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The dark side of community is cliquishness. The tools of SoftSecurity are social. Organizing a group along the lines of SoftSecurity and community to some extent means adopting our instinctual social protocols and our evolutionarily-programmed group organizational structures. That is, we aim to behave like a tribe. These modes of interaction are tried and true, but they do have downsides. Being reasoning beings, we should be aware of the potential problems with "social" patterns of organization and try to avoid them.

What we're trying to avoid

Using social tools holds the danger of becoming, appearing to be, an elitist clique where who you know becomes more important than what you can contribute. There is a fine line (if there is any difference at all) between deciding to isolate an individual to protect a communal resource, and between allowing personal connections to triumph over egalitarianism.

More specific patterns

(Note that in all cases a community that appears to have one of the antipatterns will suffer at least some of the negative consequences of actually having it. For instance, if a community's habits and mores are in fact not hostile to newcomers, but appear to the newcomers to be hostile, the results will be similar to those that would result from actual hostility.)

Cliquishness ("Cliquiness")

A clique is a small (3-15), mutually reinforcing subset of a group. Members of a clique share a common background that differentiates them from the larger group of which they are a part. This background may be formed based on interests, shared activities, values, religion, gender, sexual orientation, skill, intellect. Intragroup conflict strengthens cliques. Highly diverse groups have stronger cliques than more homogenous groups. Functional, goal-oriented groups are less prone to development of cliques. Cliques are characterized by direct friendship bonds; each member is a friend of all other members rather than having associative friendship relationships (friend of a friend). This limits size.

Once formed, cliques are insular and unfriendly to newcomers, because prior shared personal experience is the source of their strengh.

See also OutcastNewcomer, which is not so much about newcomers as about those who do not want to adopt the norms of the group.

Cliquishness is related to:


Social communities often define themselves by who they are not as much as by who they are; by having a common enemy, or at least a common "those other folks". This can cause friction; if some hypothetical community of Wiki users, for instance, were to define themselves at least partially by the superiority of Wiki users to someone else (WebLoggers, say, or CryptoNauts), then if some WebLoggers or CryptoNauts showed up who were interested in taking part in the Wiki, there might be a bit more friction involved than if the original group had defined themselves in contrast to something else (albino penguins, say, or Fomalhaut, or cheese, or people who hate Wikis).


In socially-patterned groups, "connections" tend to be important; who you know, and who knows you. This is in conflict with the principles of egalitarianism and meritocracy, which (strictly speaking) do not give weight to simple connection.


A group which considers, or appears to consider, its members significantly better than the larger community of which it is a part. Often an elitist group will have social mores which conflict with those of the larger community, but the group will act as if its mores were the default, and anyone else is imposing.


One potentially negative social phenomenon is rumor. If person A isolates person O based upon a vague condemnation of O's character by B, then person A has acted against O out of rumor. This creates a poisonous atmosphere. Instead, person A should strive to get the specific reasons why B dislikes O, and then A should make his own decision.

Rumor has its place; for example, there may be some reason why B cannot tell A all the facts. Also, if B is a respected member of the community, it would be foolish for others and detrimental to the community to totally ignore B's advice on principle. But it should be kept in check.

Ways to avoid them


We must try to use love, not hate; AssumeGoodFaith. Use social tools, but use the tools of positive social reinforcement, not negative. Following the Star Wars analogy, intuitively it seems that if you don't use "the dark side of the force" you can avoid the worst of its effects.


Modern society has evolved another set of mores, or social protocols, from which we may draw. BeProfessional.


And/or CommunityWiki:ModerateInclusiveness; the group should avoid UsAndThem think except where it's actually warranted. If the group is about the freedom to skateboard, and the founders of the group happens to wear their hair long and spiked, using opponents of skateboarding as "them" is probably fine; using people with short non-spiked hair as "them" is less likely to be correct.

See also AGroupIsItsOwnWorstEnemy, the DarkSideOfCommunityAtMeatball.

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