We often think of communities as organic creatures, which come into existence and grow on their own. However, the truth is they are fragile blossoms. Although many communities surely germinate and bloom on their own, purposefully creating communities can take a tremendous amount of hard work, and one factor their success ultimately depends upon is their numbers. If a community is too small you'll often have insufficient critical mass to sustain it.
A blog on social software, collaboration, trust, security, privacy, and internet tools by Christopher Allen.
Tag: Social Software
This blog has been quiet lately as I've been doing a lot of work in the last year on the iPhone. I've been speaking at conferences like eComm 2008 (presentation, video from panel), writing an book on the iPhone with my co-author Shannon Appelcline called iPhone in Action: Introduction to Web and SDK Development (first two chapters free), and I am one of the organizers for the upcoming iPhoneDevCamp 2, a MacHack style conference on August 1st-3rd, and I am working on some social software apps for the iPhone.
I've been excited about the web capabilities of the upcoming iPhone for some time. As a reluctant laptop user ("oh, my aching shoulders"), there is real appeal to me in a better portable web browser. I have tried most of the PDA and cellphone browsers to date, and none offer more then a poor cousin to the web that we experience on the desktop. Instead, the iPhone offers a desktop-class browser.
by Christopher Allen & Shannon Appelcline [This is the fourth in a series of articles on collective choice, co-written by my collegue Shannon Appelcline. It will be jointly posted in Shannon's Trials, Triumphs & Trivialities online games column at Skotos.] Last year in Collective Choice: Rating Systems we took a careful look at eBay and other websites that collect ratings, and used those systems as examples to highlight a number of theories about how to make rating systems more useful.
I will be speaking tonight at WikiWednesday on the topic of Same Time, Different Place Editing, and will be demonstrating SynchroEdit integration with MediaWiki and EditThisPagePHP. If you are interested, see you tonight (Wednesday) at 6-8pm, at Socialtext. original layout
My colleague, Shannon Appelcline, has been working on a game rating system for RPGnet. This has resulted in real-world application of the principles for designing rating systems which we've previously discussed in our Collective Choice articles. Shannon's newest article, Ratings, Who Do You Trust? offers a look at weighting ratings based on reliability. On the RPGnet Gaming Index we've put this all together to form a tree of weighted ratings that answer the question, who do you trust?
Last May I did an abbreviated version of my Dunbar Number talk at MeshForum 2006. A MP3 podcast of that talk is now available at IT Conversations or can be downloaded here (10mb). If you'd like to follow along, here is a pdf copy of my presentation sides (10mb). Biggest addition to what I've written about before is some discussion about different kinds of social software and what what size groups they seem to be appropriate for.
In Collective Choice: Rating Systems I discuss ratings scales of various sorts, from eBay's 3-point scale to RPGnet's double 5-point scale, and BoardGame Geek's 10-point scale. Of the various ratings scales, 5-point scales are probably the most common on the Internet. You can find them not just in my own RPGnet, but also on Amazon, Netflix, and iTunes, as well as many other sites and services. Unfortunately 5-point rating scales also face many challenges in their use, and different studies suggest different flaws with this particular methodology.
I will be speaking next Tuesday (July 11th) at the monthly meeting of BayCHI, the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of ACM SIGCHI (Computer Human Interface Special Interest Group), along with Michael H. Goldhaber. The synopsis of my topic is: The Dunbar Number, Unstructured Trust, and Why Groups Don't Scale We are relying increasingly on internet-mediated social software tools for our day-to-day interaction with other people. To design this type of software, we must better understand the psychology and social dynamics of individuals in groups.
I've been a moderator/host/forum leader for various bulletin boards and other online communities since the early 1980s; first on CompuServe, later on GEnie and AOL, and then professionally in the early days of Consensus Development. One of the behaviors that happens in online communities and that I rarely see elsewhere is flaming -- where one member writes an extremely inappropriate, typically passionately worded attack on another. Flaming behavior can hurt an online community.
