Magic or Rules?

Rules imply we know what’s right, and when you’re wrong. And they give us license to tell you (or yell at you) when you’re wrong, until you’re either ostracized or back on the good side.

Magic is really trust and respect. Magic says we can’t possibly pre-legislate every kind of bad behavior, and, more importantly, we don’t want to litigate every felt transgression. We already respect each other enough to avoid nonsense to the best of our ability without feeling we need to anticipate and enumerate every possible kind of nonsense.

If you’re a member of a group, or especially if you’re building or leading a group, ask yourself whether you’d rather rely on rules or magic to set the terms. Then ask if the group is ready for your choice.

The culture seems to have this badly backward. In-person groups tend to approach problem-solving or community-building as rule-making; virtual “communities” like social networks want to rely as nearly as possible on pure magic when that’s clearly not what their members want or are ready for.

The whole world can’t run on magic. But we can’t live without it, either.