The Shirky article is very interesting. Customer/Group dynamics on any system whether simple web blog or a robust business system will always create the community the ensues. I spent a lot of time working with business systems and improving them. Talking to customers and trying to find out what thier user experience was. In the most recent opportunity I was helping to overhaul a system that simply didn’t work for their customers. It was poorly designed and would often leave customers lost and confused about how to renew contracts with the company, if they were a distributor of their product or might otherwise leave them feeling like it was time to switch directions and perhaps look for a different company to work with. Thus as a designer, developer, business consultant, etc, you really need to sit down and talk with the user to gain understanding of how they are working with the system. I think Shirky is making this argument.
I also find it fascinating that blogs are growing increasingly important. What happens when blogs become part of every day life? When companies can start using them to get feedback about anything to do with thier business from thier internal clients (employees) to thier external clients (customers)? Also, content management systems similar to Documentum’s eRoom (http://www.documentum.com/eroom/) is revolutionizing the way business is done and the way people interact together much like Shirky says.
Most truly great user systems/social software has all that he recommends:
Barriers to participation (reigns in social drama to some extent)
Handles (user identity) – especially important when debating “hot” issues in a group forum
Members in standing (a way of belonging)