Connectable Dots


Value and Community Behavior Metrics: “Behavior Stoppages?”

Posted in Community,OCTribe,Online Community,Social Networking by Gail Ann Williams on July 28, 2009
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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

Online Community Tribe round-up

Posted in Community,OCTribe,Online Community by Gail Ann Williams on July 14, 2009
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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!

Posted in Community,Online Community,Social Networking,The WELL by Gail Ann Williams on July 13, 2009
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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!

Online Community Summit, flocking to Sonoma

Posted in Online Community,Social Networking,Special Events by Gail Ann Williams on October 9, 2008
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Four years ago I photographed these waves of birds at OCS 2004… and now I’m back for 2008. The morning session is non-profits and social software for good… currently Joshua Gay of the Free Software Foundation and Lisa Petrides of ISKME are leading a discussion about education and open source.

In 2004 we had a powerful IRC backchannel discussion. Powerfully distracting too! At the last few Forum One events I’ve attended there has been a shift to Twitter. So I’ll be delving back into twitterworld.

My gripe about twitter is that it does not support groups and subgroups within my stream.

So this will be odd. My Online Community pro pals talking platforms and social strategies, my craft beer pals at GABF talking beer competition, my photo pals talking lenses and curves and printing papers, political pals talking local and national election, oh, and my own YouTube political satire collaboration… all the different conversations ridiculously poured into one. Here goes, back into the narrows:

http://twitter.com/fotogail

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Exciting unconference for online community pros

The best get-togethers for online community professionals are hosted by Forum One. Their sold-out summer 2008 Online Community Unconference was just held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. This year the demand was huge, and the percentage of participants from major institutions was up, too. I didn’t present at this one. I wanted to soak it all in.  I dropped in on some great sessions and sorely wished I ‘d gotten around to others, such as Jake McKee’s sections.
community manager brainstorm - worst case scenarios

I’m interested in best practices, all kinds of group behavior and tool-design patterns and also in pitfalls and worst case scenarios. I jumped in to session on what happens when things go terribly wrong from Heather Champ of Flickr and Derek Powazek of the edgy and elegant magazine, Fray. The discussion led to a list of things to remember in the midst of conflict. The items on this big list vary in applicability, based on the culture of a community … and can that ever be different!

My suggestion for the list was to try to let all parties have a way to save face in a dispute. This is one of the ways to do what Derek had advised: avoid creating motivated super-villains. Or noble martyrs, as they may feel if they do not think they were very villainous. I think that in most cases respect and the ritual conveyance of respect through good manners are key in resolving these matters. Even if expulsion is the resolution, there are advantages to having the exiled member accept that they won’t continue to have access to the gathering place for the group. While being all casual with peers works just fine in the good times, courtesy becomes bizarrely important when relations are stressed. That’s just one reminder I sometimes need! (more…)

Net Squared – the Mashup Olympics for Doing Good

Posted in Community,Flickr News,Online Community by Gail Ann Williams on June 22, 2008
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N2Y3 - the dinner

Mashups for the greater good. Net Squared, year three: Nonprofit web innovators congregate.

Last month I was honored honored to be able to convene a Net Squared session on how to do community building using Flickr. My interest is in how people can build community and passion for their cause using the photo sharing site with or without integrating Flickr image feeds into an external site. The smart people in the room during the Flickr session had plenty of interesting challenges, questions and suggestions. It was fun and totally impressive.

To recap my own primary simple suggestion: If you want to get quality attention to your images (for their subject matter or their artistry or out of loyalty) try to give quality attention to other relevant image makers within Flickr. If you don’t you can stiil use the powerful toolset as an image (and short video) presentation platform, but you miss out on the even more amazing community-building aspects of Flickr, which is designed to be one of the great online social settings.

Net Squared is a project of the long-running CompuMentor organization, which originally got me online in 1990 when I was doing community outreach and donor relations work for a non-profit theater company that needed database help. CompuMentor got me a volunteer consultant who gave me a modem to make assisting me easier, and an email address back in that pre-web, all-dialup era. I became fascinated with the richness of the culture of The WELL which led me into a new world as well as a new career. They are responsible for Net Squared and Tech Soup, an ongoing support system thousands of non-profit organizations turn to for advice, free or inexpensive software and networking.

Check out the amazing projects — not just the winners of the grant prizes, but the whole array of finalists.

Watch for next year’s mashup challenge — the entries are getting better and better: http://www.netsquared.org/

Online Community Business Forum in Santa Fe 2008

I’m writing up my notes incredibly late for this event, primarily because I ended up with a free evening and some thoughts on the gathering. One thing that is obvious after going to multiple events organized by Forum One is the nature of the ongoing community around these small conferences. Any successful run of conferences tends to create a community of regulars, and in this case they are regulars who know and care about how online community works. I’ve been fortunate to be on quite a run of attending Forum one events. The chicken and the egg of course is that I really enjoy the people who come back, as well as the new voices and thinkers who turn up.

I had thought I might be out of town this summer for another in the series, but last minute changes made it possible to sign up for the next one, the Online Community Unconference, next week. Last year’s unconf was terrific, and I can’t wait for this one. An unconference has the advantage of being almost utterly flexible, allowing all kinds of formats. Visionary presentations given to a handful or a crowd of other event-goers. Open round-robin discussions or brainstorms of any size addressing specific issues. Little breakout conversations that are the conference, and that others may wander into. An unconference will not be terribly interesting if there is not a lot of experience, enthusiasm and intelligence in the room at the start, and that’s why the community that has formed around all the Forum One conferences (including the more formal and the informal unconferences) leads to such satisfying events. It’s all about all the interesting and interested people there.  So what did we talk about?

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Ideas from Online Community Summit

Kim Baine after the session at Online Community Summit

I was pleased to attend Forum One’s Online Community Summit again this October. It’s not the wine country setting but the intoxicating ideas that bring me back for another year. For me some of the most exciting ideas on design and group behavior came out of the “Recent Research in Online Community” session.

Paul Resnick of the University of Michigan presented on design and group behaviors. He is starting a project to build an open design handbook on the web, based on actually testing and quantifying the gut design choices we make when designing for interactive groups.

Fundamental findings so far:

  • The ease of discarding identities does matter to the quality of discourse. (We all know in our gut that this degrades interactions, he designed a test and confirmed it.)
  • A “can’t trust newcomers” attitude grows if sockpuppets, reincarnation with another persistent identity and driveby posting are too easy.

Solutions and useful approaches include:

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