Yes I agree. I think what cuts across that somewhat though, and what I see as the important connection between the UX of forums and social media, is the psychological aspect of product development; aka captology.
When Facebook is designing their news feed they don’t start from the assumption that their users are rational agents with definite preferences. They start from the assumption that their users have certain biological structures and responses that can be stimulated and even shaped over time. The UX decisions about the news feed are essentially based on neurobiology, not on higher level concepts of ‘interesting’ or ‘deep’. I’m sure that when they are making product decisions about their ‘groups’ features, they are taking similar things into account.
The ‘dark’ slant of this is thought that tech products are being designed to be addictive in the same way that drugs or slot machines are. The academic paper underlying that comparison is here if anyone is interested. A side note here is that that paper (and similar work) is often mis-reported. If you actually read the thing, they quite clearly say (a number of times):
technology “addictions” may not present the exact same brain etiology and possibly pathogenesis that drives substance and gambling addictions.
The more neutral reading of this direction is that of course neurobiology should play a role in UX and content curation. Taking into account the neurobiological responses of your users is simply acknowledging that they are human. The idea that there is some separation between a mental rational ‘self’ and our biology is a remnant of the dualist theme in Western thought going all the way back to Plato’s Forms. The question is not whether or not it is ethical to take a neurobiological approach to UX - all approaches have neurobiological consequences whether you realize it or not - the question is what are the ethics of the neurobiological approach you are taking.
This is partly what I meant when I said we need to think of the UX of social media as a product strategy, rather than a ‘practice intertwined with social and ideological narratives’. This is the context to why I think there has to be a role for things like automated user-specific curation in the discovery topic lists, rather than relying entirely either on user choice or user curation (i.e. moderation / community management). Automated user-specific curation is much better at incorporating learnings from advances in neurobiology / psychology, e.g. that there often isn’t a one-to-one relationship between our perceived and our enacted preferences; that we invariably seek the path of least resistance (we’re naturally lazy); that our ‘interests’ are not so much ‘chosen’, as they shaped over time by our environment; etc.
It doesn’t follow from this that Discourse should adopt practices like preferencing videos and images over text (like Facebook does). It flows from it’s topic-centricity that forum content, and engagement with that content, is different from social media.
It does follow from this that UX / product thinking about content discovery and curation on a forum needs to move more toward an explicit discussion of user psychology and away from approaches based the assumption that users are atomic rational agents with definite preferences, or that engagement on different types of communities is inherently different. People are behaviorally much more similar than they think. That behavioral similarity is how Facebook manages to ‘addict’ an academic at Yale as easily as a factory worker in Dhaka.
Finally, I would reiterate that I am not saying “Let’s think about how we can get users addicted to our forums”. I am saying that the real context to this discussion about content curation and UX is our neurobiological response to stimuli. ‘Addiction’ is a description of a state on a neurobiological spectrum. A spectrum which we all exist on, 100% of the time.
@HAWK none of that is directed against you per se. As you say, I think we’re broadly on the same page.