|Syntactic Confectionery Delight|
I have been debating whether or not to add anything to this thread - my own opinions about that post have already been expressed on the thread to which ig refers. However, I think the various reactions to Golf: Improve this guy's fail . . . please! - both at the time and then again in hindsight a few weeks later - point to an issue that goes well beyond a particular post.
In any community there are competing needs and values. Sometimes these values come in conflict and sometimes one value gets focused on to the exclusion of others. This tension is illustrated nicely in the back and forth between Argel and Nkuvu just above this reply. YourMother's observation that Golf: Improve this guy's fail . . . please! showed a wide range of responses also hints at this issue.
What makes this community powerful is that *most of the time* we find a healthy balance between potentially opposing values. However, we do this so well *most of the time* that sometimes we forget that the things we value are in tension with each other. When we do that we can mess things up badly.
On one hand, we have:
On the other hand we have
To avoid messing up we need to (a) be conscious of when values conflict (b) choose our priorities. Posts like the one by ig above help us with the first part of this issue: becoming conscious. However, I think we still need to express out in the open our feelings about the second: "where are our priorities?"
The fact that we have done this before many times is not enough. Many (most) of the participants in that thread were old old timers with huge amounts of XP. They are also people who in my brief interaction here seem to espouse all of the above values. These are the very people who helped create these values. This suggests to me that the keeping clear on priorities is not a one time thing. As human beings we need to be reminded of them. Without on-going discussion, we may also start seeing them as purely individual ideals that others might not cherish the way we do. Conversely we might think that our own priorities are the same as everyone else's when they are not.
Repeat discussion also serves a second purpose. The community is not static. Groups change over time. Once active members disappear. New members take their place. Continued discussion insures continuity as each new generation of users grows into active participation in the community. If we do not discuss our values, then all newcomers have to see are our actions. If those actions seem in conflict with our values they may get the wrong message. No one lives their values all the time. The function of dialog is to help us know what we'd like to be, even if we aren't there yet.
In A Group is its Own Worst Enemy, Clay Shirky discusses the thought of Wilfred Bion, one of the pioneers in group dynamics. A key component of Shirky's thought is that a group is more than just its members. All groups develop norms as well as formal and informal structures to communicate them. Our values as individuals are shaped by the groups we identify with. Conversely, the groups with which we identify derive their values from the interests and passions of their core members. Thus as members come and go there is a continual need to reflect on and retune the group's vision and priorities.
Update: expanded on reasons for continued dialog (paragraph about old timers/actions vs. ideals).