Archive for the ‘Building Community’ Category

Wikis made easy

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

Ah, Lee and Sachi LeFever, you’ve done it again! I love wikis, but often explaining a wiki to people who don’t use them can be difficult. And honestly, until Wetpaint, I didn’t recommend wikis to non-technical people as the wiki text used, while easier than HTML, isn’t that easy for non-techies to pick up.

Them: “what’s a wiki?”
Me “um, it’s a web page that anyone can edit”
Them“oh, like Wikipedia? you mean I can edit that?”
Me: “ya, like Wikipedia, except it can be about anything you want”
Them: “oh…That’s … kinda neat. But why would I want to make an encyclopedia about something else?”
Me: “no, no, it doesn’t have to be an encyclopedia. It can be anything you want it to be. It can replace long email threads, it can replace message board thread gone amuck with the same questions over and over again. Wikis are really versatile.”
Them: “oh… Hold on, hold on… Anyone can edit Wikipedia? How is it so good?”
Me: “Ugh.”

For a quick look at what a wiki is, click below for CommonCraft’s video. Thanks again for your help crystalizing this topic, Lee and Sachi.

Digg Mania 2007: Diggers gone wild!

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

What’s that I smell in the air? Springtime in Silicon Valley? Nope, a user revolt on Digg. It’s days like this that bring back fond memories of days past. In case you hadn’t heard, last night Digg users had themselves a good old-fashioned revolt.

Recap

digg.jpg

  1. A Digg user posted a HD-DVD hack on the site.
  2. Post is removed.
  3. Post is re-added and gets 15,000 votes.
  4. Post is removed.
  5. Rinse, repeat.
  6. 1:00pm Jay Adelson then posted an explanation on the Digg blog that really stoked the flames of the revolution.
  7. At 9pm Kevin Rose announces a truce and says:

But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.

It’s a Diggnation

While some might focus on the legal issues surrounding the story on Digg, I can’t help but think about how the company dealt with the situation in regards to their community. Looking back at a post I made about the Facebook revolt last year, I consider how quickly Digg management reacted and corrected their behavior versus the days of swelling anger that Facebook received. Hindsight is a beautiful thing, but I think that Digg management couldn’t haven’t handled this situation any better.

First, they attempted to comply with the law by taking the story down. This wasn’t a story that Digg users wanted to die, so it kept popping up again.

Second, once they realized that by attempting to kill the story, they were making it more popular, they relented. Taking a look at Digg’s homepage today, I’d say that if they wanted the story to go away, addressing the issue head on seems to have worked. Since the Kevin Rose post, the story has fallen in popularity.

Third, from a press perspective, I think Digg comes out looking pretty clean in the ordeal. Not only did they get lots of press, but they get to say “Look, we tried. Our users power the site and this is what they want.” Squeaky, squeaky clean.

I am curious to see if any legal action (beyond threatening letters) that Digg will receive as a result of all this attention paid to a unconfirmed crack. I haven’t even looked at the actual code or any verification that it actually works, so it’s hard to say if Digg is in any legal trouble here.

Finally

And now for a Kum Ba Yah moment – Digg management has learned that their community is like ocean waves, you can surf on top, but you can’t hold them back. If nothing else, Digg management (and the rest of us) got a valuable lesson in community management and the power that these communities hold.

10 tips for meeting people at industry events

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

My friend Andrew Chen has posted his thoughts on meeting people at conferences. Great list if you are in the mood to meet folks in your industry. Here are a few of the points:

  1. Use pre-conference time wisely
  2. Arrive early for some 1:1 time
  3. Sit next to interesting people, and introduce yourself
  4. Bring business cards, and ask for business cards

Some of these things might appear dead obvious, but you would be surprised how many people don’t follow them. Fact is, even if you are shy about meeting folks, other people are as well. Keep in mind, the main reason why people attend these events is to meet people.

