Communal computing, part 3

A Way Forward with Communal Computing

Chris Butler
2 min readAug 19, 2021
People at a mall (source: StockSnap via Pixabay)

How do you design devices for the home that don’t have major issues with identity, privacy, security, experience, and ownership? In this final installment of the communal computing series O’Reilly Media we give you do’s and don’ts.

Before we dive in, if you are interested in this please vote for my #SxSW session on this topic!

We can’t assume “design individualism” as Dr. Sally A. Applin would call it. We need to consider how the form (device) fits into the context (home), to channel Christopher Alexander. We need to consider the ecosystem of other people, devices, and services that intermediate people.


  • Do user research in the users’ own environment
  • Do build for everyone who might have access
  • Do consider pseudo-identities for individuals and groups
  • Do evolve with the space
  • Do use behavioral data carefully, or don’t use it at all


  • Don’t assume that automation will work in all contexts
  • Don’t include all service functionality on the device
  • Don’t assume your devices will be the only ones
  • Don’t change the terms without an ‘out’ for owners

In conclusion:

“Without updating how we design and build these devices, the device you build will just be one more addition to the landfill.

“The future of computing that is contextual, is communal.”

Check out the article for the deep dive!

Recap of all articles

  1. Communal Computing — How do we build devices that are shared by default?
  2. Communal Computing’s Many Problems — Where user-centric computing goes wrong
  3. A Way Forward with Communal Computing — Do’s and Don’ts when Designing for the Community