Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Durova's law of online community management

Copied from the mailing list. Probably should have been written out in a public setting quite some time ago.

In Internet communities generally, 5% of the participants will violate the rules no matter what they are. 5% will abide by the rules no matter poorly enforced they are. The other 90% would prefer to abide by the rules if the rules are generally enforced, but will also ignore rules if the rules become meaningless. The key to managing a community is to sway that 90%.


Joshua said...

I'm not sure the breakdown is what you've given here numerically but the basic idea is definitely correct. I'm also inclined to argue that this is true for almost any sort of community, not just online communities. Real life has similar results.

siebrand said...

Having few rules or principles probably helps in things not getting meaningless. In democracies a fundamental problem I observe is that problems are often counteracted with (more) rules. In the end this leads to a rigid structure one cannot escape from when one is on the inside, or one cannot enter into. In prisons people wither away, while those outside the closely guarded paradise will get frustrated having their visa denied time after time.

At the moment I am tired, and possibly in a bit of a philosophical mood. Somehow your post made me think of "Be strict in what you send, but generous in what you receive", a principle in computing which suggests that systems should be very strict in making sure that their output conforms to standards, but flexible in interpreting data received. Does everything boil down to Assuming Good Faith, or does the system collapse whenever it reaches critical mass? If the latter is true, I fear the moment this would happen to my beloved translatewiki.net.

Popo le Chien said...

Not untrue, indeed.

Durova said...

Siebrand makes interesting points. Part of that dynamic happens because a significant portion of any community operates under the belief that the solution to rulebreaking is more rules. Often what's needed instead is reasonable confidence that common sense will prevail.

When lunatics try to take over an asylum, the staff does not barricade itself in an office and draft a more complex code of conduct. Surprisingly, many purportedly sane institutions do try that solution. The results are rarely effective.

Pjetter said...

I would somehow change this rule if you consider Wikipedia:

5% abide, make and live the rules (mostly for rules sake) - 5% or usually less fight these same rules until they are tired fighting and just go away. And 90% just have fun doing their hobby and just don't care - and probably are surprised about what the other 10% so care about - as this *is* actually an open project.