Andrew, btw, just moved to Silicon Valley from Seattle. He’s an Entrepreneur in Residence at the VC firm, Mohr Davidow Ventures on Sand Hill Road. Sounds like a dream job to me! If you’re looking to get a company off the ground or join a startup, he might just be the guy to talk to.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ll be in Palo Alto this weekend and spending a little time in San Francisco on Monday and Tuesday.

Read

Ziki – free advertising for bloggers

Thursday, January 4th, 2007

ziki logo.jpgOr anyone who has ever used a social network or a service with feeds…

I love the idea of aggregating all my social network data and social media contributions into a single place, but they have made a somewhat kludgy effort at doing so. I certainly did a bit more clicking than necessary. Here’s my page.

Building Community

To attract people in an already crowded space, they are promoting their first 10,000 users by buying ads on Google, MSN, and Yahoo!. Marketing members’ content appeals to their egos and in turn gets more users to the site through the ad spend.

I’m imagining that buying name based keywords is relatively inexpensive with few people actually clicking. Arguably, this is the best, if not least expensive, way for a growing social media site to spend money in text advertising.

Bottom Line

Ziki is definitely an interesting concept but it seems like I’d just want all of this stuff aggregated on my own blog. If they master the art of publicity for their members, it certainly would be a valuable service for those looking for an audience.

Ziki.com

[via Paul Stamatiou]

Slashdot Firehose (or Digg vs Slashdot.org round 2)

Tuesday, December 12th, 2006

Looks like Slashdot is doing something about getting their ass handed to them from Digg. Now, according to our pals with dubious numbers at Alexa, Digg has well surpassed Slashdot in terms of reach, rank and pageviews. This isn’t news. Even if Digg had not expanded beyond its tech crowd, Digg was growing at a rate that outclassed Slashdot in every way.

Slashdot Firehose

Slashdot has launched a editorial voting system called Firehose to “allow users to assist the Slashdot editors in the story selection process.” It’s a straight up copy of Digg, but Slashdot is not giving up ultimate editorial control of their home page.

slashdot firehose.jpg

I haven’t seen it before, so I can only guess that it just launched and it seems to only be launched to logged in users.

slashdot firehose3.jpg

Somehow, I don’t think that this will get new users on Slashdot, but allowing users to vote on stories certainly will make editorial decisions a little easier.

Read

Social Media Club – Seattle Meetup – Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Sunday, December 3rd, 2006

logo_smc.gifChris Heuer and Kristie Wells are coming to town! In the last several months, I’ve gotten to know these guys fairly well and enjoyed our “big picture” discussions of the web and social media in particular.

Here’s a blurb from their site that best describes Social Media Club.

Social Media Club is being organized for the purpose of sharing best practices, establishing ethics and standards, and promoting media literacy around the emerging area of Social Media. This is the beginning of a global conversation about building an organization and community where diverse groups of people who care about social media can come together to discover, connect, share, and learn.

As someone who has been working in social media for a while, I’m planning on attending. Hope to see you there.

Date – Wednesday, December 6
Time – 6:30-8:00 pm
LocationYoungstown Cultural Arts Center, 4408 Delridge Way SW, Seattle

Social Media Club
Register
Details on Upcoming.org

Askville invitations for the taking

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

askville.jpg

I’m planning on having a post up later today with my first take on Amazon’s new service, Askville, but if you would like a preview of the service, I’ve got several invites for the taking. Email me at randy at stewtopia.com if you want one.

Web 2.0 and Web 2.2

Monday, November 6th, 2006

web22_banner125.gif

Alas, I’m stuck in the rain in Seattle this week, but hope everyone is doing well at the Web 2.0 conference and better yet, the Web 2.2 unconference.

So you’ve heard of the Web 2.0 conference, the one that O’Reilly and John Battelle have put on for the last several years, but not Web 2.2?

