Bell's Building Social Web Applications. We'd rather point to them and fill in some of the gaps we found (with a systemic view of the entire landscape being one of those gaps).
Christian Crumlish (xian) Thu 5 Nov 09 11:23
got to jump on some work, but will try to get to 3 and 4 and 4a. later today.
Ari Davidow (ari) Thu 5 Nov 09 11:25
I want to emphasize that I think that the effort to collect these patterns is needed. My comparison of what I think I know with differences in what I saw in the book raised questions, which I am sharing, but I obviously found reason to dip into the book quite a bit to explore. There are some things in the book with which I disagree, or which I feel are flawed, but I don't want that to come across as unalloyed criticism. As I put together short notes for next semester's class, I am acutely conscious of how long it takes just to string together a few words and to try to articulate a few critical points.
Erin Malone (erinmalone) Thu 5 Nov 09 11:31
Hi all - Am going to jump into the conversation and hope I can catch up after a week of amazing questions and responses from Christian. For folks who don't know, I am the co-author of Designing Social Interfaces. I was formerly a Senior Director at Yahoo!. I was responsible for founding the Pattern Library and bringing people like Bill Scott and Christian Crumlish into the company to curate the library. I have been designing social applications and experiences since the early days of AOL, working with early AOL Greenhouse partners (Sweatnet, Nutribytes, Housenet, Astronet) back in 1994, 95 and 96. My move to the web and designing community started in 1997 and has grown from there with stints at Zip2, AltaVista, AOL and Yahoo! where my team worked on the social platform for the company and had to approach many of the social experiences in component contextless ways at huge scales in order for the solutions to be applicable across Yahoo!'s many sites regardless of context. So I am going to try to address a few of the questions asked earlier that Christian was kind enough to punt on (saying Erin will address).
Erin Malone (erinmalone) Thu 5 Nov 09 11:45
I want to go back to Aris question about the Registration pattern. This pattern comes out of a couple of years worth of design and test and design and test work done on Yahoo! registration process. It is well tested and in the context of Yahoo! it was extremely successful. The sheer scale of the Yahoo! network gave us a lot of data to work with to not only improve the usability of the form but also to see measurable impact of the design improvements in terms of drop offs and completions. Unfortunately, Yahoo! requires more security protocols than many purely social sites which makes the sign up process feel a bit long. That said, this pattern was not written specifically for engagement on the social site. I think that is a flaw and something I would very much like to go back and rework if we are given a second opportunity to do so. I have been thinking a lot about engagement and how we get people into our social systems in the first place. Whitney Hesss sidebar essay [http://whitneyhess.com/blog/2009/10/06/onboarding-a-sidebar-in-designing-socia l-interfaces/] touches on a lot of things that I think could be rolled into the sign up process patterns. Joshua Porter, who wrote Designing For the Social Web, has evolved many of his recent presentations to focus primarily on Sign up and the usage lifecycle in the social environment. So it's an important topic that I think designers are just now getting a handle on. Something we could learn a bit more from marketers about. I think there is definitely need to deconstruct some of these patterns some more and add back into them techniques for progressive engagement. I do talk about that as a consideration but it really is just a bullet point and note pulled out with very much emphasis. I wont speak to the weirdness that is flickr and yahoo sign in and sign out and I think in retrospect I should have chosen a better example for the illustration of Sign Out (which I think is a valid pattern despite the illustration).
