Community, Paradox of Groups

Kathy Sierra has made a post on community, within which she quoted from Clay Shirky's “A Group Is It's Own Worst Enemy” article.  I read Shirky's araticle a while back, and intended to post on it, but there's so much to it I wanted to post it in parts.  It's a long article, but once I started reading it I couldn't put it down.  Here I'll just comment on her images, and their meaning behind them.

Paradox of Groups
The Necker Cube on the left has 2 perspectives (, and ), but no matter how hard you try, you cannot see both simultaneously.  W.R. Bion used this phenomenon as an analogy for the way people think as individuals, versus they way they think in groups.  According to Bion, people are fundamentally individual as well as fundamentally social.  Shirky referrs to a common situation we've all faced, “this party sucks”, and the common effect 20 minutes after the realization “this party sucks, but I'm still here”, and the moment that a single person gets up and gets their coat, you and many others decide it's suddenly okay to do something about it and leave. 

3 Things To Destroy A Group
The purpose of any group (except one specifically intended for one of the 3 listed below) can be quickly dissolved when one of these 3 effects are introduced:
1. Sex talk (or as Bion put it: “A group meant for pairing off”) - Throw the group's dynamics out the door when all you're there for is to pick a single partner from the group.
2. Identifying and trashing a common enemy will take the focus off the topic at hand very quickly, and generate all kinds of misdirected excitement.
3. Religious fear, when a particular object or idea is held in such esteem that it can't be criticized... It's not a good thing when someone can't make an honest comment about a company (or a religion for that matter) without getting hammered with irrational arguments and criticisms.

Kathy's post contains images that loosely refer to Bion's 3 things (also some JavaRanch shinanigans, we .Net pups could learn a thing or two from that community)...

Print | posted on Saturday, June 18, 2005 7:09 PM