Web 2.2 is an alternative to the relatively pricey and invite only Web 2.0 conference and is focused on the people that put these sites together. Chris Heuer lays out the mission in his Social Media Club post here.

  1. Social Media will become more of a business, but will retain the power from its personal passion, unlike new media in the big dotcom boom
  2. More individuals will band together in networks small and large, changing the very notion of freelancing and employment
  3. The corporation will be forever changed, traditional media will adapt before dying completely and all companies will become media companies thereby shrinking the advertising pie
  4. Ultimately, Social Media will be a primary catalyst in saving the world…or bringing about our demise

Now, Chris is more an idealist than I am, but given that prognostication, Web 2.2 should attract a good crowd with interesting discussions.

Register for the conference

Links for Tuesday, October 24, 2006 – Threadless Love

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

logo_10sale.gif7 reasons why Threadless rules
Funny, I was just ordering t-shirts today. Heather got me the subscription for my birthday, which totally rules. This site really is the model for community run websites. The product is created by the community, voted on by the community, modeled by the community, marketed by the community – it might make you wonder what the company actually does.

(of course this link is from 37 Signals… is there a Chicago conspiracy going on here?)

The Facebook lesson
A post on the Church of the Customer focuses on how Threadless handled a mishap on the site that could have been a total fiasco. They contrast that with Facebook’s stumble a few weeks ago. A great lesson in building online community.

Social Networking sites: you don’t own the commmunity
Biz Hack follows up the Church of the Customer post with some great insight here. “Intent counts more than technique,” is the quote that stuck with me. Threadless handled their mishap upfront and honestly, Facebook didn’t. It makes people love Threadless even more.

Threadless on Sale
Last, but not least, Threadless is having a sale until tomorrow, so stock up on new duds.

Support my Threadless habit by clicking the link and buying a shirt!

Links for Monday, October 16, 2006

Monday, October 16th, 2006

Tailrank 2.0
New features detailed in the Tailrank blog, but here are the highlights: archives added, Entertainment category added, and the ability to expand and contract whole stories. Great upgrade for an invaluable service.

CNET and Reuters in Second Life
More services for the quickly growing virtual world. 900k members? Didn’t they just have 300k back in June? Wow.

Joining the Party, Eager to Make Friends
NYTimes reports on social media marketing by big brands.
[via Tailrank]

Taxing virtual worlds
So, do you think the IRS will set up a bureau in Second Life? [via Slashdot.org]

Links for Monday, October 9, 2006

Monday, October 9th, 2006

Participation Inequality
Jacob Nielsen talks about how to increase participation on your site.

Different Online Social Networks Draw Different Age Groups
Showing off its incredible command of the obvious, IHT reports Saturday on a study from ComScore that MySpace and Friendster appeal to different age groups. In earlier news, ComScore also reports that the sun will go down tonight.

Bringing them back pt. 3 – Levels

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

In video games, levels are the natural extension of points. Once you receive so many points or have accomplished so many tasks, you are awarded with a new level. If we model this to real life, you could equate this to accumulating wealth, social standing or a position at a company. Games provide a way to achieve “levels” more quickly than in real life and in turn, create more satisfying game play.

Typically, achieving a new level affords you abilities not otherwise afforded to mere beginners. Web sites tend to use two different kinds of levels, explicit, quid pro quo levels or levels that are really jobs in some ways. The benefits of these levels varies from site to site, but generally, if you have achieved a higher level at the site, higher rank means more benefits.

Quid Pro Quo

I’ve mentioned Yahoo! Answers before, but Answers bears mentioning again given how transparent their system of levels is.

yahoo-answers-levels.jpg

Do this, get that. It’s pretty simple.

Levels as reputation

ebay-stars.jpg
Usually, icons next to one’s name on a website indicates to outsiders (or other insiders), that the icon holder has a higher reputation than someone sans icon.

eBay rewards members with positive feedback with “reputation” stars. Yellow stars are on the lower end of the feedback scale, while red tops out their feedback scale.

