Clay Shirky Says Good Collaboration is Structured Fighting

I wish I’d heard this talk – quite clearly reported but not quite the same as the real thing. Particularly interesting ideas about the need for structured conflict and a general theme that you can never disentangle the technical from the “soft human squishy stuff.”

I very much like this…

It’s also important, says Shirky, that people cannot join the project too easily. Even given the presumption that all the participants have goodwill towards the project, he says that it shouldn’t be too easy to change every aspect of a project. Some parts of the system should be easy to change, some parts should be hard.”

This is the kind of discussion that needs to be had and gets away from the ‘network at all costs’ perspective that is fine if that is all you want to do: but most social software, apart from some high profile systems like Facebook and its direct competitors (e.g. Bebo, Hi5 or MySpace but not Google Plus), is not aiming at that. Getting the right balance of soft and hard, and building communities through deliberate exclusion as much as deliberate inclusion, is closely related to what we are trying to do on the Landing and is also why Google Plus stands a good chance of long term success. It’s also why we (and Google Plus) are not competing in the same space as Facebook despite some superficial similarities. We are building networks where it is just as important who is not included as who is included. There’s a nice discussion of this point at

Address of the bookmark:

I am a professional learner, employed as a Full Professor and Associate Dean, Learning & Assessment, at Athabasca University, where I research lots of things broadly in the area of learning and technology, and I teach mainly in the School of Computing & Information Systems. I am a proud Canadian, though I was born in the UK. I am married, with two grown-up children, and three growing-up grandchildren. We all live in beautiful Vancouver.

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