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Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Discussion Forum Design

Joel Spolsky offers his insight into Building Communities with Software, specifically discussion forums.  He notes Ray Oldenberg's insight that people need a third place away from home and work.  For some software engineers who seek social experiences at convenience they have specific appeal.

His primary axiom for community design:

Small software implementation details result in big differences in the way the community develops, behaves, and feels.

This may seem obvious to some, but Joel provides some good feature-by-feature rationale for the composition of his forum.  Most interesting is his opinion on Slashdot's rating system (which Im sure is being Slashdotted to death):

Q. Instead of deleting posts, why don't you have a moderation scheme, where people vote on how much they like a post, and people can choose how high the vote has to be before they read it?

A. This is, of course, how Slashdot works, and I'll bet you 50% of the people who read Slashdot regularly have never figured it out.

There are three things I don't like about this. One: it's more UI complication, a feature that people need to learn how to use. Two: it creates such complicated politics that it make the Byzantine Empire look like 3rd grade school government. And three: when you read Slashdot with the filters turned up high enough that you only see the interesting posts, the narrative is completely lost. You just get a bunch of random disjointed statements with no context.

But if you buy into his axiom, subtle changes may make this rating system usable and valueable.

2:44:47 PM    comment []

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