Value and Community Behavior Metrics: “Behavior Stoppages?”

Bill Johnston poses an interesting OCTribe question — what is the monetary value to online community member participation and contribution? As we evolve metrics for member participation (watching participants rate, moderate, guide discussions, answer & Inspire, welcoming new members, etc.) it beomes natural to assign value to member contributions (As Bill suggest, “support forum posts, tutorials, reviews, feedback and ideas” etc.).

He speculates that if an organization were to make the valuations of member participation and contribution public, “it may set off a firestorm of debate about member compensation, legal boundaries around “volunteer opportunities”, and ultimately, forcing the host organization to account for true cost and true value of the activities and content created in their online community,” citing the famous  AOL volunteer moderator lawsuit and the estimates of the value of structured, assigned moderating of chat rooms.

His big question: “What is the arbitrage between social and financial capital?” I don’t have an answer, but I do have a further question. Even if all of the rewards are experiential, and nothing looks like compensation, could an organized community that knows about metrics and valuation of a business do a “behavior stoppage” of desired activities as protest against a company action? Valuing behavior like work could extend the work metaphor in directions beyond the company’s valuation. “Interesting” organized group dynamics are possible too.

This is a replay to his Online Community Tribe discussion topic call… a loose association of blog posts for the 2nd and 4th Tuesday. See Bill’s blog for links to other Online Community practitioner’s thoughts on this issue.

Note: This post is part of the OC Tribe series. Each 2nd Tuesday and 4th Tuesday of the month, online community practitioners will be encouraged to explore a particular topic via blog, video blog, twitter, or whatever suites your fancy. The recap will be hosted on the site of another one of the bloggers in the loosely defined OCTribe group. This ad-hoc group (movement?) is just starting up, so please join in! #octribe

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Online Community Tribe round-up

Standing out in the crowd, from my Flickrstream.


Posts on Online Community Tribe “writing assignment,” for Tuesday, July 14, the second Tuesday this month. Focus on Influence.

Will add in any article or post that is requested to be part of today’s set.  (Just post your link here, tag #octribe or tweet @wellgail)

The initial question:

What are the top three things you do or wish you could do for your community “influencers”?

(Define community any way you please — a group of peers, customers, people with similar interests, people using a communications platform, etc. Define “do for” as you wish — support, create a tool, inspire, learn more about, etc.)  Added angles to explore:  Who in your communities is an influencer of others?  As a facilitator, moderator or community manager, how do you work with the most influential people in your network? As a designer, how would you accommodate the opinion leaders? Got three top tips for rewarding these valued members of a group?

The round up so far, on this initial topic:

Bill Johnston recaps valuable research from the Online Research Network on the state of  Community Influencer Programs with useful real-world examples.

Gam Dias writes about Influencers – and defining yours.!

Me with a recap of  the rise and fall of the Influencer concept, and the value of seeing this in the context of attention.

This post is part of the OC Tribe series. Each 2nd Tuesday and 4th Tuesday of the month, online community practitioners will be encouraged to explore a particular topic via blog, video blog, twitter, or whatever suites your fancy. The recap will be hosted on the site of another one of the bloggers in the loosely defined OCTribe group. This ad-hoc group (movement?) is just starting up, so please join in!

Next host will be Bill Johnston for July 28…  See his link  above.  He’ll base the next assignment  on ideas from this article from Forbes:
http://www.forbes.com/asap/2001/0219/060s02.html

Appreciating people who reach out: influencers revisited

3 five year olds, originally posted to my Flickr photostream.

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About a year and a half ago, “The Tipping Point” got toppled (or at least wobbled) when Duncan Watts challenged the popular concept of powerful Influencers who determine the adoption of trends.

The commentary in response to this heresy was great — one of my favorite exchanges was where a member of a well-known formal influencer program — a Microsoft MVP — replies to Sean O’Driscol, long time leader of that program at Microsoft. I loved this comment in the replies to Sean’s post: “Maybe it’s down to being British but I don’t like being labelled as an influentials/mavens/advocates. Expert isn’t so bad … and Enthusiast is pretty much how I feel about myself… As soon as the 10% is highlighted in some way you have two dangers; 1) their standing as independent in the community is affected … and 2) the way they are treated by the “products” they are enthusiastic about changes.”

I’ve seen this before, in years past at The WELL: “I’m doing this here for free because I want to participate – don’t patronize me.”

Yet anybody who works in online community knows some people do add tremendous value. We know it intuitively, and we have seen it mapped statistically. (Check out slide number 13 in this sequence for an example where Marc Smith’s math identifies desired behavior by individuals in a peer technical help group.)

Now that we are in the year that everybody knows about Twitter, one of the simplest tools mass numbers of people have been able to play with, we seem to be back to a world where we want to count our importance by tallying up a group who are artfully labeled “followers.”

People are putting a good deal of effort into deciding how to count … for example, carefully comparing influential science-content twitter feeds … and into deciding how to display the counts and secondary calculations as a business venture… here’s another one, called “Twinfluence”.

Most of these counts seem to still be thinking in broadcast mode. From years in an online community where actual human influence is much more complex and much less linear, this looks simultaneously like going backwards and like picking up the thread of wanting to see how continuity, attention, context and meaning are developed in a group. One thing that I wonder about in the attempts to quantify Twitter impact is the dilution created by a follower who has your twitter feed mixed into a mighty stream of hundreds followed, versus one who follows a dozen carefully chosen twitter feeds.  I guess I always come back to the power of familiarity and context.

What can we give to those who are providing community connective tissue? I wish we could give ever-improving tools, though in my work we can’t move as swiftly as we’d like to. I wish we could pay a living wage for being part of a community and being fabulous, but that dedication has to be its own reward. It’s neither appropriate or desirable to give money or significant barter items because of tax and labor laws, as AOL learned back in the last century, and as gift economy research has shown. Realistically, in my world, working at Salon.com and specifically with Table Talk and The WELL, the one gift I can give is the genuinely valuable gift of human attention, and of being present. It doesn’t scale very well, though. There’s no simple solution for giving people the attention they deserve. There are times when a nice form thank you letter is appropriate, so long as the mass communication doesn’t have any whiff of spam or propaganda about it. (After all, moden citizens understand that a press conference is all one can realistically expect from a busy government official, for example.) As a rule of thumb the attention has to be unplanned, human and authentic, within the community or privately one to one. But in these online social contexts, at least some of the time, the information we get back when giving that respectful attention has a more profound value than in any other environment.

After all, we do say it’s conversation.

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Round-up of OCTribe posts on this topic.

OCTribe call: On Influencers, tomorrow!

summergame
Who are the “stars” in your communities, the ones others watch and trust?

Online Community tribe:  Who in your communities is an influencer of others?  As a facilitator, moderator or community manager, how do you work with the most influential people in your network? As a designer, how would you accommodate the opinion leaders? Got three top tips for rewarding these valued members of a group?

Write something tomorrow,  tag it octribe or tweet it as #octribe, and be linked from the recap page.  Each 2nd Tuesday and 4th Tuesday of the month, the call and the recap will be hosted on the site of another one of the bloggers in the loosely defined OCTribe group. This conversational project is just starting, so please join in. More about this tomorrow, July 14th!