People are social

April 24, 2006

People are social. We like to show off, to talk, to be heard, and by extension to share. There's every sign that "look at me" is a core human drive, along with its kissing cousin "look at this".

This sounds like an obvious thing, but then a number of people turn around and wonder why there are so many people using LiveJournal (and in a prior era, making homepages on GeoCities). The former explains the latter: we blog because people look, or they may look.

(And I suspect we often stop blogging because people don't look. This puts the LiveJournal drama over friendslists, friending, and defriending in an interesting light. Is the much-derided friendslist actually a crucial ingredient in LJ's success?)

There's another aspect of this: open source. People often wonder what drives people to work in open source, but I can think of a simple explanation: "look at this". People show off what they create (ask any parent with kids), and programmers create programs.

(This leads to a neat explanation of a lot of drama around credit, open source project ownership, and so on. You're not showing off if your name's not on people's minds. Also to consider: are developers attracted to popular projects as a way of more efficiently showing off?)

A corollary: for many programmers, the people they are showing off to is their fellow programmers, not the users of their programs.

(I doubt any of this is original to me; I just feel like putting it down right now.)

Written on 24 April 2006.
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Last modified: Mon Apr 24 00:48:11 2006
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