Good new article out by Joel on the social interface aspect of software design…
With social interface engineering, you have to look at sociology and anthropology. In societies, there are freeloaders, scammers, and other miscreants. In social software, there will be people who try to abuse the software for their own profit at the expense of the rest of the society. Unchecked, this leads to something economists call the tragedy of the commons.
Whereas the goal of user interface design is to help the user succeed, the goal of social interface design is to help the society succeed, even if it means one user has to fail.
So a good social interface designer might say, let’s not display an error message. Let’s just pretend that the post about Viagra was accepted. Show it to the original poster, so he feels smug and moves on to the next inappropriate discussion group. But don’t show it to anyone else.