De Souza, C.S. & Preece, J. (2004). A framework for analyzing and understanding online communities. Interacting with computers. 16. pp 579-610.
really fascinating paper on semiotics, software design, and human experience. talks a bit about the distinction between human-computer interface and human-human (mediated by computer) interface.
on software design and community success:
well-designed software can make a successful community even more successful. Understanding the impacts of software design on the evolution of online communities is therefore an important part of building technology to support social activity online.
on the difference between interface analysis in desktop vs. online community software:
Evaluating sociability and usability in online communities therefore requires a different approach from evaluating software for a single user application that, by comparison, becomes relatively fixed once it is shipped. Subtle changes to sociability (e.g. a moderator’s style) or usability (e.g. the way a policy is described and presented at the interface) can have profound effects.
on the role of software design in shaping human experience:
technology shapes human experience, and a substantial portion of the overall quality of human experience in technology-enabled environments depends on how well the software used by community members matches the sociability and usability requirements of the whole community. Even the policies that are devised by community managers or the community themselves must be represented in software. They are sociability components manifest through software. Decisions such as where to position a policy, how to present it typographically, and what kinds of navigation or interaction events to associate with it are all usability decisions related to sociability factors.