It may sound silly, but long time eBayers covet these stars and ultimately, having a green star (5k+ positive feedback) on eBay can really help sales.

eBay’s usage of icons extends beyond reputation for sure, but the association of icons with reputation levels is an incentive to get as many icons next to your seller info as possible. Filling out a profile page, reviewing products or adding your Skype contact info will get you a new icon.

ebay-profile2small.jpg

Levels as a job

The best social media sites have users that feel so strongly about the site and use it so much, it is often what some would consider a part time job.

Wikipedia would be a massive failure if it did not employ levels of some kind. If everyone were equal on the site, newbies and old timers, Wikipedia would be rife with errors, vandalism and infighting.

While all Wikipedians, by definition, contribute to the site, there are numerous people who also have administrative roles.

1. Stewards can give and remove permissions to users.
2. Administrators can prevent articles from being edited for numerous reasons.
3. Bureaucrats assign who can be administrators and stewards.

One attains these levels by not only contributing heavily to Wikipedia, but also has a commitment to helping others contribute and keeping the site to a high level of standards.

Finally

At the simplest …. ahem… level, levels are a good way to compare how you are doing in comparison to others. Levels are a good way to reward heavy users and in turn, ensure your web site runs more smoothly.

What other sites out their use levels effectively? How are you using levels on your site?

Links for Thursday, September 21, 2006

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

socialtextlogo.jpgSocialText Wiki goes 2.0
And aims to solve the biggest problem of most wikis today, UI. SocialText 2.0 enables wysiwyg editing and improves the flow of default SocialText sites. To get their Web 2.0 on, they renamed their key word feature to “tagging.” WetPaint already has a great UI, but is aimed at the consumer market and doesn’t offer the extensive feature set many corporate users want.

FaceBook to sell to Yahoo!?
WSJ is reporting today that Facebook may be in talks to sell to Yahoo for $1bn. One has to question the dollar value of almost any social network due to the fickleness of their clientele, but despite recent problems, Facebook appears to be going strong on track to do $100mm in revenue this year.

Looking at Social Media Ecologies
Samuel Rose over at the SmartMobs blog “synthesizes” a great post about how social media works.

Bringing users back in droves part 2 – Earning points

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

Ahhhhh… earning points. This is an old chestnut. Earning points in games doesn’t really need much explaining. Shoot Space Invader, get points. Points are all about keeping score (duh) and then comparing your score with your friends.

There are at least two types of points used in community websites, social points and redeemable points. Amy Jo Kim illustrates social as anything from your feedback score on eBay or interestingness on Flickr. Let’s look at some other examples. Redeemable points are used commonly by airline mileage programs, credit cards or a sandwich card from a local lunch joint. I’m going to talk about social points.

In yesterday’s post, I talked about collecting achievements on Xbox Live but they employ a “gamer score” so you can compare your score with your friends. They use leader boards so you can compare to everyone’s score. But for today, let’s talk about some non-gaming sites.

epilogo.jpg

Web of Trust

Epinions uses a concept called the “Web of Trust” to ensure that the best reviews always appear at the top. The “Web of Trust mimics the way people share word-of-mouth advice every day.” So, how does it work?

First, all reviews that appear on the site are rated by users. To even appear on the site, a review must be rated helpful or better. Then if there is a list of reviews about the same product, those reviews that are rated highest appear further up the list.

Second, as a member of Epinions, you are encouraged to trust members whose reviews you like and opinions you trust. If you add someone to your “Web of Trust,” their review will appear above others when you are reading a list. More importantly, though, the more members that trust you, the higher your review will appear in a list.

Rating the rater

I’ll talk about the concept of levels in a later post, but for now, let’s just say if you are a reviewer that is well trusted, then your ratings matter more. Put simply, everyone gets to vote, but some votes count more. This helps ensure a certain level of writing quality on the site. Having a top rated review on a product that is popular will ensure that you have more readers than those reviews below yours.

