Social Software, Politics and Getting it Right

About once every six months or so, somebody on the otherwise excellent SIGIA mailing list posts to say they think there are too many “off topic” posts. This is invariably couched in some painfully lame justification – in this case appealing to us to “respect others” – but more usually assuming the mantle of “the silent majority” or some other hogwash. Naturally, I reminded them in my customarily restrained manner that they were idiots. Nobody took any notice.

But now I too can claim a higher authority for telling them to shove it! This comes from none other than my hero Clay Shirky (to whom I sent a mail last night complaining I’d not heard from his NEC mailing list in, er, 12 months and why is his site broken on FF 1.5..?).

I see today that Clay’s been doing some wonderful thinking recently. His writings on NEC have always fascinated me, but I was getting a little lost in his more recent ventures into the area of “situated software.” This seems to have crystallised a bit more now, and Cory Doctorow’s notes on Clay’s O’Reilly talk yesterday “Shut Up! No, *You* Shut Up: A Pattern Language for Moderation Strategies” are well worth a scan. My favourite bit is at the end:

Social Software design is the experimental wing of political philosophy, which doesn’t
know that it has an experimental wing.

We are encoding the values of freedom of speech and other democratic fundamentals in our tools.

We need to have a conversation about what we’re supporting and what we’re trying to do.

Society needs us to get it right.

The link to his wiki seems to be wrong though. Pity.