Politeness as a Social Software Requirement

Politeness as a Social Software Requirement

Brian Whitworth (Massey University - Auckland, New Zealand)
DOI: 10.4018/jvcsn.2009040105
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If politeness makes society a nicer place to be, by lubricating the interaction of its human parts, then the same is important for online society. As the Internet becomes more social, software can mediate social interactions, serve as a social agent or act as a personal assistant, but to succeed in these roles it must learn a new skill - politeness. This article proposes politeness as the distinguishing mark of a new generation of community software based on the benefits of social synergy rather than technical efficiency. Conversely, selfish software is currently a widespread problem as politeness is a software design “blind spot”. An informational definition of politeness as the giving of choice suggests social software should be: 1. Respectful, 2. Transparent, 3. Helpful, and 4. Personal and 5. Responsive. For the Internet to realize its social as well as technical potential, software must be not only useful and usable but also polite.

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