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Clay Shirky on the four primary factors motivating participation

Clay Shirky on the four primary factors motivating participation

Hi folks,

I am going to cross-post this to multiple discussion pages here (Community Health, Reader Conversion and Quality) – hope that's okay with everyone. This is just a quick note, intended to be supportive and encouraging.

This morning I was at a little conference in Berkeley where Clay Shirky was speaking. And some of what he said was 1) applicable to the work you're doing here, and 2) suggested to me that you folks are on the right track. So I thought I'd share it :-)

Clay was talking about hobbies, which he says historically have been practiced in private – alone, or with family/friends. (Forgive me for equating Wikipedia to a hobby: let's assume we're defining hobby very very broadly.) Clay said that when hobbies were practiced primarily in private, there were two major intrinsic personal motivations for participation:

1) autonomy (nobody assigned me to do it, I wanted to do it)
2) competence (I am good at it, and by practicing I get better, which is fun)

Since the advent of the internet, “hobbies” have moved into the public sphere – they are now practiced in large groups, often with strangers, and the output is visible to others. Clay said that when that shift happened, two additional major intrinsic social motivations for participation developed:

3) feedback (I get more useful feedback than before, which helps me improve faster, which makes me happy)
4) reputation/respect (I can show off, and be publicly rewarded/honoured for being competent)

I thought this was really interesting, and particularly germane for the Community Health group, which has been talking about rewards. It's a pretty good framework, I think, for thinking about how to attract and retain project participants.

Sue Gardner23:35, 7 December 2009

Agree completely, and I think we've captured some of these elsewhere. It's valuable as a summary though.

FT2 (Talk | email)00:07, 8 December 2009

Agree totally; although Clay isn't saying anything new (but he is saying it in a nice, simple way - or at least you are summarizing it that way). I always argued that wikis = adhocracies, and this is what Mintzberg and others have been saying about adhocracies. On the second thought, Clay may be saying something new, if he is equating hobbies to adhocracies, I think he may be onto something quite interesting here (I've always meant to read up more on the sociology of leisure, but haven't gotten around to it yet).

So, useful questions: what makes adhocracies work well? And what destroys them? There are answers to those issues in existing literature, and we may be well-advised to read up a little on it (incidentally, improving Wikiepdia's article on adhocracy is one of my future projects).

Piotrus03:49, 8 December 2009

Piotrus, Wikipedians never cease to amaze me: who are you, that you know Henry Mintzberg? I know him because I am 1) Canadian and 2) a bit of a management-theory geek. But he is not really really widely known.

Here are the characteristics of an adhocracy, according to our article. Not sure how useful it is, but FWIW :-)

  • highly organic structure
  • little formalization of behavior
  • job specialization based on formal training
  • a tendency to group the specialists in functional units for housekeeping purposes but to deploy them in small, market-based project teams to do their work
  • a reliance on liaison devices to encourage mutual adjustment, the key coordinating mechanism, within and between these teams
  • low standardization of procedures, because they stifle innovation
  • roles not clearly defined
  • selective decentralization
  • work organization rests on specialized teams
  • power-shifts to specialized teams
  • horizontal job specialization
  • high cost of communication (Dramatically reduced in the Networked Age)
  • culture based on democratic and non-bureaucratic work
Sue Gardner08:15, 8 December 2009