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OnlineCommunities are built on technology. The maintainer of an online forum can use the technology to help shape the community.

Technology is absolute and often anonymous. In the words of OpenSource, the developer is always right. When you rely on TechnologySolutions, you give up control of the solution to the implementor. While you can use all sorts of means to regain control, ultimately unless you can do it yourself, you lose power to the implementor.

Because it is absolute and anonymous, it works well for those who find it difficult to articulate their ideas clearly or empathize with others. It's faster for these people to demonstrate their ideas just by building them and showing them. If they have no power, they hope that their ideas will catch on by osmosis. If they have power, say if they are a GodKing, they can force others to accept their ideas in a direct way, without real negotiation.

Of course, negotiation is still possible. Things get built all the time to customers' delight. However, this requires FairProcess, care, and commitment. At the heart of a TechnologySolution, you still need a leader to direct things. (cf. CommunitySolution)

Because technology requires special skills and it requires fewer social skills, TechnologySolution"s suit builders. That is, those who prefer to build something rather than talk about it (cf TaskFocus?). That is, the engineering/hacker ethic. Since OnlineCommunities are so heavily technical, most are consequently programmer-oriented. This leads to bizarre UserInterfaces that only a programmer could love, such as the double-double-quote WikiSyntax here to form plurals (e.g. UserInterface""s ).

SocialSoftware requires the programmers who build the software to transcend into the realm of humanity and build HumaneInterfaces and rely primarily on social solutions such as CommunitySolutions, LegalSolutions, and EconomicSolutions to organize. Otherwise, the users become victims of the few who can code, and these people are not selected necessarily because they enjoy the support of the community.

Watch out too for TechnologicalDeterminism; i.e. IfYouBuildItTheyWillCome. It's also to understand how technology is a SocialConstruct?.

There have been some notable attacks on TechnologySolutions as a strategy over CommunitySolutions here.


This idea is not meant to compete with CommunitySolution. The two are complementary, not opposite.

Technology is cheap; community is expensive. Software is relatively easy to create and modify. Most importantly, it is easy to experiment with. Take advantage of this. If an issue can be resolved by a simple change to the technology, do it. Patches to the software are easily applied and easily removed. Cultural changes are much more difficult to create and equally hard to reverse.

Technology is fragile; community is strong. No security is absolute, and no TechnologySolution is foolproof. If the CommunityDoesNotAgree with some technological fix, they will try to find ways around it, and if they can't then they will grow resentful of the GodKing programmers. Changing the technology in ways that don't coincide with community feelings will not work.

Often when a problem is a confounding complication of social and technical problems, it's tempting to express only the technical aspects or only find solutions in the technical domain, especially in a room full of technologists, although often in prescriptive cultures as well such as North American cultures. It's important to remember that if the problem has its roots in people, or a significant component is social, then maybe it's time to grow as people, as a community, and as a culture. Maybe the ultimate solution will require technology, but it's probably more important to understand the emotional state of the community first in order that one can properly evaluate and accept the technical choices made.

Technology is cheap; community is expensive.

I probably wrote that three years ago. I've changed my mind. Technology is expensive and community is cheap. It's easier to convince people to adopt a new convention than it is to design, write, and test new software that doesn't have secondary social effects. Witness the rapid evolution of social conventions here on MeatballWiki, and the arguably painful evolution of the technical infrastructure of the site. -- SunirShah

What is a PrescriptiveCulture?? -- BayleShanks

Limits can be beneficial. Not every limitation is a problem to be fixed. Sometimes it's better to adapt to the system, rather than try to change the system to match every small desire. Remember to KeepItSimpleStupid.

Consider technological frameworks to be like laws. If the laws you create are against the grain of the community, the community will become angered and frustrated. Even worse, the technology are laws that can't be broken, which a democratic society cannot allow. The most advanced form of citizenry is being arrested for things you believe in. Since they can't do that, never get to the point where people feel as if they have to subvert your GodKing rules. See also CodeAndOtherLawsOfCyberspace.

For me, the ultimate technology fix is the internal combustion engine as a fix for urban filth and illness. A great cause for much of it was animal droppings from the draft animals required to move things around in a city. When they left, illness dropped substantially. With that invention, the problem fell away. And caused a litany of new ones (urban sprawl, cities redesigned for vehicles being largely unnavigatable by people without, noise, etc).

What's really fun is when you get a circle of contradictory problem/tech solution sets: Need power? Coal-burning power plants! Too much pollution? Nuclear power plants! Too much of a danger of meltdown? Solar and wind power! (Wind kills birds, but) not enough power generated! We need more power!

Not that I have a solution for any of this; I'm just having fun pointing out the problems.

Romans complained about the crowding and danger of oxcarts. (Compare CarCulture) When they were prohibited from entering the city during the daytime then they complained about the noise they made at night. But I'm more interested in the issue of animal droppings spreading human illness. Right away, this is very suspicious to me. I seem to remember that dog feces are dangerous to humans, hence no composting them, because dogs are carnivores. However, horses are herbivores and manure is a prime compost material.

Further, wouldn't the fall in human illness have more to do with the end of open sewers, the spread of hygiene, and the end of the practice of throwing unwanted babies into dung heaps? These were all widespread problems in the Victorian era. None of these problems, btw, got a technological fix. The first closed sewer dates from the Roman era and getting people to actually want to keep their babies (and want to keep them clean, instead of swimming in filth) is an eminently social problem.

For an interesting look at the nature and application of technology, people should check out [Friend Earthworm], especially the part about the usefulness of maggots. It's been more than fifty years since the usefulness of maggots has been known to the medical community and still people die because of doctors' squeamishness.



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