I was thinking about OSOSS yesterday and realized something. As many of you may or may not know, my area of interest has been video games. How they teach, motivation, organization around, etc. etc. etc.
Anyway, I had come up with a few key elements that in my opinion must be present for a video game to be ‘sucessful’ (engaging, entertaining, sell a boat load of copies, etc.). I believe that the four elements also must be present for good instruction. Yesterday I realized that these four elements must be present in online communities as well, and may help explain why the communities exist in the first place. I was further surprised to find several of these elements mentioned in The Cathedral and The Bazaar, by Eric S. Raymond. (Raymond, 1999)
The four elements that must occur in a good video game (and good instruction) are:
- An individual must see a relevant and/or an engaging problem
- The individual must have hope that they can solve the problem
- The individual must begin to build strategies to solve the problem
- The individual must have power to implement those strategies.
If any of these elements are missing, then the game/instruction will not be effective, and learning will not take place.
For example, in the case of a video game, if the game poses no challenge, it will not be interesting to the user. If the problem is too difficult, and user has no hope to solve the problem, they will quickly tire of the game. Once the player understands the problem (or has formed a problem in their mind), and believes they can solve the problem, they will begin to develop strategies. If a student develops these strategies themselves, they will learn better, but some assistant will often be necessary. The student must also be empowered to attempt to implement, and experiment with, the strategies they have developed. They may learn as much from a failed strategy than from a successful one.
Curiosity is key to this process. If the student is not curious about the problem and the strategies, they will not continue with the problem.
So, back to OSOSS. As a user wanders the Internet, they come across discussion boards, USENET’s, Blogs, etc. If they read about problems they do not understand they do not stay. If they read about problems that they have already solved, they also leave. But when they find a group asking questions and posing problems, that the user feels they have the hope to solve (and maybe obtain some recognition from their peers), they stick around. The benefit is that you have thousands of users wandering the web on any given topic. Chance alone states that a few of those users will be interested in the problems, and have the necessary skill level (not too high, not too low), to hang around and begin working on the problem. Eric Raymond mentions as much in his book on page 61. (Raymond, 1999)
Raymond, E. S. (1999). The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary. Cambridge: O'Riley.