[Home]CommunitySolution

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Healthy communities can solve problems very effectively. Social conventions and unwritten rules can be more effective than enforced policy.

However, solving problems through community action alone is difficult. Sometimes the TechnologySolution is appropriate, or the LegalSolution.

Community solutions are best or at least easiest for those who are empathetic and articulate. Anyone can do a CommunitySolution if they are good at listening. The best way to make one is through FairProcess tied to a SuperordinateGoal. Sometimes you just need to ModelDesiredBehavior, though, and it will catch on.

Leaders prefer CommunitySolutions as they are cheap, easy, flexible, tolerant, dynamic, and they reinforce the leader's authority. Good leaders actually balance CommunitySolutions value against the effectiveness of other solutions, like TechnologySolutions, LegalSolutions, and EconomicSolutions.


In my opinion, aim for solutions in this weighted order:

MeatballWikiCopyright was an interesting little experiment. The proposals' merit roughly worked out like that, I'd say. Interestingly, one of the TechnologySolutions was the lack of technology: the inability to authenticate authorship. That keeps the site from getting in the crossfire. -- SunirShah


Here's my recent take on community solutions. Essentially, the more tighter knit a community, the more it relies on community solutions. However, the more impartial people are towards others, the more technical or legal the solutions become--relying on the "system" to manage the faceless crowd. These are correlations, not implications. I think these are part of the reason why CommunityMayNotScale. There seems to be a limit to how many people one person can really know. -- SunirShah


A TechnologySolution may be better than a CommunitySolution in dealing with strong disagreements or disruptive people. In many forums individual filtering (a TechnologySolution) is preferable to constant requests to change behavior. Other forums without such filtering often collapse over arguments about appropriate topics, or whether to eject certain people from the community. If people are able to easily filter, these arguments can often be avoided.

UseNet is an example where filtering works well. Almost all UseNet client programs are able to filter out postings by the author and/or keywords on a subject line. People who don't like the postings of another user are regularly asked to simply filter them out, rather than publically object to the postings.

One thing that confuses the technology/community issue is that there is often a "community" decision to accept a technology solution. A common UseNet example of this occurs when a newsgroup adopts the "subject tag" convention for subject-based filtering. For instance, in a "science-fiction/fantasy" newsgroup, popular new books often overwhelm other discussions. Since creating a new newsgroup takes a *long* time (months), posters are often asked to use a subject tag indicating the subject, like "[Jordan]", or "[Wheel of Time]" (for a popular series by R. Jordan).

In my opinion, many social conflicts of the C2 Wiki have been caused or aggravated by the lack of simple TechnologySolutions like filtering. Some obvious examples are the patterns/XP conflict (Wiki:MissingWikiBeforeXp), the Wiki:WikiOnWiki conflicts (especially the Wiki:CategoryMetaWikiNoise discussion (a crude attempt at filtering which was later removed)), and recently the appropriateness of "religious" topics. These conflicts often overwhelmed all other discussion, leading to a backlash against any "WikiOnWiki" discussion.

Sometimes it seems that the main "community" solution to serious conflict is to divide the community. In the "real world", communities often divide because two groups cannot adequately divide a shared resource (like a meeting space or presentation time). Online communities remove many resource limits, but people's attention is still limited. One of my hopes (with projects such as ViewPoint) is to find ways for people to share their common interests, while not overwhelming them with a community that is "too large". See CommunityMayNotScale for more thoughts along these lines. --CliffordAdams


Moved from KuroshinRatingIssues...

There are three classes of "laws" on an online community (in decreasing order of preference):

Some may add Commercial, but I think all commercial laws can be categorized by the above. I agree that code itself does limit what people can do, but so do your fellow community members (e.g. moderation) and the various RealWorld legal systems that exert pressure on the site (e.g. copyright law).

I assert that while social systems can fall prey to social engineering ala karma/mojo whoring, they are generally the most robust and certainly the most stable. After all, when a site's technical framework becomes limiting, there is nothing the members can do but complain.

Generally, trusting people is effective. This has been shown in organizational contexts like knowledge work where employee empowerment increases morale, loyalty, and productivity. (On the other hand, empowering an assembly worker may be unproductive because it interferes with the job.)

