Context Is King: Lessons from Online Communities

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A talk about how Context is the most important thing in social media design. I presented this at BayChi on October 14, 2008

A talk about how Context is the most important thing in social media design. I presented this at BayChi on October 14, 2008

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  • Hello. For those in the back, this Wiley comic reads “Why Context Matters at the Stephen King Diner”, features a man entering a diner where today’s special is “Shepherd Pie” – and there is a hat, glasses and sheep herders crook on the floor while anthropomorphic sheep are serving a meal to other sheep – and they’ve all noticed the man arriving… This sort of context error happens all the time to web developers when they decide that user-generated-content is going to play a significant role in their products – “We’ll just add a wiki, or a message board, or a social network…” Like with the ambiguity of language in the cartoon, the product’s context(s) can lead to faulty choices that can cause grave business judgment errors. This talk provides some lessons from real life case studies which should help you learn how to recognize many of these context errors. … and there will be singing, and dancing …

Transcript

  • 1. Context is King Lessons from Online Communities October 14, 2008 F. Randall Farmer
  • 2.
    • 1: The part of a text or statement that surrounds a particular word or passage and determines its meaning.
    • 2: The circumstances in which an event occurs; a setting .
  • 3.
    • “ Content is King” Bill Gates Jan, 1996
    • “ [User Generated] Content is King” c. 2003+
    • “ Context is King”
      • vs. “Attention”
  • 4.
    • Collective action – the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
    • Sense of place – The community is said to exist apart from any individual member.
    • What causes the transformation from a web site (or online game) to a community?
    • User Generated Content in Context
  • 5.
    • Community Platforms are
      • Not intended to create uniform communities
      • Not a “menu” of random mix & match choices
      • But are tools for building per-context custom communities in the quickest possible way
    • There is no “one-size-fits-all” community solution
  • 6.
    • Organized around an individual
    • Autocratic (I am in control)
    • Purpose: Self-expression
    • Generally small
    • Members are the focus
    • Autocratic (owner in control)
    • Purpose: Sense of belonging, membership
    • Generally large
    • Organized around a subject
    • Democratic (i.e. all in control)
    • Purpose: Knowledge Base
    Community Size
    • Profile, Blog
    • Avatar, Karma
    Me “ Who I Am” We “ Where we Connect ” It “ What we Talk About” 1 <100 > 1000
    • Social Network
    • Groups
    • Message Boards
    • Ratings & Reviews
    • Polls, Chat, Tagging
  • 7.
    • A person/user
    • A group of people/users
    • An network entity
    • A collection of entities
    • A “site” [or group of them!]
    • Language?
  • 8.
    • News Feeds
      • Reverse Chronological List of Events
    • Blogs
      • Reverse Chronological List of Posts
    • Intuition
      • We could combine these into one stream to make it easy for the user!
    • Context Error!
      • The context for a blog post is “What I think is interesting enough to share for comment with my [context]”
      • The context for a news feed is stuff I did on the network
      • Example: A set of photos from a trip vs. a single photo
      • User research indicated customer discomfort with this idea
      • Solution: Don’t cross the streams!
  • 9.
    • Yahoo! Sports
      • Considering a blog posts surfaced everywhere by tag-search approach
    • Example
      • News item mentions two sports clubs and a specific player injury with all UGC posts generated appearing surfaced by auto-generated tags
    • Context Error
      • There is no global sports context for UGC
      • Posts are written assuming a specific audience
  • 10.
    • … continuing the sports example…
    • The correct context for the post is one of:
      • The specific team page chosen by the user
      • The specific player page
      • The user’s blog/email client
      • Or my fantasy sports league list or group
    • Best Practice
      • Provide a way for the user to address UGC
        • Tagged content is like email’s Subject: line
        • We need to make sure postings have an equivalent To:
  • 11.  
  • 12.
    • US TV Redesign
      • TV had not been updated since initial launch.
      • PM had previously run Y!Movies US
    • Strategy
      • Assertion: TV is like Movies because the media are similar
      • Plan: Treat each program much like a movie, featuring ratings and reviews UGC
      • Result: The page of 1,000 stars
    • Context Error
      • TV is not like Movies – users want to talk to each other about their favorite episodes, characters. They want to create their own extensions to TV content
      • Instead of Ratings and Reviews, the correct platforms would be Message Boards and/or Wikis
  • 13.
    • Best Practice
      • Match user desires with the correct platforms configured in the correct contexts and test with the customers
    • The Bad News
      • It is easy to get context Wrong
    • The Good News
      • Leverage these tools to get it mostly right
        • Consulting with social media experts
        • Review competitive designs/sites
        • Customer research
  • 14.  
  • 15. Consumers Producers Provider (You!) Maximized value creation
  • 16. Me We It
  • 17.
    • Focusing on some of the ‘bad’ ones (Those that harm your desired quality of service)
      • Personal advantage or social position
      • Financial gain
      • Ego gratification/Status
      • Malice against another user
      • Spite your site
      • Boredom/Personal Challenge
  • 18.
    • A group of metropolitan electronics merchants conspire to rate their online stores “five star”
    • A movie PR firm plants positive user reviews and ratings for new movies online
    • TODAY WITH JUST AN HOUR OR SO LEFT. WHO DID THE DUMB PEICES OF SHITMKT MAKERS THINK THEY WERE DOING HOLDING IT AT 43.60 MOST OF THE DAY 43.70., THEN THEY TRIED TO HOLD IT AT 43.20, THEN 42.80 AND 42.90. DAY SHORT POSITION JUST HAD TO WAIT THE SCARED PUSSIES OUT. PANIC SELLINGGGGGGGGGGGGGG ISSSSSSSS GREATTTTTTTT. – Msg 466840 on YHOO Message Board
    • Chess players open multiple browsers (or create robots) to play against themselves to advance their rating
  • 19.
    • Don’t believe you can design the community content quality problem away at all the Product, Engineering and UED level
      • You’ll need the help of your users
    • There are more of them then there are of us
      • Collectively, they’re smarter and faster than us
    • The customers aren’t always playing the same game we think they are
    • Design as lightweight as possible and for modularly, to quickly adapt to emergent use patterns
  • 20.
    • . com == .world
      • Most users understand the difference and choose .com or .local on purpose per available service.
        • For example: 360.yahoo.com was huge in Vietnam before there was a localized version. This significantly changed the migration plan.
      • As some American’s see BBC World Service as “international news”, those outside the US see Yahoo!/Google News (and other services) much the same way.
        • Don’t cross the .com and .local streams: .local content on the .com front page confused and even upset non-US users.
    • .local == specific value
      • Many international users create .com email address on purpose – making an affiliation to the global community.
        • Do you have a .us email address?
      • .local addresses provide nation and/or cultural affiliation.
      • Don’t assume you know better and auto-redirect users.
  • 21.
    • Don’t cross the streams.
      • Correct context is critical to your success.
      • Use the right tools/platforms for the right job.
    • Context is hard.
      • Even when you have the tools and expertise to manage community context you often fail to leverage them fully.
    • Build in the right order.
      • Start with your users where they are and build out advanced functionality just-in-time as their engagement increases. Don’t present advanced features to novices.
    • Be nimble.
      • The users set context more often than we do.
      • Iterate often.
    • International contexts aren’t limited to .locals.
      • - Consider language as a context.
    • Win, win, win.
      • Or go home.
  • 22.
    • F. Randall Farmer
    • [email_address]
    • http://www.habitatchronicles.com
    • http://randy.thefarmers.org