Re: FWD: Clay Shirky on group dynamics

From: outlawpoet - (
Date: Wed Jul 02 2003 - 16:58:37 MDT

--- wrote:
>I think it is a fallacy that any sort of community is self-
>organizing with every member contributing and extracting an equal >amount of experience. Communities have leaders that the other people >are motivated to be led by in one way or another. There are different >strategies for leadership, and even more books written about them.

You make a large leap here, from communities have people who do more (osteniably the 'leaders' of a community) to community building is simply a process of leader-selection. I disagree, because there are many communities that have no clear leader, yet remain effective and rewarding.

Also, narrowing community-building to leader-selection destroys a great deal of information that makes some communities so great, even if they have leaders. Who is the leader of slashdot? CmdrTaco? He started it, but the frontpage stories are selected by a groupeffect, not by him, nor anyone else. Who is the leader of Extropy? Max More is the headman, certainly, but he's few and far between on the lists, whereas bigtime list posters are nowhere to be found at the events.

Communities need dedicated members, and Shirky makes a point of the fact that some sense of 'real members' new members, and core members may need to establishing. But no body wants online monarchies, except some men who would be king.

I think the lessons Shirky points out in these examples points to a need for structure and pattern in groups to counter some neurotic tendencies in people. It's true, this could be imposed by some oligarchy, like the wizards in early moos/muds/and mushes. But it's wearing, not just on the subjects, but the wizards as well. The most interesting kinds of communities to me, have no leaders, but good structure. This structure is self supporting, never gets tired or cranky, never kick/bans people for being not-the-DM's-friend, and can often scale beyond what wizards can do.

Taking a page from an old David Eddings book, it's all very well to have a perfect man run your cyber-community, but what happens when he has a belly-ache?

>In summary, if you want to build an (online) community, become an
>(online)leader. IMHO, Eliezer gets a 8/10 ranking from me so far :-)

In closing, I don't think people need kings to do well, but they do need good patterns and structures in their groups.

Eliezer isn't what I would call a perfect leader, because I'm not sure there is one, he's not sympathetic enough, or unbiased enough, but he's a damn sight smarter than me, so I defer to him. But he seems to go with who he thinks is closer to the truth, and that's good enough for me.

For now anyway.

Justin Corwin

"Dealing with incompetent programmers is an organizational problem, not a language design problem."
        --Steven Taschuk<comp.lang.python>

"...ironically, perhaps, the best organised dissenters in the world today are anarchists, who are busily undermining capitalism while the rest of the left is still trying to form committees."
--Jeremy Hardy, /The Guardian/ (UK)

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