Gail (gail) Thu 5 Nov 09 12:16
How great to see you here, Erin! Nice pointer to the Onboarding piece (with enhancement ideas WELL staffers covet acutely around here, with our hard-to-change layered antique interfaces). Good point about marketers and social designers -- in fact most likely each has knowledge the other needs.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Thu 5 Nov 09 14:17
thanks, Erin, for dropping by and adding to the convo! lesse, next item in my list was to do with the Yahoo!-ness of this book. I follow twitter for mentions of this book or related keywords and often see cool slices of life in which people report receiving the book or reading it (on a train, a lot of the time, it seems) or even better say they like it or quote some idea from it, but recently someone said something like "I don't want Yahoo! social patterns. Give me Facebook and Google." I didn't reply but could have told him that examples from Facebook (and to some extent Google, although their social offerings are a bit of mixed bag) throughout the book, and yes we use a lot of Yahoo! examples and yes the book is part of the Yahoo! Press imprint we produce with O'Reilly, and yes the work I do (and that Erin launched) on the Yahoo! Pattern Library informs this project, but the book is actually *not* intended to be read as a guide to how Yahoo! does social design. We deliberately took the social patterns project into an independent wiki where we could incubate the ideas outside of the Yahoo! branded space. Bit by bit, as appropriate, some of these patterns are beginning to show up in the Yahoo! library I curate, which means that they are then more formally embraced as Yahoo!'s recommended approach. Even then there will be cases (as with Your vs. My) where Yahoo! will follow the recommended pattern in some instances and not in others. So, yes, at times there is an element of "do as I say, not as I do." If I see Yahoo! doing something and the rest of the web doing something else and I think the rest of the web is correct, then my pattern is going to reflect that, and I'll engage with Yahoo! product designers to try to move us toward what I think is the preferred pattern. This touches on Jon's question about process. The pattern library has never had an enforcement arm. We have had pattern ratings that escalate in terms of "level of adherence" but again it was mainly an honor system and a challenge for the pattern curators past and present to move people toward the preferred patterns through communication and social governance. Some of that is because of the federated nature of Yahoo!'s products and platforms and the way design folds into product and collaborates with technology and marketing in various complex ways. In fact, we have a newer process inside Yahoo!, known as ONE (for One Network Experience) and spearheaded by Luke Wroblewski and governed by something called our Design Council. I sit on that in my capacity as the "patterns guy" but most of the other participants represent functional groups for which they are or represent the lead designer, or related disciplines with a stake in these standards, such as front-end development or editorial. The items in the ONE library can be viewed as components. They are described in a pattern-like way but are specific to the Yahoo!-context and don't have to do double-duty the way the pattern library once tried to do. At the same time this frees that pattern library up to capture Internet-wide best practices for interaction design and leave the Yahoo! brand and consistency work to ONE. In that light, I am auditing the huge internal library (it has about 150 patterns) with an eye toward migrating many of them to the open library (which currently has 50 patterns), and retiring the ones that have become obsolete or superseded. We think we'll get better evolution of the patterns if we share them, even when in an unfinished "beta" form, with the worldwide web design and development community, instead of harassing a relatively small number of very smart but very busy user experience designers who work at Yahoo! to write and edit and review all the patterns. Not sure I fully answered Jon's question but wanted to clarify a bit the role of Yahoo! in the book and the larger social patterns project.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Thu 5 Nov 09 14:22
Embedded in the question that inspired that last reply was one about how or to what extent we test the patterns in the Yahoo! library. Erin addressed that a bit when talking about registration, which we test and measure obsessively, as it directly impacts engagement and lots of other important numbers for us. As I may have said already, without getting people signed up and logged in there is no one there. Other patterns we test as much as we possibly can. It's not always feasible to isolate a single aspect of a user interfaces and test all the variations that might be candidates for patterns. Often we are forced to make surmises based on tests that had other moving parts, but we try to justify our patterns with hard evidence, research and test results paramount among them, whenever we can. Up to now we've never been able to share the research behind the patterns, even the ones we've taken live. To some extent this is due to confidentiality issues in research but that can generally be addressed through summarizing, etc. (although then you're back to a level of, sort of, "trust us - we tested this and it said x") but there's probably also a bit of a sense that research is proprietary. I probably shouldn't speculate in public about whether that might change, so I won't. 3. question of how tested and confidence level of these patterns and related to yahoo's own standards vs. the web's (relates to question of what influence and impact patterns have on yahoo product design), "like the flickr logout I detailed above are simply inconsistent and don't connect to patterns", and others just feel incomplete--this is what we do--which isn't the same, with the exception of the anti-patterns--as saying, "we have good reason to believe that this is worth copying.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Thu 5 Nov 09 16:30
ah looks like i copypasta'd in my notes to myself from 3. below above there - comes out a bit like word salad! anyway, i think the remaining threads from ari have to do with possibly more on registration, such as the flickr/yahoo thing, expectations of other possibly flawed patterns, and the more recent comments on forum patterns, so to be fair to subsequent questioners, I think I'll leave this bundle of ideas where it is for now, pending further follow-ups, and continue unwinding the backlog.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Thu 5 Nov 09 16:34
ok, feels like the hot open questions now are jon's "You've been evolving this catalog of patterns within a company that's constantly evolving new interfaces and interactions, so I assume that your library is getting some use. Can you describe how developers typically interact with you, Erin, and the pattern library to determine the right feature set for a particular application or site?" and Ari's question and subsequent fleshing out from jonl and others about the differences between forums as places for ongoing discussion and this kind of hit-and-run/drive-by commenting that has become perhaps more the norm since the advent of blogging. Great topic that I'll need to chew on a bit!
