Coding Horror

programming and human factors

Building Social Software for the Anti-Social

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.

  1. Radically lower the bar for participation.
  2. Trusting (some of) your users.
  3. Life is the world’s biggest MMORPG.
  4. Bad stuff happens.
  5. Love trumps money.
  6. Rules can be fun and social.
  7. All modern website design is game design.
  8. Thoughtful game design creates sustainable communities.
  9. The community isn’t always right.
  10. 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:

Building Social Software for the Anti-Social

Building Social Software for the Anti-Social: Part II

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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Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Overflow and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: