[Home]CommunityExpectation

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Most people in a healthy community expect reasonable behaviour from others. Some communities expect more than others, such as expected community service (e.g. BarnRaisings) rather than letting the public institutions serve all.

These expectations are different from laws and rules in that they are etiquette and protocol. That is, you usually have to pick them up from interactions from others rather than reading about them (although sometimes they are explicitly expressed to you) and they aren't strictly enforced. The negative pressure comes from embarrassment in front of your peers and possible shunning at an extreme. The positive pressure comes from the PygmalionEffect and personal encouragement, ala, "That was a nice job!"

In normal society, we learn our manners as we grow up as part of the process of socialization. Our parents, peers, school, the media, and many other smaller influences contribute to teaching us how to participate in society--primarily by example rather than explicit instruction. In online communities, there is the lurk first, then post rule (cf. NoRespectForHistory). That is, get a gauge on the community first before diving in.

However, that rule has been eroded over time as the community expectations have dropped. Just like expectations drop when you don't Wiki:FixBrokenWindows.

So, are there more efficient ways to teach others CommunityExpectations than expecting them to lurk (a remarkably recursive proposition)?

From SoftSecurity. See also the excellent BehavioralNorms.

Uncooked references

Erickson, T. (1999) Rhyme and punishment: The creation and enforcement of conventions in an on-line participatory limerick genre. In Proceedings of the Thirty-second Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, January, 1999, Maui, Hawaii. Available from http://www.pliant.org/personal/Tom_Erickson/limerick.html


There's an additional dynamic on WikiWiki, in that an explicit CommunityExpectation is mutable. This throws a little more confusion into the mix, but I think in the end that it is closer to how a PhysicalCommunity? works than enforcing a rigid CommunityExpectation.

How widely do wikis vary in defining explicit CommunityExpectations? WardsWiki seems to always be deliberate (if not decisive) about defining itself. I imagine the smaller wikis, particularly those focused on a specific organization or profession, make less effort to do so.

Perhaps this is where the root of the CommunityMayNotScale problem lies. If a community forum merely provided worthwhile content, then no one would care how much content was made available (provided they could reasonably get to the content they needed, and reasonably provide new content). The difficulties arise when the formatting, presentation, indexing, categorization, or relevance of the content are called into question -- issues more of CommunityExpectation than CommonContext. Or am I going too far? -- anon.

Written expectations?

WikiWiki is a bad example. It is in The Decline stage of the Wiki:CommunityLifeCycle. While you think it may have always talked about itself this way, it's only done so in the last year since its lost its focus. (Since the Wiki:ExtremeProgrammingExplainedEmbraceChange book was published.)

Anyway, I'm not sure community expectations are really what is written down. Even in the RealWorld there is divergence between the laws and what people actually think. In a constitutional democracy, this is because the laws are based fundamentally on philosophical principles, not on what the mob (demos) thinks. I think this divergence actually backfires, resulting in the breakdown of society, but that's another story. -- SunirShah

I think that may be a bit too idealistic :-) What it boils down to is that those who make the rules often feel differently about those rules than a sizeable portion of the population. This may be because they (the rulemakers) adhere to a higher philosophical ideal, or because they have been bought by someone with deep pockets (either financial or influential). The end result is a set of rules which do not accurately reflect the CommunityExpectations of a sizeable part of the populace.

This difference between implicit and explicit CommunityExpectations can be highly disruptive, especially if the explicit expectations are more restrictive than the implicit.


I'll disagree with the statements about WikiWiki. The C2 wiki often talked about itself in the past, and few of the recent controversies are new. (The Thread/Document battle is at least a few years old. The patterns/extreme-programming (XP) conflict was possibly a larger shift in wiki's history than the current struggles.) As I see it, the XP people left once the mailing list on egroups was established. This was probably a good thing for the wiki. The C2 wiki was an excellent place to develop the XP ideas, but not a good place for the tightly focused and quickly growing XP community. (As of mid-2000 the XP mailing list has about 60 emails per day.)

I would also say that WikiWiki is a good example of expectation conflicts. One group expects that the C2 wiki is a place for pattern discussions. Another group sees C2 as a place for programming methods (like XP), and some broaden this into general "computing" issues. Yet another group sees C2 as not having any fixed topics, and open to whatever the participants want to discuss. See Wiki:MissingWikiBeforeXp, Wiki:AppropriateWikiTopics, and Wiki:IsChristianityOnTopic for examples of the resulting conflicts. --CliffordAdams

That's a good point about conflict of expectations - it counters the notion that CommunityExpectations is a form of GroupThink. It's likely that, like most things, its a mix of both, and that mix changes as the underlying forces rearrange themselves. Question: what are the underlying forces/tensions for CommunityExpectations? -- EricScheid


To find an excellent example of how expectations aren't normally written down, look at golfers: they don't talk while their partners are putting on the green. Also, you don't criticize your employer (or your significant other) in public.


[CategoryConflict] [CategorySoftSecurity]

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