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Thursday, July 03, 2003

Who's Group are You In?

Clay Shirky has once again posted an insightful piece about groups. In a nutshell, here are some key points:

Social Software Definition: It's software that supports group interaction.
Four Rules for Social Software Design:
1.) If you were going to build a piece of social software to support large and long-lived groups, what would you design for? The first thing you would design for is handles the user can invest in.
2.) Second, you have to design a way for there to be members in good standing. Have to design some way in which good works get recognized.
3.) Three, you need barriers to participation.
4.) And, finally, you have to find a way to spare the group from scale.

I think that one of the points that Clay is glossing over is the degree of commonality of purpose in a given group. In any group, the goals of all the participants are never completely aligned. Let us use as an example the group that is involved with Sam Ruby's praiseworthy Echo Project. Here is a quick gloss of some of the groups involved.

The group that works for, or benefits from
...the success of IBM.
...the success of Google/Blogger.
...the success of Microsoft.
...the success of Six Apart.
...the success of Userland.
...the success of AOL.
The group that believes in the value of interoperability.
The group that hopes for the success of anybody but:
...Microsoft
...Aol
...Userland
The group that wants to use RSS for more cool stuff.
The group that is frustated by previous attempts to advance RSS.
The group that does not want to rewrite code that already works.
The group that likes XML-RPC.
The group that likes Soap.

Of course a person can be a member of more than one of these groups. And not all members are staked in the commonality of goal to the same degree. And we have not even begun to address the complexities of the individual and our desires for wealth, honor and power and the downward drag of envy.

To my mind it seems better to focus on the common desired outcome, rather than the group itself. If we share our focus on our common goal, we will have a better chance of a group success.