From an interview with David Karp, founder of the Tumblr blog network, I want to highlight a concept where design shapes behavior:
Karp’s thinking about the comments section, which is generally assumed to be a core blog feature, helps illustrate his broader ideas about how design shapes behavior online. Typically, a YouTube video or blog post or article on a newspaper’s site is the dominant object, with comments strewed below it, buried like so much garbage. Thus many commenters feel they must scream to be noticed, and do so in all caps, profanely and with maximum hyperbole. This, Karp argues, brings out the worst in people, so Tumblr’s design does not include a comments section.
How, then, to encourage feedback while discouraging drive-by hecklers who make you never want to post again? First, Karp notes, you can comment on someone else’s post, by reblogging it and adding your reaction. But that reaction appears on your Tumblr, not the one you’re commenting on. “So if you’re going to be a jerk, you’re looking like a jerk in your own space, and my space is still pristine,” Karp explains. This makes for a thoughtful network and encourages expression and, ultimately, creativity. “That’s how you can design to make a community more positive.”
While the imagined rationale for commenters acting poorly because they can’t be noticed easily is a weak cause-and-effect, I find the design response innovative and appealing:
Your readers’ comments are shown on their blog, not yours, thus keeping your blog more positive.