Building Communities with Software

“The social scientist Ray Oldenburg talks about how humans need a third place, besides work and home, to meet with friends, have a beer, discuss the events of the day, and enjoy some human interaction…. In creating community software, we are, to some extent, trying to create a third place. And like any other architecture project, the design decisions we make are crucial. Make a bar too loud, and people won’t be able to have conversations. That makes for a very different kind of place than a coffee shop. Make a coffee shop without very many chairs, as Starbucks does, and people will carry their coffee back to their lonely rooms…” Joel SpolskyBuilding Communities with Software (Joel on Software)

Will has almost finished the code for adding comments to postings on this blog… actually, as far as he’s concerned, he pretty much has finished, but I asked for a “preview comment” feature. Will sent me the above article, which makes a good point:

Q. Why don’t you show people their posts to confirm them before you post them? Then people wouldn’t make mistakes and typos.

A. Empirically, that is not true. Not only is it not true, it’s the opposite of true…. It’s like those studies they did that showed that it’s safer, on twisty mountain roads, to remove the crash barrier, because it makes people scared and so they drive more carefully…

Hmm… this makes some sense, but then I can think of plenty of times I’ve botched a comment with malformed HTML, and I really appreciated the ability to preview. I suppose comment pages don’t really need HTML, do they? Maybe simpler is better.

But I do think it’s important to note Joel’s community is all about software development… the behaviors he has observed may be particular to or more prominent in software developers. Perhaps readers of a weblog on literacy will behave differently, and will prefer to see their post in-context before the submit.

But maybe I’ll be a weasel and ask for a prominent “Post Without Preview” button and a smaller, less obtrusive “Preview” link. Well, this is food for thought.

Update: Nick writes: “How about ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’?”