Gov 2.0 Summit: Clay Shirky

September 9, 2009 – 3:37 am

Clay Shirky, clad in the world’s shiniest shirt, was introduced as “The Oscar Wilde of the Internet” but that was doing him an injustice for Clay is a fantastic combination of thinker and public speaker. He entranced the audience.

He gave two examples: Apps for Democracy vs the LA Times Wikitorial. Apps for Democracy was a success, the Wikitorial not. Wikitorial was Times putting editorial online and saying “improve this like Wikipedia does”. It lead to: arguments, flamewars, spam, porn, goatse.

He talked about social agreements by talking about a study of Israeli daycare pickup times and the effects of fining parents who were late to pick up kids: the rate of late pickups increased, and didn’t return to normal after the fines went away.

This is because fines broke the incomplete social agreement. The incentives of the market aren’t something you can casually add to an existing social relationship. You miss someone’s birthday, you can send flowers but not the amount of money the flowers would have cost.

Wikitorial killed creativity possibilities. LA Times press releases gave them no space to adapt, no room to learn.

Apps for Democracy did these well: only offered data sets, knew motivations of hacker participants would be what drove them forward, didn’t take credit for apps until after they saw what happened.

1) Contract with users has to be complete enough to get the users interested but not so complete that it depresses them.

2) Give the users space to participate, don’t predict what they do.

3) In the domain of collaborative production, it is Heisenberg’s Press Release: the more you take credit in advance for future success, the less likely the success will be.

It’s not hard because of the technology, it’s hard because of the people. Users never do what the designers want or expect. That’s if it’s a success. Failure is if nobody uses it at all. Successful applications create surprises.

Make an incomplete contract that invites the user in, lets them know that they want to, and you want to help them, make those surprises as surprising as possible.

  1. One Response to “Gov 2.0 Summit: Clay Shirky”

  2. Effect of fines at Israeli daycare centre.

    First referenced in Reith lectures Michael Sandel brilliant series about bringing back the values of community

    By laurencemillar on Sep 10, 2009

You must be logged in to post a comment.