Christian Crumlish (xian) Thu 5 Nov 09 16:39
to continue addressing use of the library inside Yahoo! I'd say that our goal (and we have some success with this) is that when designers start work on a new project (whether it's a fresh product or a feature or an upgrade or fix or whatever) that they consult the pattern library (as well as the ONE component library) to see whether any of the aspects of their work can take advantage of learnings we have already captured. So I often get people asking me if we have a pattern about x or for y. When we do, I direct them to it and if asked discuss their project and help them determine to what extent the existing patterns may inform it. If several people come looking for a certain type of pattern and don't find it, I bump up that requested pattern on my priority list. Developers tend to approach this stuff via YUI, the code library that is our sister resource, but sometimes they cite patterns (or components) directly, pointing to them and saying "we are following this approach." In my experience, developers are at least as positive about the pattern library as designers are, even if they don't need to read the patterns quite so closely to apply to their own work. When possible we also make design stencils for our patterns (see <http://developer.yahoo.com/ypatterns/about/stencils/ for kits in several versions), and both designers and developers *love love love* these, both inside and outside Yahoo! Sometimes I'm also asked to sit in with a team or meet with them, look at their current challenges, and tell them if I am aware of any patterns that may help them decide between different approaches or solve sticky problems. When I meet with folks like this I'm usually also looking to see whether they have invented any solutions of their own that may prove to turn out to be useful patterns for others.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 6 Nov 09 07:41
Warm welcome to Erin; delighted you could drop by and join the discussion! Following up with Christian - I want to note some thoughts I was having as I read these later posts about what happens inside Yahoo and how it relates to the pattern library. Not really a question, but I'm sure you'll have some thoughts to post in response. I recall hearing a few years ago how Yahoo had through acquisition evolved a crazy quilt of platforms that weren't integrated, and the company was trying to create that integration through internal analysis and restructuring. I guess the most visible aspect of integration for many was the migration of Flickr from its own authentication process to Yahoo's. Google's faced similar challenges (think Blogger integration). This got me thinking about how we've been organizing the contemporary Internet post dotcommunism, post social software/web 2.0 genesis in the early 2000s. We have a very few hypercapitalized giants like Google and Yahoo who have grown through acquisition, and each acquisition presents its own integration challenge. This makes me think of my days in the late 90s as "Internet Guy" for Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods is another company that's grown through acquisition and faced the challenge of integrating other companies that had different cultures and modes of organization. So there's that aspect of growth, too - the absorption of whole other cultures and how you blend those into your mix without killing vibrant and useful aspects of the culture. I'm writing this as what I think is an important contextual note: I think you're in a place where it's important to have standard thinking about interface and social practice, but the "no enforcement" point you made is interesting - you don't want to kill the creative goose with mandates. I think that's the right decision, and I think there's probably a whole other book that Yahoo could write about how you merge cultures and platforms, how you collaborate your way into an approach that's identifiably one company's without suppressing the identity and the utility of the component companies. How you make Flickr part of Yahoo without killing Flickr. (vs the Borg antipatterns.) I think it's interesting to hear your remarks about how you make the rest of the company aware of the library and its utility. I guess you have to market persistently, internally, to ensure that the people who could really be helped by your work are aware.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Fri 6 Nov 09 08:17
jon, you nailed a couple of really interesting issues there. let me just say i'm not sure yahoo should write that book (yet?) - the whole complex semi-intrapreneurial post-20th-century organization is still figuring itself out as best as I can tell. mostly I can report what it's like to be playing one small hand in a much larger game. I sometimes wonder if Yahoo! needs to be so big. Or to put it another way, does the Internet need a big Yahoo! to exist? Need may be too strong a word. Does the Internet want big companies to thrive, and possibly to drive policies and standards? I don't mean so much the politics of slashdot and boingboing and reddit and so on but the very grain of the web. The web definitely likes openness, for example, so I'm glad Yahoo! has this steady drive to explore