Evaporative Cooling – or “overrun by muppets”

There’s that scene in “Starship Troopers” where the space marines look over the  wall of their flimsy stockade and coming to towards them are thousands upon thousands of “bugs.”

Not that this is what I thought about at all when I read this highly entertaining and thought-provoking post about (online) social networks.

The Evaporative Cooling Effect is a term I learned from an excellent essay by Eliezer Yudowsky that describes a particular phenomena of group dynamics. It occurs when the most high value contributors to a community realize that the community is no longer serving their needs any more and so therefore, leave. When that happens, it drops the general quality of the community down such that the next most high value contributors now find the community underwhelming. Each layer of disappearances slowly reduces the average quality of the group until such a point that you reach the people who are so unskilled-and-unaware of it that they’re unable to tell that they’re part of a mediocre group.

Evaporative Cooling is a dynamic that can apply to both real world and online communities but the affordances of the Internet make it particularly susceptible to Evaporative Cooling.

In a phrase – if your entry costs are low, and you don’t figure out how to keep the muppets and the lunchouts and the free-riders and the parasites from taking over, they will take over.

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About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
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4 Responses to Evaporative Cooling – or “overrun by muppets”

  1. pendantry says:

    Bugs, Mr Rico — zillions of ‘em!

    • dwighttowers says:

      is that an “Aliens” reference? If so, I bet you’ve already got your sleeping bag and thermos ready to join the Prometheus queue!!

      • pendantry says:

        Nope. ‘Tis a quote from Starship Troopers — the original yarn by Robert Heinlein (which featured troopers each as mighty as whole armies, not the Hollywood ‘booyah!’ interpretation, fun as that was in itself).

        But, oh yes, I’m looking forward to seeing Prometheus. I’m just hoping it won’t be game over, man, game over! :D

      • dwighttowers says:

        I read that book! I love how at the end, after they’ve stitched a ship together out of some wrecks and [tries to remember - defeated some aliens?] the two … no, wait… I am remembering a different Heinlein book – “Space Cadet” I think it was.

        The movie rocks, I think! I should read the book, it seems!!

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