True, accountability is important, but moreso responsibility. I generally advocate SoftSecurity as the best way. After all, good work comes from good community. Good community comes from good people. It doesn't come from good laws. -- SunirShah

Where do good people come from? Or, better to ask, why do they come to a particular place? I would argue that it's because of good laws (where "laws" here can be considered code, policy and attitude of admins and other contributors). Fair and useful code attracts good people. I think you overly downplay the effect of law on community. --RustyFoster

If you'll read LawrenceLessig's book, you'll find he finds four major forces, the fourth being commerce. The key with respect to Scoop is that, in a technical sphere, what the code enables (or forbids) is effectively law. Code has the capability of bypassing restrictions imposed by other domains, but only in the proper context. Read the book, it's good.

Generally, trusting people is effective.

I'll flatly reject this, and point to Lessig for reasons why. At the very least, a system needs accountability, even weak accountability. -- KarstenSelf

Of course, SlashDot tries to keep an ideal of total freedom of speech--until you get bitchslapped. Very confusing. --ss

I think they go about their "freedom" claims all wrong. No one who pays attention believes that they are actually committed to "total freedom of speech". No one who has spent any time reading /. should believe that that is even an admirable goal. I think that attitude has caused more harm than good there, in balance. What they really want is to provide everyone a chance to be heard. The "BitchSlap?" is a last-ditch measure, used mainly to shut down spam-bots. It has on occasion been used against a real human, but mainly by accident. I think it's the wrong way to acheive what is a good goal, overall. And promoting themselves as bastions of total freedom is not too bright, considering that isn't really what they want. It just invites charges of hypocrisy. --RustyFoster

You still have to trust the rater. -- KarstenSelf

Whenever a system necessarily fails due to necessity of trust, it's a good time to ask, "Should I trust the user more?" Actually, I think it's always an important question to ask. It's too easy to put bars on your windows, but does it really improve the quality of your life? It's safer to put cops on every corner, but do you really want this?

Moreover, it has been shown from the PygmalionEffect that people tend to perform to your expectations of them. So, if you mistrust them, they will act in bad faith. If you trust them, they will rise to the occasion. -- SunirShah


The smaller a community, the better CommunitySolutions are likely to work. In a small community, it may be easier to change behavior patterns than to implement technology solutions. A perfect example was a coding style decision we made at work. It took us about 20 minutes to decide not to write any more modules that were Exporters, and that we would convert all existing Exporters with 1 exception. Two TechnologySolutions to that exist: modify the perl runtime or Exporter.pm installed on all dev boxes to disallow such usage or write an auditting script to bug people when they transgress. Both of those would be much slower to implement than our decision to just fix things when we saw them (and we never had someone violate the decision).

Part of this is that CommunitySolutions typically require at least tacit approval from participants. They cannot be imposed from above the way some TechnologySolutions can be. Thus, for a CommunitySolution to be a "starter" a significant part of the CommunityMustAgree to it. Which can be much easier to achieve in a small group than a large one. --ErikDeBill


It is important to note that with CommunitySolutions, GoodEnough is the aim, and perfection may be unachievable or impractical.

Well, with none perfection may be achievable


I'm working on a theory for a new online community called FuzzyCommunity - which aims to put community first and have decentralization and fragmentation built in. It would also use a good mixture of CommunitySolution, TechnologySolution and LegalSolution. It could also be a starting point for a SemanticWeb style community. At the moment I'm using WikiWikiWeb wiki to store the ideas, as, IMO, a wiki is better for just getting the ideas down. Take a look and add your own thoughts and ideas. See Wiki:CategoryFuzzy for other links about Wiki:ThingsFuzzy. --- PaulMillar


A common hybrid of the CommunitySolution and TechnologySolution is the GodKing solution, which is in truth no solution. Rather, the GodKing solution hastens the decline of everything decent and good. -- DavidPrenatt


All this discussion is thought provoking but I might bring up that the categories of community/technology may be more hindering than useful. If you look at most of the old net postings written by the creators of online communities, they always make the claim "we learned after years of experience that all technology solutions are inherently social". All social actions on an online community occur on a foundation of technology. For that matter most physical world community interactions occur on a foundation of technology. If you want to encourage a certain community/social behavior, make it easier and more desirable using the technology. Don't throw out an idea because it's a 'technological solution', adapt the technology so that it creates the community effect you desire. --JeffAxup
CategoryConflict, CategorySolution
<=> Wiki:CommunitySolution


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