what can be made open and turned more web-like in nature. The web, in the long run, doesn't seem to like walled gardens, by contrast. The case for a big Yahoo! is as a sort of helpful guide providing ordinary people an integrated but ever enriching interface to the best of the Internet (content, services, experiences). Not an intermediary that prevents direct access to anything, but at best a helper that gradually raises the skills and capabilities and imagination-about-what's-possible of its users. Bigness has some value. Scale, reach, uptime (SLAs) reliability, a well populated social graph (one of the keys to Facebook's ascendance), and of course an engaged, understood audience for publishers and advertisers (both concepts taken broadly: people who earn their reward by entertaining you or giving you information and people who want you to know something). Bigness also can be tremendously challenging, and hypergrowth is painful on the joints. When I joined Yahoo! in 2007 it was already limping a bit from strained ligaments, so to speak. Since then, some major steps have been taken to really get the company technically on as few integrated platforms as possible. There was always a desire to do this but those centripetal impulses that Jon noted, and the countervailing virtue of unencumbered experimentation, agility, even rogue skunkworks type projects and so on tended to militate against consolidation. I think when they brought my grest-grandboss, Jay Rossiter, who came from an enterprise background, to run the open strategy and ultimately the entire consumer platforms group; and my great-great-grandboss, Ari Balogh, also with an enterprise background, under whom Carol Bartz the new kick-ass ceo consolidated the cto and product czar roles; I realized that Yahoo! was getting serious about squeezing out the wasteful redundancies and unclear lines and building a large muscular platform for concierging the web (taken broadly to include mobile, ubiquitous, and so on). It's a bit of a matter of big agility vs. little agility. In the past I think some small teams at Yahoo! maintained their agility by avoiding entanglement with others as much as possible (contrast that with my desire to constant cross-pollinate discoveries and plans). But this little agility often, I think, hampered strategic or network-wide agility. Consolidating systems and processes will enable in a concrete way things like rolling out advances in media page designs to all of the international versions of our pages with a single upgrade rather than (I kid you not) a multiple-month rollout plan across scores of platforms. So on the engineering side I think there's been a need for enforcement, a top-down commitment to doing things the right way and eschewing expedients. The Design Council process is a bit more negotiated and is a closer parallel to the effort on the engineering side to agree about standards and practices. We try to make sure every stakeholder has a voice, some group takes the lead on a proposed component or package of components, everyone gets to point out potential concerns, there is revision and further review, driving toward a conclusion. If one group says "this pattern doesn't work for us because we share have x y z unique constraints" the context can be specified to exempt the scenario they're talking about, or they can simply be allowed to be out of compliance. I tend to think of it as an 80/80/80 thing. If we get 80% of the council to agree on a component, and 80% of the UED (user experience design) teams hear about it and apply it, and if a team is able to follow the pattern 80% then we're still so much closer to a consistent experience for Yahoo! users that's consistent with our brand than if we continued with a mishmash of occasional top-down brand initiatives and an entirely emergent, curated pattern library. and yes, I am evangelist outside Yahoo! and one inside as well. Every couple of months I visit another office or team and preach the gospel of pattern recognition. Notice something working in several places. Figure out why it works. Write down what you know and tell everyone.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Fri 6 Nov 09 09:04
Don't want to delve directly into conversation patterns but to step back a bit to address this question of losing ground, the models degrading. To me one of the motions underlying the whole BBS/forum ethos and that of disconnected, ad hoc, perhaps pseudo-conversations is a tension between communitarian and libertarian impulses, seriously! At various times and places online the favored context for promoting community has been a persistent, asynchronous (or sometimes synchronous), small-public, conversational discussion system. A BBS, the Well, Usenet, the old Yahoo chat rooms before they were inundated with spambots*, any number of other room / topic / conference / thread services. This is the communitarian model. Some benevolent entity provides the space, all enter it equally, although senior participants may have gained some status, etc. The only real problem with it (unique, I mean, not present any time people speak to each other) is that it has this more or less visible owner, sometimes the person who started the mailing list, etc., and if they