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A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy

Another good essay from Clay Shirky. This time he talks about scaling social software, a subject close to my heart.
Read it at

Now how does JoS look when seen in this light?

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, July 1, 2003

"...nothing causes a group to galvanize like an external enemy. "

I would submit to you that our external enemy is bad software and the people who cause it.

Joel and Fog Creek are the internal heros.


Tuesday, July 1, 2003

What I liked most about the essay is the description of that Hongkong-Tokyo music-on-harddrives trading community, where your handle is linked to your sponsor's handle once you have joined it. Sounds much like the mafia's system, but anyway it sure works.

Johnny Bravo
Tuesday, July 1, 2003

I was most struck by this statement: "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 [and] its own worst enemy style attacks from within."

I think Shirky makes excellent points.  Very much worth thinking about.

Brent P. Newhall
Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Interesting how he talks about reputation and name recognition... JOS does so little to enhance name recognition - no registering, no avatars... It takes a while for me to get to know people in any forum I participate in, but eventually I find myself reading through a really long boring thread and looking for the people whose posts I know are always good and just reading those.

Philo I instantly recongize becuase of Camel. Bella I recognize because Bella is so abrasive... Many of the others here a sort of wash of names, which is the same as with any group online group I've been in - the voice of the poster isn't heard when you read the post, and by the time you look at who posted it, you kinda don't get to link the two together.

So it seems to me that if each poster, like in chat or IM, was allowed to define their own font and color for regular posting, then their "voice" would be associated with the words, and not next to or below it.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents as it pertains to forums in particular.
Tuesday, July 1, 2003

I always recognize Albert Kallal's posts because of his big signature.  They tend to be generally good posts too.

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

I also can start to recognize patterns in some of the regular posters on JOS.  I can usually recognize Bored Bystander's posts.  They are usually lengthy and full of common sense.
You can tell (he or she) is a true veteran of software development.

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Some people are recognizable only by their signatures.

PS: You think I'm kidding.  I'm not.

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

External ememies (not that I consider personally, but that I've noticed):
- Slashdot
- Dave Winer (never figured out why)
- Religous fanatics (of the software kind)
- Cringely

- Joel told us not to worship him, so we don't.  he told us that we are all our own individuals, so we are all our own individuals
- Pragmatism

Not sure about this one.

Ged Byrne
Wednesday, July 2, 2003

A good reason to not like Dave Winer is self-important nonsense like this:

Luke Duff
Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Reminds me of a note that was posted on the door of the video store in a small town in upstate New York that I'd see every year when I went to the Renaissance Fair.

I don't remember the wording, but I remember the tone... I'll try to reproduce it for you:

"Dear Neighbors,

After ten years of serving the community we're closing down. It seems you would rather support the corporate video stores than support your neighbors. If you still have a video and want to return it, drop it off at the convenience store next door.

Thanks for nothing,
etc. etc."

I think Dave Winer will get a little perspective, maybe see the bigger picture in a little while. Remember, it's not really a gift if you expect something in return.
Wednesday, July 2, 2003

When my mother-in-law visits, she starts doing all this work around the house.

Essentially, it's useless stuff, like scouring pans that aren't shiny, etc.  In the process, she asks lots of questions and makes lots of comments, hoping for praise, like "I  scrubbed the toilet with a toothbrush and I put the milk back in the frig". We always thank her, even if it's not helpful, or it's just the polite thing to do.

But, then when she wants something done around OUR house, she expects us to do it, since "she's been helping out."

Mother-in-laws. Can't live with them. Can't have them put to sleep.

"Treat your children well.
They'll be picking your Nursing Home"

As said above: if you expect something in return, it's not a gift.

Friday, July 4, 2003

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