In the last month or so I've received a number of links to Life With Alacrity as a venture capital blog, and to myself as a venture capitalist. However, I don't consider myself a venture capitalist. Instead, I am what is known as an "angel investor". This week has also seen a new topic enter the blog zeitgeist: the topic of reforming or reinventing venture capital. This topic was initially raised by Dave Winer, followed by Robert Scoble, Doc Searls, Jeff Nolan, Michael Arrington, Thatedeguy and many more.
by Christopher Allen & Shannon Appelcline [This is the third in a series of articles on collective choice, co-written by my collegue Shannon Appelcline. It will be jointly posted in Shannon's Trials, Triumphs & Trivialities online games column at Skotos.] In our first article on collective choice we outlined a number of different types of choice systems, among them voting, polling, rating, and ranking. Since then we've been spending some time expanding upon the systems, with the goal being to create both a lexicon of and a dialogue about systems for collective choice.
by Christopher Allen & Shannon Appelcline [This is the second of a series of articles on collective choice, co-written by my collegue Shannon Appelcline. It will be jointly posted in Shannon's Trials, Triumphs & Trivialities online games column at Skotos.] In our previous article we talked about the many systems available for collective choice. There are selection systems, which are primarily centered on voting and deliberation, opinion systems, which represent how voting could occur, and finally comparison systems, which rank or rate different people or things in a simple, comparative manner.
by Christopher Allen & Shannon Appelcline [Shannon Appelcline is a friend and colleague of mine at Skotos, an online game company. Over the last few years we've had many discussions about how decisions are made, and how our society collectively makes choices. The origin of these discussions have varied from "what makes this board game work?", to "how can we give our players more control of our online games?", to "how do we make decisions in our company?
There is some more excellent research this week by Nick Yee and Nicolas Ducheneaut in the PlayOn blog. Again, their research provides good insight into social group dynamics as they appear in online games. I last mentioned their research on guild sizes in my blog post Dunbar & World of Warcraft where I compare the distribution of guild sizes in Ultima Online vs PlayOn's results from World of Warcraft. However, both distribution tables suffer from a variety of biases due to the nature of the different game designs, many of which are discussed in the commments in the post.
For the last several months I've been working on a new open source project that I've been calling SynchroEdit. SynchroEdit is a browser-based simultaneous multiuser editor, useful for "same-time" collaboration. The basic concept is that it allows multiple users to WYSIWYG edit a single web-based document, all at exactly the same time. SynchroEdit continuously synchronizes all changes so that users always see the same version. They can also see each others' changes as they type, see where each user is currently editing, and see each others' changes by color.
In my initial blog entry on the Dunbar Number I presented some statistics on group sizes based on the online game Ultimata Online. In it you could clearly see the power-law (pareto) curve, with diminishing returns at around 150, with most groups being 60 in size: More recently, Nick Yee and other researchers at the PlayOn Blog have been researching the behaviors of players in the popular World of Warcraft online game.
In yesterday's All Things Considered, NPR commentator Jake Halpern questions why you feel like you have a relationship with the characters in your favorite TV shows. His answer: "That's because you do." This idea is interesting not just to help us understand how we relate to imaginary characters, but also to correlate with our own understanding of Dunbar Number relationship limits and how they might relate to this concept. In his commentary, Bostonian Jake Halpern considers two academic ideas, "belongingness theory" and "para-social relationships", and how they affect the relationships we develop with television characters.
ExtrapolateTo infer an unknown from something that is known; conjecture.-- The Random House College Dictionary Mick LaSalle, an acerbic movie reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle, writes a regular column "Ask Mick LaSalle" in the Sunday paper, where he sometimes allows others to vent their displeasure at his movie reviews. In this week's column he says something that I find very accurate to my experience with the online medium: As for why people get hostile when they hear a differing opinion, I go back to Spinoza's definition of love and hatred.
If you read my blog through an aggregator, you may not have noticed my new sidebar "Recent Bookmarks". It is a list of web pages that I've found interesting enough to annotate using the del.icio.us service. It is useful if you want to have an insight into what future blog entries I'm working on, as links will often show up there before my actual blog posting is out. You alternatively can view my last 10 del.