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December 22, 2003
"Could we architect social software that fought groupthink? Or does it just make the gravitational attraction of consensus, even flawed consensus, ever so much more irresistible?"
And our very own Seb
I think the key to avoiding unhealthy levels of groupthink has to do with designing spaces that consistently exert pull upon outsiders (or social hackers
or community straddlers
), so as to keep the air fresh. As long as they feel welcomed, outsiders are able to inject an essential dose of criticism into a group's deliberations, which will help steer it out of groupthink potholes.
Seb goes on to say I think the blogosphere exhibits this kind of "outsider pull" much more than topic-focused forums
, but is less effective at taking action and he wonders if group-action requires group-think.
He is right that groupthink is avoided by a social network structure that allows a dynamic and diverse periphery to provide new ideas, but the core of the network needs to be tightly bound to be able to take action.
That's the main point of Building Sustainable Communities through Network Building by Valdis Krebs
and June Holley. When studying a community over time
, they suggest a vibrant community is made up of four stages:
1) Scattered Clusters
2) Single Hub-and-Spoke
3) Multi-Hub Small-World Network
The ideal core/periphery structure affords a densely linked core and a dynamic perhiphery. One pattern for social software that supports this is an intimacy gradient
(privacy/openness), to allow the core some privacy for backchannelling. But this requires rediculously easy group forming, as the more hardened the space the more hard-nosed its occupants become.
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