And popularity is the name of the game. All the social points are tallied on Epinions by the stats you and your review have.

epinions-profile.jpg

Many community review sites use variations on Epinions “Web of Trust.” I’ve not too deeply in Amazon’s reviews system, but I suspect something similar is in play.

Yahoo! Answers (whom we’ve talked about before) uses a simpler points system, but to be fair, Epinions has been refined over the years to alleviate problems of gaming the system. Yahoo! Answers will have to create some safeguards to ensure the quality of their site at some point in the future.

yahoo-answers-bar.jpg

Where Epinions point system is complicated and opaque, Yahoo! Answers point system is simple and transparent – earn points by answering questions, earn more by being the best answer. For every There are a couple of twists, however. First, you get a point for just showing up. At first glance, this seems odd. Why give points for not doing anything? Having been an active lurker on many community websites, I suspect this is to give the vast majority of users, ie the lurkers, a sense that they belong to the community. [Editors note it seems that Yahoo! understands the lurker phenom quite well].

Leaderboards

The main reason to have points is to compare yourself against others. This is the most primary construct of any game that has a winner and a loser.


answers-leaderboard.jpg

Leaderboards bring out the inner competitor in users. Even if you are number 3200 in a list, you have somewhere to go, and hopefully that is up.

Bottom Line

Points and leaderboards make sites more fun by keeping users jockeying for position and ultimately, creating more value for your site.

How to bring people back to your site in droves

Wednesday, September 20th, 2006

So, you’ve built your totally kick ass web 2.0, long tail, peer to peer, social networking, beta meme review wiki that has all the paradigm shifting, AJAX created reflections you can shake a stick at.

You’ve been on TechCrunch, Engadget, Boing Boing and you’ve been properly Dugg. You’ve gotten great press and lots of people have tried your site. Trouble is, people come to your site once and return only periodically, but they never add anything to your site. The trouble is, your site isn’t fun.

Make your site fun

I heard a talk that Amy Jo Kim gave back at Etech that really stuck with me. fun.gifShe talked about using gaming mechanics to make your site more fun. Gaming mechanics are essentially elements of games that make them addictive by employing elements of behavioral psychology. A great book on this is Theory of Fun by Raph Koster. According to Raph, “fun is about our brain feeling good.”

I thought about the sites I’ve liked, used and help design and the best, most successful ones all use gaming mechanics to bring people in and keep them there. Community based sites tend to use this best.
I’ll give you the basic outline of some gaming mechanics and then draw a few examples from a number of sites.

Gaming Mechanics

Amy Jo outlines 4 very powerful techniques to bring people back in droves. Most of these items aren’t intended for blogs, but for community based web sites.

  1. Collecting
  2. Earning points
  3. Levels
  4. Scheduled Reward

Each one is a powerful mechanism, but used in combination, they add up to a pretty addictive experience for some. For today, I’ll talk about collecting.

Collecting

Collecting is essentially amassing stuff and showing it off. You know people that are very susceptible to this. Your crazy aunt’s beanie baby collection or your friend who bought all those Magic cards back in college are great “real world” examples of this behavior. Collecting is directly related to the primal instinct to hunt and gather. Primitive men and women who were good at hunting and gathering got better mates. Web sites use this mechanism very successfully (although this is often counter to attracting better mates).

Xbox Live
Ok, I realize that Xbox Live isn’t just a website but it serves as a great example.

When Microsoft launched Xbox Live, they did it to reinforce certain activities they wanted gamers to engage in. The folks at Microsoft want you to a. buy an Xbox and b. buy games. One way to get users to do this is to make the games fun (naturally), but building in some extra elements of fun can’t hurt reinforcing this.

