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Re: [hackers-il] Reflections on Online Communities

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  • Amit Aronovitch
    Two comments about the original article. Feel free to quote, change, put in your essay, or just delete :-) 1. Joel talks about the effect of excessive quoting
    Message 1 of 2 , May 17, 2007
      Two comments about the original article. Feel free to quote, change, put
      in your essay, or just delete :-)


      Joel talks about the effect of excessive quoting over the USENET, but
      fails to identify the simple cause (and proper cure) to this phenomenon.
      He seems to (wrongly) deduce that people have "a natural urge" to quote,
      and considers extreme measures to discourage it, at the price of
      usability (to the point where he talks about rendering messages as
      *images* just for disabling cut & paste!).

      This failure is ironic, because the usenet quoting issue is, in my
      mind, a good example of the major message of that same article: software
      design decisions might have a big effect on communities.

      The reason people overquote on the usenet is because they access the
      usenet using software that was designed for a very different media,
      namely *email* clients. On email conversations, you can't know if your
      recipient kept the original post you refer to in his mailbox. Hence, the
      default action when pressing the "reply" button is quoting the original
      post (with all those hated multilevel >> included). A good *news* reader
      (and by extension forum software), should avoid quoting the entire
      message by default, but that does not mean it should try to prevent you
      from watching the original post in a separate screen area, where you can
      copy and paste from. I believe that left to their own devices, most
      people are *not* very likely to waste their time on quoting big chunks
      publicly available material inside their messages (in the case of the
      usenet, the problem was the fault is of some big, competing, email
      clients, who had to include every possible feature before their
      competition, but did not care much for the usenet itself - maybe only as
      some kind of unwanted "competition" for email - thus did not have a real
      interest in integrating the news feature properly).


      On several occasions (forcing the user to scroll down to the bottom,
      lack of a "display before send" feature, lack of rss-feed/email
      notification), the essay argues in favor of restricting the actions of
      the user, increasing "stickiness" (his own words), and forcing him to
      spend more time on the forum using *annoyances* (my word). This is in
      contradiction with the principles offered by the same author in his
      texts regarding user interface design.

      Like the designers of the annoying "minimize database" wizard, he seems
      to forget that people have other things on their mind than his forum.

      Scrolling all the way down does not mean they will actually read what's
      written there (at least the same "most people" that, as he argues, would
      click through the "view before send" screen, would not read it). Hence
      the user, which probably wants to send his post before getting late for
      work, would only be annoyed by having to search for that "reply" button
      all over. And, wouldn't all these tiny frustrations add up, as he says
      in his bakery story, into a big annoyance?

      This would probably work as long as he has a good stream of newcomers
      (and that's because of his essays, not his forum), which he can force to
      stay a little longer, but these things would not make people want to
      come back to the forum.

      Shlomi Fish wrote:

      > Hi all!
      > See:
      > http://www.shlomifish.org/philosophy/computers/web/online-communities/
      > for an essay I wrote about online communities and how to manage and grow them.
      > It is based on this article by Joel Spolsky:
      > http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/BuildingCommunitieswithSo.html
      > Comments are welcome.
      > Regards,
      > Shlomi Fish
      > ---------------------------------------------------------------------
      > Shlomi Fish shlomif@...
      > Homepage: http://www.shlomifish.org/
      > If it's not in my E-mail it doesn't happen. And if my E-mail is saying
      > one thing, and everything else says something else - E-mail will conquer.
      > -- An Israeli Linuxer
      > Yahoo! Groups Links
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