Identity While the end user is the final owner of their own identity, the designer can set up certain expectations and encourage behavior that is beneficial for the site goals. For example, Orkut collects and displays gender and marital state prominently. This sets the tone for a romantic environment. The rest of the profile circles around hobbies and personal interest, including many personal items form politic views and personal vices. Linked it doesn’t touch any of these bits of information, focusing on job history and education. PublicSquare collects very little explicit information, and focuses on collecting activity such as stories written, comments made.
Identity Even avatar can set the tone for a system. Yahoo originally envisioned Yahoo Answers as a human supplement for search, in which smart people could answer complex problems. Instead it’s become a teen hangout. Could the choice of using avatars from messenger that make everyone into a young hip cartoon character have influenced this? Vimeo cleverly encourages users to upload an avatar by using a monkey as the default image. No one feels very happy about being portrayed as a monkey (or perhaps it’s a Cro-Magnon man. None the less, not flattering.) A final thought– I used different avatars on publicsquare and on basecamp. I was told at one point by an editor it wasn’t fair my using the photo of me and my newborn, as she could deny me nothing when she saw that image.
Presence One thing any community needs to be inviting and vibrant is a sense of life. Things are happening here. That is manifested in presence: footprints if you will, freshly left in digital sand. In forums this is often displayed as most recent posts, and how many users are in a forum. On Slideshare we see latest updated; on vimeo the front page has an animated billboard of videos posted. IM has the greatest power in it’s immediacy and the subtlety of feedback. It now can represent presence and absences, but also redirects to alternative communication, idleness, and the likelihood of return.
Presence Working communities has a more direct use for presence. Basecamp and PublicSquare take a cue from presence indicators to let you know who’s working and who’s slacking.
Relationships Relationships are always present in communities; it’s up to the host software to manifest and categorize it to according to the community’s needs. A lighter touch creates less overhead, more choices allows for subtlety. Flickr Offers friends, family and Contacts, but leaves one with the question of what friends are really family and what family are really friends. When you friends can grow to 107, family becomes a useful shortcut for people you simply want to watch a little closers, because they are at the top of the page. These labels also have built in assumptions – does a 22 year old want to see family before friends? Does a 33 year old? A 55 year old?
Relationships Twitter creates an unorganized wall of contacts. Everything is short and simple with twitter. My space keeps a similar lack of hierarchy. Orkut meets the spoken goal of defined levels of closeness, but it quickly becomes overhead.
Groups Groups can be implicit, created by a shared tag or life goal as in 43 things, or they can be explicit such as discussion and sharing groups. Explicitly choosing to join a group will create greater commitment to nurture that group. Implicit is fun, but rarely creates more than happy serendipity…. Community comes from opting in, and the more the effort the higher the commitment and the deeper the staying power. The well is a paid community with legs, X% of the IAI say they pay the 40 bucks a year for the mailing list. Relationships can become groups as implicit gets articulated as explicit.
Conversations Conversations, communication, that’s the heart and soul of community. No how much software we build, people build the relationships and they build it out of words first. If you don’t have a place for people to put their words, no community is every possible; only a viewership. And that is a weak tie. There are fan-fiction sites that have outlived their original inspiration. Communities last if they can talk to each other.
Conversations Forums and comments on stories are public, but conversations in productivity aps such as Basecamp and PublicSquare are another type,a nd have their own needs, suggest as email alerts & rss so one can stay in the conversation. Twitter blends presence with conversation in the form of little tweats of “I am here, alive! Aware!”
Conversations Conversation can take many forms. PublicSquare and Yahoo suggest encourages group creations of stories & features. Cambrian House uses conversations to bring ideas into products.
Sharing Gifting is a primitive human behavior; it binds us. It can be used in persuasion to bend others to our desires. But in community settings, sharing – which is always a gift– is what holds the members to each other.
Sharing Sharing first gathers people of like interests, then it allows for an exchange of ideas, and as the community tightens permits for an exchange of dreams and hopes, secrets and fears. Conversation and sharing are intertwined in the economy of community.
Reputation Reputation is also something all communities will manage on their own. Closed communities such as mailing lists rarely need forum mechanisms for reputation. However, in public communities where there are a large number of drive-by visitors, dilettante participants, or even simply too many people to keep track informally, reputation mechanisms are needed. Amazon does this via top 500 reviewer and real name (real name also helps promote identity ownership which makes communities more trustworthy)
Reputation Ebay collects ratings on behavior which rills into a reputation. Many forums have named reputation levels based on a variety of behaviors form seniority, participation and financial contribution. While it’s often hard to know what these titles mean, it’s clear they bequest a certain weight to that individual’s posts. PublicSquare awards points to users based on positive behavior, weighting them on value of contribution.