Gated Communities

Stowe Boyd comments on gated online communities and managed growth by way of Clay Shirky and Rusty’s recent posts on the subject.

Gated communities like Raindrop Wiki and  managed, or human pace, growth mechanisms are  inevitable.  I myself was recently the victim of a now infamous wikispam attack that would not have occurred had my blog or the wiki to which I linked been gated. In that case, the attacker did not persist in his juvenile antics for one, some, or all of the following reasons:
a)the wiki community he attacked (flexwiki) was more persistent and knowledgable than the attacker.
b)he was one, we were many, and every time he made a change, we reverted it.
c)he got bored and went back to work or class.
d)he found religion or had a life-altering encounter with a Greyhound bus.
e)his mother found him out and grounded him for good.

I don’t think that we can or should be content to erect rigid gates or overly-managed communities unnecessarily. I very much like the idea of semi-permeable membranes. (Unfortunately, I didn’t have an opportunity to discuss the concept with Clay the other night.) Isolation dimishes innovation and diminishes the inherently inclusive, cooptive, and little ‘d’ democratic nature of social computing software and the communities it supports. 

For example, Microsoft Research’s Raindrop Wiki would certainly benefit by my participation. I am a Microsoft employee (potentially trustworthy), I am interested in social computing (energetic), and I certainly have something to contribute (potentially constructive), if only as a human spelchaker. Nonetheless, I have never been offered a key to the Raindrop gate and I do not want to expend my meager social capital bugging an over-worked colleague in MSR for a password.

I support hybrid approaches to community management.  I think that the most vibrant online communities will be the ones that allow anyone and everyone to contribute on some level and limit access to members only when absolutely necessary.  I favor preemptive inclusion and reactive exclusion.  In a wiki, this could be accomplished by allowing unauthenticated users to append threaded comments to the bottom of a WikiTopic or to contribute to a talk behind page.  Access to the main portion of the topic could then be limited to properly authenticated and maybe even authorized members.  In that way, potentially meritorious outsiders could quietly contribute at the edges until a keymaker notices their work and awards them with greater editorial power.

Food for thought ~ Feature creep for fun

Comments (7)

  1. lili says:

    how about this… everyone who wants to know, the top secret password is "tiki"

    a bit semi-permeable.

    Seb also has a wiki…

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