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Social Design Strategies panel at SXSW

chris messina, josh porter, todd sieling, daniel burka at sxsw

I'd been looking forward to this panel, expecting it to be one of the highlights of SXSW for me. It did not disappoint, despite the last minute change (at 10pm the night before) of the panelists; Emily Chang and Max Kiesler of Ideacodes had to step out at the last minute because of an emergency. Todd Sieling of Magnolia and Chris Messina rose to the occasion and more than filled their shoes. Judge for yourself:

(Note: this is almost a direct transcript of the session, so please excuse the grammar and run on sentences).

Social Design Strategies

Daniel Burka   Creative Dir,   Digg/Pownce

Chris Messina  Co-founder,   Citizen Agency

Todd Sieling   Product Manager,   Ma.gnolia.com

Joshua Porter   Founder,   Bokardo Design

"Now that social networks are pervasive and quickly becoming a regular feature set, designers need to understand the dynamics of creating experiences that encourage social behavior and public expression, while giving individuals a sense of privacy, personal gain, and ownership. This session will take an in-depth look at the principles and practices of social design. How do you create a symbiotic relationship between people and data that maximizes discovery, game-play, connections, and communication? We'll examine a breadth of examples and explore their pros and cons. Then, we'll take a look into the future of what's possible. You'll hear firsthand from a group of designers who do this every day.

Joshua Porter on How to Encourage Behavior

Here's a condensed history of the last 15 years of the internet:

- 1st phase: building static website for reading

- 2nd phase: websites with database on the backend, started to be a two-way communications: banking, e-commerce sites

- 3rd phase: last few years, social applications that enable conversations between people using the software. Object-based networks and social networks.

So, we're considering the design issues that come over time as you see more and more social interaction of people using your website. One of the big challenges is, how do you encourage good behavior? How do you get people doing the activity your website is made for?

1. Tying behavior to identity. If it isn't, people can't be held responsible for the things they do there. Using real name gives more authority. For example, on Amazon you have real names. Another example is eBay, a web service with greater revenues than the GDP of many countries. eBay has a sophisticated behavior rating system that defines the identity and authority of the buyer / seller. This is a system identity rather than a real-world identity, since the name of the buyer / seller is not known until after the auction is over.

Daniel Burka mentions how they took out the top Diggers feature because it became very competitive for a small set of users to the detriment of the rest.

Josh adds that recognition is good, but on Digg it was cumulative, so it was easier to stay on the top once you already were there, and made it harder for others to reach that spot. On Threadless, for example, recognition tapers relatively quickly after a designer has won a contest.

2. Showing causation. For example, Netflix ratings. The more movies you rate, the better recommendations you will receive. The feedback is instant, too, since you recommendations are refreshed based on your ratings.

3. Leverage reciprocity. When someone does something of value to you, you feel inclined or obligated to be reciprocal. On LinkedIn, this happens through recommendations. When someone gives another person a professional recommendation, the probability is that you will say something about the other person.

Daniel Burka on Privacy and Community:
What are the hot points for user regarding privacy?

1. Identity. Their image, their name ... Digg doesn't require a real name, it's very open. On the other hand, Pownce is about interpersonal communication between people. Unless you have a reciprocal relationship with someone, you can only see their first name and initial of last name.

2. Friends.
Being able to see others' friends, which is an unusual thing in general, because you don't see friend relationships offline.

3. Communications. Communications exist on a range of private to very public. For example, on Digg, there's a shout feature, because it is very public act.

4. Identification of activity. People can see what you've Dugg, what comments you've made ... On the other hand, Facebook Beacon takes this too far, at least in their first implementation. It's important to have a "gradieted" site, where it's simple on the surface, but as you gather experience, you find new functionality and features that will keep you interested and active.

5. Transparency. Preferably you show and don't have to tell. For example, when you make a post, tell the user whether it's a private or a public post, so user can make an informed judgement. Protect the user from uninformed actions.

Todd Sieling on Ma.gnolia's Adventures in Spam Control

Spam is a drag on social software: 75-80% of new accounts are spam! Besides bein a nuisance for users, it's costly for the service owner. The primary methods spammers use include:

- Creating many accounts on a site, to game up their spam content.

- Appearing too legit to quit at first, and later having few legit-looking links.

- The "Joe SEO" with "helpful" get rich quick advice. They feel they're not spamming, but helping people by sharing information; they don't realize how they're taxing people's enjoyment of the site.

- You can't fool me: spammers that are profile aware (sometimes by copy and pasting information from others' profiles) and make it look like they're legitimate users.

- Had enough yet?: importing volume links makes it very easy for spammers.

The implication is that spam will not go away because it is difficult to control against these methods by machine. It's not possible to win the war, so strategies have to be developed to mitigate the spam.

The principal strategies that didn't work include:

- No-follow: Magnolia thought this would take away the incentive, but this doesn't have an effect, partly because there are too many sites that don't apply no-follow.

- Akismet: this is a "machine logic" method of dealing with spam that didn't work; too much spam got through and false positives got flagged.

- Weed on sight: too much volume, not enough time.

- Recaptcha: again, a machine solution.

However, some strategies did work:

- First of all, accept there's no 100% solution so you can focus your resources more wisely.

- Give an opportunity for your members to become "gardeners": don' just use technological solution, but use human intelligence. Enable trusted members of the community to flag abusive users, but don't make it into a job, a contest or a vendetta. Gardeners will aslo identify and develop new gardeners. What's the reward? Mostly, it's that they're contributing to the community in an altruistic way. For example, Alex Jones on Ma.gnolia.com has a gardener's shovel next to his name. (Josh Porter mentions there's no pure altruism, and that people do things to help themselves. Recognition, authority, rank is a strong motivator). Well, Alex Jones is in the audience and stood up to say that he discovered Magnolia very early on, set up some groups relevant to him and that his activity on Magnolia has helped him raise his own profile. So he feels indebted to help make Magnolia a better place, both out of gratitude and because a clean site helps him more.

- Create a whitelist (with a shade of gray)

Question on monetization of social sites. Josh mentions that it needs to be indirect. Build the culture of the community and support the culture and the revenue will come indirectly, as a fallout of their increased passion.

March 9, 2008 in Social Media & Networks | Permalink

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