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#Systems #dynamics reading of #linkedin (big) groups moderation effects (#stwg #systemsthinking)

I think you will spend 308 seconds reading this post

Here’s a thinking of mine I had the other day regarding group with a high number of members and a (strong) moderation of new discussion topics. That group which I am referring to is Systems Thinking World on LinkedIn.

Here’s the message I sent to the group owner and moderation, Gene, also owner of the fantastic Systems Wiki website.

As promised, here’s what came to my mind when I complained regarding your strict moderation rules. It’s quite of a big diagram, so here’s my try at explaining what happens. Hope it’s clear otherwise please ask for clarification. Though my own conclusion is clear: please create an unmoderated subgroup 🙂

The fundamental loop I have is R1 (bottom right): the more you have members, the more the group’s attractive and people invite their friends thereby increasing the member base.

R10: of course, the bigger the member base, the more postings, leading to emergence of new ideas, further increasing the group’s attractiveness.

B3: the more there is emergence of new ideas, the less discussions appear related to one another which increase the felt need to manage junk, thus moderation increase too which decrease interactions in posting and thus emergence as well. With less emergence, the group attractiveness decreases also!

B2 describes the moderation loop, nothing much to say here.

R4: interestingly, the more interesting the discussions, the more people will tend to think of group think, which will reinforce their willing to post somewhere else or just leave the group altogether.

R5: of course, the more group think is perceived, the more a willingness to bring in new blood will make people (including you as owner) recruit more other people.

Let’s get toward the center of the diagram:

R8: the more members are leaving, the smaller the member base is getting, thereby diminishing the group attractiveness.

I found an interesting side effect of having a big member base (as is the case now):

B9: the bigger the member base, the lower the want to go post elsewhere (because there’s the expectation of there won’t be interesting members elsewhere since they’re all on STW). Though, having the choice of posting elsewhere actually increase one’s sentiment of freedom, thereby decreasing the risks of members leaving. So the more you increase the member base, the more people will want to leave because they won’t have the choice of posting elsewhere (the group vampirized members from everywhere else!).

Remember that moderation of yours above? Well, let’s see what else happens:

R6: when members are being moderated, they also feel like being forced to group think, and thus increase their willing to go post elsewhere. Of course, being able to do so will increase their feeling of freedom thus decreasing the ones that actually leave the group. If that proportion of people leaving decreases, the group base will go up, meaning more posting, more junk, more moderation and thus further more feeling of going into group think.

And finally there’s R7 where the one that feel threatened by the group think will just leave, which will reduce the member base, the postings, the corresponding moderation and feeling of group think that goes with it.

What’s left?

The bold links are what I think are important interactions in STW. They need to be preserved if not increased.

That diagram is a mess!

Yet, I’m feeling like it resembles an “accidental adversaries” archetype, don’t you think?

The two poles being: A success = member base and B success being emergence of ideas. The internal loops would then be:

  • A member growth being countered by the fact that it’s reducing freedom to go post elsewhere
  • B emergence being countered by a need to moderate

I’m not sure of myself here though. Comments welcome.


So, how could we have a win-win situation with growing members and still low moderation (for high emergence), though without too much junk?

That’s were my intuition (well, love of freedom really:) triggered and I asked for a subgroup: it could serve as a safety valve where people could “go post elsewhere”, though not far away and stay close to the member base. That would literally make the orange bold arrow disappear (it’s a red/negative one), thus making B9 disappear though R6 would stay.

I’d see a new balance occurring where, before (currently) people might prefer to leave rather than be forced to participate (or received information) from a group they don’t feel they belong to – path of least resistance… to a new balance where there is no real resistance to going posting elsewhere as it is a subgroup, thus reducing the proportion of people actually leaving.

Now, that also gives a hint as to why putting a chat or forum elsewhere isn’t a good idea (some people already made a case against such other web sites like debategraph, titanpad, etc.): people are not there (just like people are not on groups other than STW), so there’s no interest to going elsewhere.

Bonus insight

People are caught in a double-bind!

  • If they stay, they’re feeling bad because of moderation (well, those that don’t like it, of course).
  • If they leave, they won’t find such another big ST community.
  • So they can’t stay and they can’t leave.
  • They can’t even talk of this double-bind as well, either because of the moderation taking place, being shy of asking Gene (the group owner) or maybe just because they’re not conscious of it!

A true double-bind. Faced with such a situation, there are only two possible answers: schizophrenia when the bind’s too strong (hopefully not the case here), or retreat: people don’t participate.

Incidentally, I may have found an explanation as to why few people participate, though that one needs to be tested. With an unmoderated subgroup for instance 🙂

If you want to have access to the Vensim file that I created for the above, here it is: STW moderation effects (right-click and select “Save as”: this is a .MDL file).

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  • Frank Verschueren

    Dear Nicholas,

    Nice work because very thought provocing. So off course I will think about it.

    I think every group/team should be aware of groupthink and try to avoid it and surely diminsh the impact.

    But if you are on the same (logic? =perception) line as many are you then “responsible” for enhancing the groupthink?
    Are you not always one way or the other – conscious or subconscious attracted to people who you perceive as having the same logic (? your perception).

    Warm regards and enjoi your holiday.


  • Thanks for your comments, Frank. You raise interesting questions.

    – on being on the same line of thought of others: yes you maintain or reinforce the group think, though, as a systems thinker, I thik it’s one’s duty to always enhance the boundaries of thinking or systems under consideration and see “what else” could have been overlooked and investigate it.

    As for responsible, that’s a tough question for me. From Ernst von Glasersfeld Radical Constructivism (which I adopted as a generic mental model), I’d say yes. From a Maturana & Varela point of view, I would be a structure-determined system, meaning i don’t have choice in what I do (I need to research Maturana & Varela since I ahven’t read much of them for now, though this paper I found very enlightening (and easy to read!):

    – as being attracted to people with a similar mental model to me: yes and no. Well, it depends! 🙂 yes, because it’s always satisfying to see that one’s ideas are shared by others and that they might have an ounce of credibility. No, because that means I don’t add anything to the world and I’m preaching to the choir. But this latter one is probably a matter of personal preference. I’m more interesting when my ideas are (seem to be) understood by other but we can find ways to connect mine with theirs and thus extend both horizons or even combine them to make a new idea emerge that wasn’t there in the first place.

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