29th April 2007

Reuters missing the point on web 2.0 participation rates

Recently Reuters wrote about a study that claimed, among other things, that:

Web 2.0, a catchphrase for the latest generation of Web sites where users contribute their own text, pictures and video content, is far less participatory than commonly assumed, a study showed on Tuesday.

According the the article, this position was defending based on the following:

  • .16% of visitors upload videos
  • .20% of visitors upload photos
  • 4.6% of Wikipedia visitors edit content

This is just another weak article looking to gather eyeballs about the latest trend: social networking (I guess it worked, I looked at it).  Now, I am in the camp of believing there is a big social networking bubble building (maybe more on this later), but I hardly go along with the point of this article and associated study. 

In my view it misses the point of what user participation is all about.  There is a continuum of contribution types from thick to thin that all bring value to the participative web.  So, what is User Generated  / participation?

  • Video uploads? and or the ratings they receive?
  • Photo uploads? and or the ratings they receive?
  • Q/A pairs in forums and newsgroups?
  • Digg votes?
  • User reviews in Amazon?
  • Votes in Dell ideastorm?
  • Blog posts?  Blog comments?
  • Bookmarking in delicious?
  • etc…

I’m in the “it is all of these things camp”…and more.  This article essentially looks only at what I would call “thick” or heavy content contributors.  I believe the value of the “thin” contributor to community is dramatically under-appreciated by community developers/hosters/strategists - and now by researchers.  More people (maybe me included) authoring and talking about the same topics…or more users asking and answering the same questions in communities brings rapidly diminishing value to the overall community.  Over time, the fairly easy contribution of tagging and rating arguably brings the greatest value (think Tag Drafting).  It seems that today the thick community contributors get all the props!  Well, it’s high time props go to the thin contributors!!! 

Keep of the great work tagger’s, rankers, raters, voters, etc….


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      28th April 2007

      Photosynth on Live Labs…pretty friggin’ cool

      A friend showed me this today.  Now, normally I stick to community and web 2.0 here, but let’s face it, cool is cool.  More than that, I think this is a sign of more to come in the way of user contributed content and could be used to build amazingly immersive virtual communities.

      While this is a tech preview, I still think the potential for aggregating user contributed memories into a really compelling new way to view and navigate is pretty amazing…I love , but it is hardly state of the art in terms of potential.  I’m going to be taking A LOT more photos in the future.


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      28th April 2007

      Social networking to pass adult sites on the net!!

      Well, I was going to blog on this a bit more thoroughly this weekend, but turns out someone has been tag drafting some of my delicious tags:)  Awesome!!  Props to Sue at Mobile Technologies in TAFE for a nice write up on the article that caught my eye this week in the Economist:  "Devices and Desires: Is lascivious online content, traditionally on top, losing its lustre?"

      I recommend reading Sue’s post, I thought it was interesting and enjoyed the added references she supplies.

      On the whole, it’s a moderately interesting analysis by the Economist, though they stop short of looking at how much of this trend may simply be a diversion from dedicated adult sites to "adult" sub-sites within many social networking properties (yes, ok, they address this a little regarding Second Life, but overall the article is a little thin)…

      That said, I’m sure there is a line of reporters at the Economist hoping for the opportunity to further investigate these trends - brings a whole new perspective to "embedded journalism."


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      posted in Examples, Social Media, web 2.0 | 2 Comments

      26th April 2007

      Community interview posted…

      I was recently interviewed about Community by Jonny Chambers for Solshare.net.  We talked about the following:

      • what’s my definition of ‘community’ 
      • supporting community volunteers to foster better community results
      • do communities make an organization cool? 
      • aligning organizational goals with community outputs
      • who should ‘own’ community in an organization
      • technology trends that assist in the success of online communities 
      • measuring the success of a community
      • tag-drafting as a way to follow the thinking of the great information mavens


        I don’t like seeing myself in video, so I haven’t actually viewed the output, but I thought I’d share the link here.

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      25th April 2007

      links for 2007-04-25

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      23rd April 2007

      links for 2007-04-23

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      22nd April 2007

      Cold War policies and Web 2.0…

      An interesting, if not somewhat scary, article in the NY Times got me wondering…"has the horse already left the barn?"

