37signals: Control vs Communication / by Dan Lockton

Johan Strandell kindly lets me know about a discussion of 'Control vs Communication' at 37signals' Signal vs Noise:

Every once in a while we get an email from a customer asking about how permissions work with our products. They’re almost always asking how to prevent someone from doing something. “How do we prevent someone from posting a message or adding a to-do or downloading a file? How can we make our project site read only except for a select few?”


Simply communicating with people about your expectations of their behavior is often the simplest and most effective solution. It’s respectful, it’s kind, it’s fair. And if someone does something you didn’t want them to do just remind them politely that they weren’t supposed to do that. They’ll almost always get it the second time.

[N]ext time you are looking for more control, consider more communication. It may surprise you.

While the specific context of the discussion is setting permissions, etc, in the Basecamp collaboration software, some of the comments expand the scope to the idea of control and trust within organisations and in society generally - e.g. Neil Wilson comments:

Everybody always wants to try and control behaviour via technical means when by far the most powerful mechanism is via social means.