Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Clay Shirky on social software, group dynamics and online communities

from 2003! Here's a great pull quote (but please read the whole thing, Shirky is a true scholar of this stuff):

"Writing social software is hard. And, as I said, the act of writing social software is more like the work of an economist or a political scientist. And the act of hosting social software, the relationship of someone who hosts it is more like a relationship of landlords to tenants than owners to boxes in a warehouse.

The people using your software, even if you own it and pay for it, have rights and will behave as if they have rights. And if you abrogate those rights, you'll hear about it very quickly.

That's part of the problem that the John Hegel theory of community -- community leads to content, which leads to commerce -- never worked. Because lo and behold, no matter who came onto the Clairol chat boards, they sometimes wanted to talk about things that weren't Clairol products. "But we paid for this! This is the Clairol site!" Doesn't matter. The users are there for one another. They may be there on hardware and software paid for by you, but the users are there for one another."

Of course I have to thank Doc Searls for this link. Doc continues to find and say (same thing, no?) things about communities and advertising business models that resonate well with me and (more to the point) illuminate the hazards of blindly marching down that path without a plan for success. Here’s a great example:

"Facebook also has no conversation density for me because keeping up with it takes too much work. This might be my fault, for somehow allowing myself to have 396 "friends", when the number of my actual friends is far lower than that - and most of them aren't on Facebook. Add "2 friend suggestions, 187 friend requests, 2 event invitations, 1 u-netted nations invitation, 1 blog ownership request, 180 other requests" and "23 new notifications" more "pokes" than I'll bother to count, and Facebook compounds what it already is: a gridlock of obligations architected, blatantly, to drag my eyeballs across advertising, most of which is irrelevant beyond the verge of absurdity. (On my entry page is an ad for dresses by American Apparel. It replaces one for singles. I'm male and married. You'd think Facebook could at least get *that* much right.)"

However, rebutting Doc, my Facebook profile page has an ad that says "53 yr male. Overweight?". I just turned 53 this past Monday.

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