ever are not benevolent the community can be damaged or destroyed or individuals in the community may be wronged. You could probably create a governance model that minimizes this problem. They probably exist. The other model, which ranges from comments on blogs (where there is a primary participant in the conversation who starts every thread), to the 2004-esque "everyone have a blog and ping each other when your rebuttal is ready" to today's drive-by ephemeral conversations, seems clearly inferior in that it does not tend to create longer standing communities with persistent cultures and stories and dialects they co-create, or at least not so readily. What's been traded is the monarch. "Every man a king." It's the techno-utopian solution that says each person will host their own salon, write their own broadsides, participant as an equal in the grand conversation. Very enlightenment. However, that was the demo and at scale it's proven to be difficult to sustain. Since LiveJournal at least the blog concept has been playing around with subscribing or following, watching lists of people, all the stuff twitter does now and Facebook is flirting with (Facebook flirts with all of these models). Even in 2005 or so people were joking around about the blogosphere rebuilding usenet badly. So the disjointed model is still evolving an bolting-on features to address the inherent antisocial isolation (every man *is* an island) of the libertarian model. Facebook right now seems to be a weird amalgam, thriving but exhibiting some of the unhappy features of each model: the paternalism and infantilization of the communitarian model and the disjointed ephemeral small-public conversations of the libertarian model. Somehow it's working for them, this anti-dialectic. ---- * speaking of spambots - one early definition of social software was "stuff that gets spammed" <http://many.corante.com/archives/2005/02/01/tags_run_amok.php>
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 6 Nov 09 10:04
That's a good statement of some of the political assumptions embedded in social code. Those assumptions are there, like it or not, and often are conflicting and not thought out. Combine the rules and who is granted permissions with the language used, and sometimes you see very odd mismatches. The thing I find odd about libertarian blog comment or founder-driven group comment space is the lack of support for continuity that Ari mentioned. How many times have people in the halls at conferences bemoaned that devolution of function? I think that core functionality is the seed of the "blogosphere rebuilding usenet badly" effect, and I think that people are going to start to address it. (I believe that <jef> has made a tool to make Flickr group discussions easier to follow, for example, thanks to the Flickr API and policies ... I expect more of this is going on too.)
Christian Crumlish (xian) Fri 6 Nov 09 11:09
yes, that's why an open API is so important. I think twitter's minimalism and relatively easy API has a lot to do with its uptake.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 6 Nov 09 14:10
Bijoy Goswami, who favors a paradigm of simple personality types as a shorthand for understanding teaming and collaboration, says that there are three relevant types: evangelist, maven, and relater. Generally those are driven by action, knowledge, and relationship, respectively. He and I have done some collaborative thinking about how these apply to communities. Most people are somewhere on a scale between two of the three types - e.g. I think I fall on a scale between maven and relater, closer to maven; Bijoy is probably a maven/evangelist. We realized that online communities like the WELL tended to be strong relater/maven communities - focused on relationship and knowledge, but not much on action. I think this is another way of describing the communitarian model, and of course it works well for people who are more focused on knowledge and relationship, but it can drive action-focused evangelist types nuts. I'm wondering if the "drive-by" patterns we've discussed are more in the action realm, creating a sense of activity rather than a sense of ongoing conversation and relationship. I think people are confused about 'social' and 'community.' They might think a social network is a community, but it takes more than social connection to make a community happen. Companies that talk about building communities sometimes have a valid reason for doing so, but sometimes they really want to build, not communities, but audiences. Those are just some observations. I also thought of another question while I was reading, and this goes back to the new vs old question. Yahoo has a bazillion people using its Groups technology, but I'm running into groups and organizations that need everything Yahoo Groups has to offer, but they don't want to use the functionality, and their only professed reason for avoiding it is that it's old tech, therefore uncool. How do you think about making technologies that definitely work as they are fresh so that they seem contemporary? Could that be a matter of pattern assessment, followed by a reimagining of the platform based on emerging patterns?
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