Someone built the system, they assumed certain user behaviors. The users came on and exhibited different behaviors. And the people running the system discovered to their horror that the technological and social issues could not in fact be decoupled.
this strikes home with my experience helping to build different tools over the years.
i finally got around to read shirkys longish essay about groups being their worst enemy. there is too much good material in the piece to give it justice with commentary, so i will just quote interesting paragraphs instead.
People who work on social software are closer in spirit to economists and political scientists than they are to people making compilers. They both look like programming, but when you’re dealing with groups of people as one of your run-time phenomena, that is an incredibly different practice.
It’s very difficult to coordinate a conference call, because people can’t see one another, which makes it hard to manage the interrupt logic. In Joi’s conference call, the interrupt logic got moved to the chat room. People would type “Hand,” and the moderator of the conference call will then type “You’re speaking next,” in the chat. So the conference call flowed incredibly smoothly.
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. This is one of the things that killed Usenet. You have to have some cost to either join or participate, if not at the lowest level, then at higher levels. There needs to be some kind of segmentation of capabilities. 4.) And, finally, you have to find a way to spare the group from scale. Scale alone kills conversations, because conversations require dense two-way conversations. In conversational contexts, Metcalfe’s law is a drag.