Monday, August 11, 2008

Communities. Networks. Groups. Oh my...

A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy Published June 30, 2003 on the "Networks, Economics, and Culture" mailing list.

This is an old post so the terminology and meaning are shifting. I think the comments that say "group" could apply to "community" as we are using it in the FOC08 course. In some cases, "group" could be replaced by "network" as defined by Stephen Downes in his model.

  • groups can be analyzed both as collections of individuals and having this kind of emotive group experience.

Communities have unique properties because both of these characteristics must be present and encouraged within the community for it to thrive.

  • So there's this very complicated moment of a group coming together, where enough individuals, for whatever reason, sort of agree that something worthwhile is happening, and the decision they make at that moment is: This is good and must be protected. And at that moment, even if it's subconscious, you start getting group effects. And the effects that we've seen come up over and over and over again in online communities.
  • 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. The fact that the amount of two-way connections you have to support goes up with the square of the users means that the density of conversation falls off very fast as the system scales even a little bit. You have to have some way to let users hang onto the less is more pattern, in order to keep associated with one another.

These are the real challenges for facilitating that are not about teaching or moderation.

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