      The topic of virtual communities, web search and globalization is nothing new in the world of "cleansed conversations."  It seems there’s a big story every few months on a new controversy in China about the "right balance" between information globalization and political/cultural policy.  And certainly, many global citizens (most of whom have NEVER been to China) have a wealth of expert opinions on the matter.  This is certainly not an area I claim to be an expert on, so here are few references I thought informative if you are interested:

      Open Internet Policy - Danny Weitzner

      Internet Censorship in Mainland China - Wikipedia

      Now, I’m not going to write today on the issue of openness vs censorship - I guess anyone who reads my blog knows that I assume openness and transparency as inevitable and that it is often catalyzed by attempts to achieve the opposite.  What struck me today were the differences in what I saw in this NY Times article:  50% Good News is the Bad News in Russian Radio.

      A scary excerpt:

      MOSCOW, April 21 — At their first meeting with journalists since taking over Russia’s largest independent radio news network, the managers had startling news of their own: from now on, they said, at least 50 percent of the reports about Russia must be “positive.”

      In addition, opposition leaders could not be mentioned on the air and the United States was to be portrayed as an enemy, journalists employed by the network, Russian News Service, say they were told by the new managers, who are allies of the Kremlin.

      Now, for a minute at least, let’s set aside the scary geopolitical issues here.  How is this different from the "Great Firewall of China?"

      1. It defines "positive" in some way which is very subjective - this is just plain odd.

        "When in doubt about the positive or negative quality of a development, the editor said, “we should ask the new leadership.”

      2. The US to be portrayed as an enemy - yikes!  this is proactively creating news with a specific goal in mind!  Worse than censorship  -  by design vs. error of omission oriented.
      3. Different starting points - China (at least it seems) is on a path to incrementally, albeit slowly, becoming more and more open.  For Russia, this is a reversal from a decade or more of growing openness. 

      It’s this last point that jumped out for me and had me wondering if the "horse had already left the barn."  In today’s web 2.0-ified world is it possible to go backwards?  I wish I read Russian so I could follow some Russian blogs on this…perhaps someone can help spur this conversation forward to share some local perspective.  I did come across the following on Russian blogger’s that offers both some clues to the opposition to closure and some troubling insights into the influence of good old fashioned bribery.  It seems impossible that in today’s world of the citizen journalist that cold war style media policies can have the same influence, particularly in a society that has already tasted openness.  Here’s wishing I could watch (and understand) the Russian equivalent to John Stewart on the way to the December 2007 Parliamentary elections and March 2008 Presidential elections.

      This truly will be an interesting test of the participative web phenomenon.  To bad we can’t test in ways that might be less hazardous to the worlds health.

      Note:  Here are two Russian blogs I know nothing about but that I’ll be looking in on from time to time to see if this is discussed…if you know of others, please share here!



      ?? ????????! (keep in touch)


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      21st April 2007

      Microsoft Live Spaces updated…

      Well, since I abandoned MS live spaces quickly after launching this blog there first, I thought I owed a little plug to some enhancements just rolled out.  Some friends at Liveside did a good job pulling the list together here.  I thought some of the facts highlighted upfront interesting:

      • 93M spaces created since spaces launched (51 countries/25 languages)
      • 111M users/month
      • 18M photos per day uploaded (4B since launch)

      I’d qualify that as a pretty active set of communities.  Note…Spaces itself is not a community by my way of think…but a collection of communities, some active and likely many that are largely static.


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      posted in General Community Discussion | 0 Comments

      20th April 2007

      Attending a few events in the next several weeks…

      Let me know if I might see you there! 

      May 3rd and 4th I’ll be attending and speaking at the Online Community Business Forum, put on by Forum One Communications.  Over the last few months I’ve met Jim Cashel and Bill Johnston of Forum One - a couple of very committed guys on the influence of virtual communities.  I’m really looking forward to this event and my opportunity to co-present with my counterpart from Apple.  I haven’t met him yet, but I can’t resist suggesting to him that we start our session with him saying “I’m a Mac” and me responding “…and I’m a PC.”  :)
      On May 7th and 8th I’ll be attending and speaking at SSPA, Service and Support Professionals association.  Kurt Samuelson, responsible for Support.Microsoft.com and I will co-present on Enhancing Online Community and Support Models. 

