Social software

Clay Shirky: Social Software and the Politics of Groups. This piece has been around for a while, but I’ve finally had a chance to read it. Interesting points throughout, one stand-out point (for me anyway):

If a group has a goal, how can we understand the way the software supports that goal? This is a complicated question, not least because the conditions that foster good group work, such as clear decision-making process, may well upset some of the individual participants.

One of the things that I have had to think about a lot in designing a CMS for WWF (which we probably won’t be doing, but the exercise was fruitful in many other ways) was how to handle things like approvals processes for sensitive content and how to facilitate people’s natural tendencies to support such processes, rather than introducing a rigid framework that won’t be used, or be ineffectual at encouraging productive behaviour.

Clay also wrote A group is its own worst enemy which outlines some core things that “social software” developers should take into consideration.

I keep recalling, though, a book by Amy Jo Kim, entitled “Community Building on the Web” which looks at a number of online communities (especially early communities) and outlines a number of strategies for supporting group activities on the net, some of them similar to what Shirky outlines. Might pay to revisit that book some time soon…

As the web strategy for WWF continues to develop, coping with group dynamics will become more important. Lots to learn 🙂