The active development of Tildes and the feedback/discussions about features and mechanisms had me thinking. Is the conscious design and moderation of forums for public discourse a manner of social engineering?
I know the connotation of social engineering is usually negative, as in manipulating people for politics. But it's a double edged sword.
Most recently I was reading this feedback on removing usernames from link topics and while reading the comments I was thinking of how meta this all is. It's meta-meta-cognition in that we (well, by far the actual developers) are designing the space within which we execute our discourse and thinking. To paraphrase the above example: user identification can bias one's own impulse reaction to content, either to a beneficial or detrimental end, so how do we want this?
The moderation-influenced scenario is a bit more tricky because it can become too top-heavy, as in one prominent example many of us came from recently... But I think with a balance of direction from the overlords (jk, there is also public input as mentioned) and the chaos of natural public discourse, you could obtain an efficient environment for the exchange of ideas.
I'm not sure what my stimulating question would be for you all, so just tell me what you think.