December 19, 2011
In November, I delivered the keynote presentation at Øredev 2011. It was the second and probably final presentation in the series I call Building Social Software for the Anti-Social.
I've spent almost four years thinking about the Q&A format, and these two presentations are the culmination of that line of thought. In them I present ten "scary ideas", ideas which are counterintuitive for most folks. These are the building blocks we used to construct Stack Overflow, and by extension, Server Fault, Super User, and the rest of the Stack Exchange network.
- Radically lower the bar for participation.
- Trusting (some of) your users.
- Life is the world’s biggest MMORPG.
- Bad stuff happens.
- Love trumps money.
- Rules can be fun and social.
- All modern website design is game design.
- Thoughtful game design creates sustainable communities.
- The community isn’t always right.
- Some moderation required.
It's not the same experience as attending the actual live presentation, of course, but you can certainly get the gist of it by viewing the slides for these two presentations online:
The Øredev organizers hired ImageThink to draw each presentation on a whiteboard live on stage as it was presented. I was skeptical that this would work, but the whiteboard visualizations came out great for all the presentations. Here's the two whiteboard drawings ImageThink created during my presentation. (Yes, they had two artists on stage "live whiteboarding", one on the left side, and one on the right side.)
It's not a bad approximation of what was covered. If you're curious about live whiteboard visualizations, ImageThink posted a great set of links on their blog that I highly recommend.
After four years, we've mostly figured out what works and what doesn't work for our particular brand of low noise, high signal Q&A at Stack Exchange. But the title Social Software for the Anti-Social is only partially tongue in cheek. If you want to learn anything online, you have to design your software to refocus and redirect people's natural social group impulses, and that's what these presentations attempt to explain. I hope you enjoy them!
Update: Part II is now available as a full talk, with audio and video courtesy of Oredev. Watch it now!
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Posted by Jeff Atwood
Jeff, you're using the term anti-social wrongly. What you mean by anti-social is called asocial. Anti-socials are by definition people with an anti-social personality disorder. Folks like Nazis, notoric criminals, etc.
In common English vernacular; anti-social is often used to describe those perceived to be excessively introverted, an incorrect though increasingly common usage. The correct term for an introverted person who is "not social" would be asocial; asocial means "avoidance of society" while antisocial means "hostile toward society".
Though "asocial" may be correct, I think "anti-social" is commonly misunderstood and will continue to be used as such.
Regarding the 10 building blocks, I enjoyed this one the best:
"All modern website design is game design."
Gamification is coming. The big question is this:
"When and how will gamification be applied to government?"
I'm re-live sand-art visualizing this
Great presentations! Too big, however. OTOH the ImageThink drawings summarize them well - this idea was great.
Also, yes, StackOverflow is my Counter Strike. I was never a gamer but I became addicted to SO!
Congratulations for your success! And thanks for such a great environment.
@Contact Screw you! (by that I mean 'rotate yourself about an axis!', instead of the commonly, but wrongly, used 'less offensive fu*k you' meaning)
I also liked the bullet point "All modern website design is game design". Do you have another post elaborating more on this or any books or blogs you'd recommend?
Any chance there will be a video of your presentations?
The slides are fun, but baffling in places. Videos would be great, for sure, but if there's no video, what are the chances of enhancing the slides with some audio or some captions?
Seems like someone does not understand the difference between "homonym" and "wrong usage".
The slides are pretty worthless without the narrative. Please make the effort to record or at least transcribe the narrative if you really want your ideas propagated beyond your current choir.
Your ideas sounds interesting, but without the narrative they are not accessible.
The one common theme here, and frankly, in most social network site strategies, is 'ego'. By specifically playing to your users' vanity as well as other group social queues, StackExchange exploits baser needs and desires that are far more compelling than the more traditional target of financial compensation. This current trend of MMORPGs, and the game-ification of previously more mundane tasks is more about positive reinforcement through ego enhancement than it is about entertainment. If a 'player' does something well, reward them highly in front of their peers, and if they fail or operate outside of social custom, shame them so they don't repeat the mistake. Sites like Facebook don't offer much in explicit functionality to support this behavior (aside from Liking or de-friending/relationship statuses), however users will and do develop their own systems of group dynamics regulation. StackExchange, on the other hand, has features designed to directly regulate social standing (Up/down voting, ribbons, superlatives, etc). This helps quickly materialize a social structure which can then easily tag content at various degrees of authority (at least as far as the community is currently concerned).
Yes, I too vote for audio track to along w/ the slides. Otherwise, great post, thank you!
All presentations from Øredev 2011 will be published on their site as it has been the last years. Just nag a bit on them so they hurry up :-).
I've been reading CodingHorror for a long time, and enjoyed all the useful information you've posted.
I was surprised that your article lists "Radically lower the bar for participation." as a tenet of your website, because I find Stack Overflow to be the most difficult to log into of any website I have used.
I participate in many web forums, and have occasionally gotten information from Stack Overflow as well.
I have never posted to Stack Overflow, because I can't beat the "game" required to get a login and password.
I created a temporary "FaceBook" Account so that I could post this comment (a difficult game in itself, since Facebook seems to discourage making 'throw-away' credentials).
I wonder how many software developers stand outside your forum in frustration and silence, looking at all the hoops that would have to be jumped through to establish an account.
@A Facebook User
I second that, I do nothing but read SO because it seems way to strict, and all of the 'meta' discussion of it leaves me with a feeling like I can't post to it, lest my post be scrutinized as to whether it's on-topic, off-topic, not on-topic enough, similar to a question asked previously months ago, is this a useful question? is this a stupid question? is it properly formatted? was enough effort put in composing the question? is the question to broad? is it too "RFTM"? is the question too opinion based? is the question irrelevant?
Sometimes i just want to ask a question without having to worry if it is worthy enough to be answered by the lords of Stack Exchange, & all of it's over enforced rules.
I disagree with the criticisms of Stack Overflow. First concerning the "game required to get a login and password" - the great thing about sites like SO that use OpenID is that you don't need (yet another) login/password to remember in addition to the hundreds you already have for other sites - you just click a button. I'm not sure how it gets more simple.
Concerning the strict standards for posts, that is what makes SO a great resource - you don't need to spend time as you do on typical forums sifting through the garbage until you find something actually relevant and informative.
Regarding the "game" to get on stack overflow, when I read that I was curious just how hard it was. I was able to create an account directly on SO using my email address (and clearly I could have used a fake one if that was important).
You have some great slides there, Jeff. In particulat, the stuffed bear in the tutor room is great (if nowhere near the main point of your talk).
I wonder, though. You explain how you designed the game with a certain expected user group in mind (see graphical slides in part 1). However, this has changed. Nowadays, Stackexchange hosts sites for humanities experts, chefs, athletes and so on. The question is: have you changed the game accordingly? If not, was this a conscious decision?
In particular, the first problem with starting a non-techy SE is getting it through area51 if your target group is not online and comfortable with web apps per se.
Wow, stack overflow actually makes more logical sense than Facebook based on the building blocks you mentioned for stack overflow.
I find Facebook's website alienates me and occasionly rubs me the wrong way with their creepy privacy policies and such and trying to get people to over share.
An interesting proposition. Social media is here to stay and most humans are social to various degrees. Some of the media by which we interact (such as sending texts) do not provide for social interaction in the human contact sense. If software could be developed to promote more real social interaction it would be valuable