[etech06] Clay Shirky – “Shut Up!” “No, YOU Shut Up!”


A pattern language is a tool adapted from architecture that’s detailed enough to see how to build it, but not so detailed that it’s tied to one domain.

Wants to propose a pattern language for moderation strategies.

Imagine a measurement of communal freedom – how much freedom does the software allow for users to communicate with each other as a group. Notepad is an example is one extreme, usenet is at the other.

Now imagine a y axis that is annyingness – flaming, trolling, unfunny cascades.

The problem – you’d like to launch apps that have a moderate amount of freedom with a moderate amount of problems – the reality is that once you cross the point of letting communication in you very quickly get into mitigating problems.

Slashdot illustration – over ten years has done a remarkably good job of not getting swamped by negative social effects – how do they do it? Members defend readers from writers. Users with high karma form a defensive membrane. But how do you design the system? Every comment is rated on a seven point scale. The members who moderate the system rank the posts. Most readers never see comments rated 1 or less – which is about 20% of the posts. Whether or not you can moderate takes four decisions. That’s way complicated – there’s very little use of the slashdot software by other sites. How can we get at that value derived from the knowledge of slashdot.

Slashdot faces the tragedy of the commons – each poster has an incentive to defect from the commons to get the most attention to their post. What slashdot does:

1 move comments to a separate page (reduces the size of the commons and lets people know that comments are somewhat ancillary)
2. Treat readers and writers differently – is able to defend readers from writers
3. Let users rate posts.
4. defensive defaults

You can imagine taking some of those systems and re-implementing them yourself.

Adding moderation system allows another problem – who will guard the guardians?

Another set of patterns:

1. Treat users and members differently
2. measure good behavior
3. enlist committed members
4. judges can’t post

Clay is proposing building these kinds of pattern languages.

Bronze Beta (Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan site) made a set of different decisions, which show other patterns.

1. Don’t Have Features (not an accident, but a strategy to reduce complexity.
2. Make Comments Central (unlike slashdot)
3. Make Login OPtional

Pattern Language Wiki and List – social.itp.nyu.edu/shirky/wiki

Hobbes and Rousseau Argue about Dave Winer

in 2003 Dave Winer was running a mail list called blogrollers. One day he turned it into a moderated list, which was not well received by the members. The conversation around the change was about what should have happened – what duty did Dave have to his users? That’s part of why we need a pattern for the long time.

Thomas Hobbes in Leviaathan – a monarch is required to keep society from descending into chaos.

Rosseau took issue with this – Force is no reason. People have a moral right to depose their leaders.

This is the context in which the conversation about social software is taking place. You can imagine that conversation going on, leading to the title of the talk.

Best line of the morning so far:

Social software is the experimental wing of political philosophy, which doesn’t even know it has an experimental wing.

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