On the Xbox Live site, you can show off your gamer card that shows all the games you’ve played and the “achievements” you’ve collected in a given game. You can then compare how well you’ve done against your friends.

xbox-live-achievements.jpg
Comparing accomplishments and competing against friends is pretty powerful and it makes you want to do better than your friends to show off. Finishing a game, having a higher score, accomplishing something difficult both increases your score (which gets into Points) and the number of accomplishments

Naturally, adding lots of friends to your Xbox profile is powerful as well, but it’s even more powerful on LinkedIn.

linkedin-completedness.jpg

Must. Complete. Profile.

There are a number of activities on LinkedIn that are natural. First, adding your immediate friends and colleagues is probably the reason that you are there, so that’s a no brainer. But adding a recommendation isn’t necessarily a natural thing, but yet you feel compelled to do so in order to have a complete profile. It’s also something that strengthens LinkedIn’s network. That ties into the end point of collecting and that is completing a set.

When talking about collectible card games, beanie babies, Xbox live profiles, or whatever, completing a set is what you are striving for. No one wants an incomplete set and marketers are keen to exploit this angle.

What do your users collect? What sets do your users need to complete?

More later.

Should top users be paid?

Monday, September 11th, 2006

TechCrunch posed an interesting question over the weekend regarding top users of social media sites: should they be paid?

In my experience, the answer is, it depends.

Epinions vs. Amazon

Amazon pays their users nothing to write product reviews. Epinions pays their users a small amount. Yet, Amazon has many, many more reviewers.

Why? Amazon has a much larger reach. For many writers, nothing is more satisfying than having a large audience. David Walker posits “recognition, respect and goodwill” explain why these writers do what they do.

Book reviewers come to Amazon because it’s where the bulk of intelligent, Internet-using bookbuyers come to shop. Some people would call it a book-buying “community”.

Epinions has a great community of book reviewers as well, but it pales in comparison. Why? People don’t comparison shop for books. They buy them at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or their local book store.

YouTube vs. Revver

A very similar kind of battle is being waged in the video sharing space.

Not content to concede viral video to YouTube, competitor Revver has stars of its own and a revenue sharing program based on still image ads at the end of each video. Ad based revenue sharing is unlikely to be sufficient incentive for the vast majority of any system’s users, but that may not be the case for a site’s biggest stars.

Let’s take a look at traffic to both sites:
graph.png

Revver is squarely aimed at people who want to make money for their work. Why else would you post your video on Revver? At this point, it is not just to generate an audience, at least not the kind that YouTube can.

Why does Revver offer money to share revenue with it’s users? To get above the noise generated by YouTube and to attract top talent not content with just giving away their creations. When you are #2 in an industry, you have to do something that differentiates yourself from a competitor.

Revver isn’t going to create community for it’s users, that’s what YouTube is for. When you create a following on YouTube, you can choose to graduate to Revver to get paid for your work. The question is will your crowd follow you there?

Why are they there?

If you run a social media site, you have to ask why your users are there. Would all of your users leave if someone else offered to pay them? Could you pay users and stay in business? If you can’t, how can your competitor? Using books as an example, I’m not sure anyone could stay in business paying book reviewers very much given the small margins in the book industry.

When you work out how long it must take a user on Digg or Netscape to be a top user, $1000 doesn’t really work out to a lot of money. These people aren’t doing it for money. They are doing it for recognition. They are doing it because their stoking their passion. They are doing it because they like the site, the activity, the community of folks around them. They are doing it for fun. Maybe money will make it more fun, maybe not.

If you have a community site that is happily plugging along and another site pops up and offers their best users money for their work, what do you do? Is Digg suffering as a result of Netscape’s offer to pay? If it is, it’s not because Netscape is better, it is because Digg has failed to create enough of a reason to stick around.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that in this new social media world that paying users for their work is inevitable. The value that users create for these sites is incredible. But these sites create value for their users as well, it’s just not quantifiable in the form of payment.

[Update: Micki over at Revver comments on graduating to Revver from YouTube]