4) Finally, how do we create architecture that will allow for regulation through social norms? This is a huge challenge! Sure, we can all think back to MUDs and MOOs where social norms created the boundary cases of acceptable behavior. But we also all know the story of LamdaMOO and why it failed. The code that we build does not currently allow for rich regulation based on social norms. Trolls ruin it for all of us. This is part social problem and part technological problem. If we open our eyes to the social, perhaps we can figure out how to iterate on the technological?
The technology will not solve the social, but each design decision made in the technology affects the social. There is no formula though, no clear algorithm. No social scientist can predict what social behavior will emerge from each technology you build. But we can make sense out of what is going on and we can help you iterate.
The biggest trick in social software is to realize that, just like we can’t predict the behavior that users will have, we can’t force them into behaving the way we want them to behave while simultaneously giving them freedom to be social. The only thing that we can do is try to understand what is motivating new behaviors and figure out how to adjust the technology accordingly. We must recognize that, for any social software, disparate users will have disparate uses. But like any good city, we have to figure out how to create a live and let live environment, where those who want to visit XXX stores will do their thing without driving the moms with small children insane. You can’t kill unwanted behavior without also killing desirable behavior. This is a design challenge, an architectural challenge and a social challenge. And, of course, a business challenge. If we want to make social software that meets the needs of a disparate group of people and not just ourselves, it’s time to take up this challenge. Otherwise, we’ll spend forever frustrated, failing to understand why other people aren’t like us.