Social software creators must be economists, political scientists, and computer scientists, all at once

People who work on social software are closer in spirit to economists and political scientists than they are to people making compilers.

via Clay Shirky's essay A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy

Three things you have to accept:

  1. You cannot separate technical and social issues.
  2. Members are different from users. "The group within the group that matters most--" your core users = the gardeners of the community.
  3. The core group has rights that trump individual rights in some situations.

And four things to design for:

  1. Identity so that people can be identified consistently.
  2. Give distinction to the inner circle vs members vs noobs.
  3. Segmentation of capabilities. Hacker News does this well through its karma system -- users can only downvote after X number of karma points.
  4. Spare users from scale. If there are too many people, the noise goes up. Let people self-select into groups, or make it hard to join because you only want people who really want to be in.

Some really great lessons learned from Communitree and LambdaMOO too -- old online communities from the BBS days.

I feel blessed to get a chance to continue the ongoing experiment of creating great social software. Thanks for a great roadmap, Clay.