      And finally, on June 6th, I’m planning to attend Forum One’s Online Community Unconference. 

      Do let me know if you’ll be at any of these and I’ll certainly plan to blog the best bits from each.


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      17th April 2007

      Online "Brand Management:" Good? Bad? Or it depends?

      Really curious what others think about this…and I guess even more curious if anyone would share their experiences using it!!

      If you are "Tag Drafting" me, you already found this article in The Seattle Times from about a week ago.  It talks about a local company, Visible Technologies as a company to watch.  I’ve quoted a big chunk of the article by Brier Dudley here as I think it’s a good intro…

      "Visible is monitoring every place that people can submit comments online and copying the conversations into a massive database.

      Discussions are mapped, influential people are identified and Visible’s software then helps clients engage in the conversations or directly contact the influencers.

      …Its other major product is a search-optimization tool that companies and several local billionaires use to influence how they appear in search engines’ top results.

      …If a blogger badmouths the Hummer, for instance, the system could notify GM. Within the console, a PR person can draft a response, inserting key points, then get approval to post or e-mail the nettlesome blogger.

      Clients pick an "author" or opt for anonymity. Visible also has a virtual army — thousands of personas registered with online forums.

      Graziano said the idea is to make it easier for companies to respond and participate, but it’s up to clients to decide how the tools are used.

      "This is a communication tool," he said. "It’s not a pull-the-wool-over-anybody’s-eyes tool."

      It makes you think twice about the authenticity of conversations in the Web community. It’s also a reminder that you have to think critically about all media, new and old, online and off.

      The technology can also backfire, if the users go too far and come across as inauthentic participants online, said Forrester Research analyst Peter Kim.

      "In the end," he said, "the authentic voices win out: the human voices."

      In an earlier post, I asked if "?"  In that post I questioned what affiliations (and therefore risks) your brand takes based on what comes up with it when users search for you.  And what you might do about these risks.  Then today, from the Visible Technologies web site I quote:

      With more than 90 percent of consumers now relying on Google, Yahoo!, MSN Live, and AOL for information, what people see when results are returned for your brand and employees can have a major impact on your reputation and business.

      Let’s think a little about the services Visible is offering (TruView and TruCast) and let’s assume they work brilliantly (this is an assumption, I have no idea:  I guess if they use their own products, they could make a point by demonstrating that they found my little post about them here.)

      • TruView:  Reputation management service for organizations, brands, companies and/or people designed to "ensure that fair and accurate information is correctly ranked among the top 20 results on each site when people search for your company, products and services, or executive management team."

      hmmm.  Well, I can’t help but think that "fair and accurate" is often NOT aligned with what an org, brand, company or people want discovered first.  Who decides what is "fair and accurate?" - the users or the company?  And what steps does the service take to deliver on this product promise?  Dangerous but interesting ground.  I could sure see politicians and celebrities using a service like this and potentially with fair intent.  I could also see this used to the extreme in ways that really damage the utility of independent user communities - critical voices marginalized.

      • TruCast: Online Conversation Marketing solution.  Harvests all the user generated conversations about "you."  Identifies and categorizes the conversations, identifies Influencers and directs/orchestrates your participation/response process.

      To be sure, I don’t think there is any real shortcut to engaging in "your" communities.  However, I would be really interested to see how this worked.  The concept here I think fits very well with insight capture discussed in an earlier post.  And of course I am a huge proponent of influencer detection and engagement as a cornerstone of community strategy development.  I’m not sure I like the examples used to describe this service as they feel very marketing centric and I fear that if your community engagement is about marketing response to online conversations about "you" then you are in trouble.  Those responses generally only benefit YOU and not your users, so the balance is not right - and therefore your community strategy is defensive or controlling vs truly participative.  But, this comes down to how you use the tool, not the tool itself.

      I guess in debating if this is good, bad or it depends, I almost see this like a weapons manufacturer.  The weapons themselves are neither good nor bad - it depends on who ultimately is using them and for what purposes.  I really hope to learn more about this to share later.

      A few other companies with related products or services:  Buzz Metrics, Neboweb, Digital Vigilance, icrossing.


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