Why social mudding works

January 31, 2009

Recently (for my version of 'recently'), R. Francis Smith wrote The Right Social Networking Model Is From 1989, in praise of social muds (and one in particular, DinoMUSH) as a model for social networking in general. As it happens I have a certain amount of experience with hanging out on DinoMUSH myself, and so I think that there are some specific reasons that it works so well as a social network, reasons that may make its virtues and approaches harder to apply to social networking in general.

(By 'a certain amount of experience' I mean that I have been hanging out on DinoMUSH and its predecessors for, well, not as long as R. Francis Smith, but almost as long as that.)

Thus, some of the reasons why DinoMUSH works:

  • the DinoMUSH social group is in constant contact, as most of the remaining population logs in quite often. I don't think that it would work as well if most people only logged in relatively infrequently; there would be too much catching up going on.

  • because hanging out on DinoMUSH is seen as ongoing conversations, people are tolerant of the the repetition that's necessary to (re-)establish the context for people as they pop in. Much like a real conversation, it's acceptable to have to repeat to the latest arrival what's going on and the latest important news.

    (Russ mentioned the MRD, which helps to reduce the annoyance of this; to a reasonable extent you can bring yourself up to speed without having to bother anyone else.)

  • there are persistent out-of-conversation information sources, some of them even on DinoMUSH itself. Complex updates often get put there, and in the conversation people just point you at them in order to pass on the information.

    (Twitter's deliberate limitations encourage this sort of usage, but most everything else seems to want to be all inclusive.)

The final, slightly more cynical observation is that most of the users of any long-standing social environment are going to be exactly the users that the features of the environment click for. Thus, I am somewhat wary of generalizing that DinoMUSH's features are generally desirable; while I certainly like them, there may be more than one reason that social MUDding is a very small subset of online social networking.

Written on 31 January 2009.
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Last modified: Sat Jan 31 23:20:23 2009
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