Computer as door

The practice of software design is shot through with computer-as-box assumptions, while our actual behavior is closer to computer-as-door, treating the device as an entrance to a social space.

This bit of tossed-off brilliance in a thought-provoking piece about flaming in mailing lists and newsgroup
I’m currently organizing user testing for social software — the established methodologies are designed for individual users. A team of observers watches an individual user, and notes their “success”, “failure”, and “comprehension”.
Of course, social software has attributes for individual users — if an individual user is thorougly baffled, the software won’t get used.
There are also attributes that apply to the social interaction. How easy is it to invite, and how welcoming does an invitation feel? Are the early stages of usage conducive to talking, working, or playing with others? How are the norms of the community expressed?
Clay’s examples are mostly about how to dampen flamewars, but there are other positive social affordances.
References and comments welcome.

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