Pathable: Leveraging Social Software for Improved Social Networking and Community Development at Events


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Presentation given at the Communities Technologies conference on June 27 2009, describing study of Pathable, an online social networking and community development tool for events. We found at a BarCamp Seattle that Pathable had a meaningful impact on sense of community at the event. We review lessons learned in creating temporary communities over many events.

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Pathable: Leveraging Social Software for Improved Social Networking and Community Development at Events

  1. 1. Leveraging Social Software for Social Networking and Community Development at Events<br />Shelly D. Farnham, Ph.D. <br />Founder, Research Consultant<br />Waggle Labs / Pathable<br />Communities and Technologies, 2009<br />Partners and coauthors: Peter T. Brown, Jordan Schwartz<br />
  2. 2. Core Problem<br />People go to events to meet others<br />Professional events are increasingly technology enabled<br />How to best leverage advances in social software to improve face-to-face networking at professional events<br />
  3. 3. Agenda<br />Background<br />Pathable<br />Questionnaire field study<br />Lessons learned over 17 deployments at events<br />
  4. 4. Why Professional Networking Matters<br /> “networking is an important career management strategy in the era of the boundaryless careers [6, p. 283].”<br /> Forret and Dougherty (2001) <br /><ul><li>Increases access to valuable information, resources and opportunities – in other words increases social capital
  5. 5. Correlated with finding jobs, promotions, salary</li></li></ul><li>Professional Networking Online<br />Access to people over time, over distance, all at once<br />Increased access to diverse and weak social ties<br />62% of employed Americans “networked” workers<br />73% of managers/professional use Internet or email constantly or several times a day<br />35% of “networked” workers use online networks<br /> Pew Internet and American Life<br />150 million in online networks, 15 million on LinkedIn<br />
  6. 6. Social Networking at Events<br />World wide over 1.2 million professional events each year, adding up to a hundred billion dollar industry<br />Why?<br />Learning<br />Meeting people!<br />Forming connections with clients and colleagues<br />Face-to-face for developing trust<br />face-to-face for informal idea and knowledge sharing via conversation<br />
  7. 7. Building Community at Events<br />In early interviews with conference organizers, they listed building community as a primary goal<br />Why do event attendees and event hosts at professional events care about building community?<br />
  8. 8. What is Community<br />Cupcake Society<br /> &quot;I define &quot;community&quot; as networks of interpersonal ties that provide sociability, support, information, a sense of belonging, and social identity.” <br /><ul><li>Barry Wellman (2001)</li></li></ul><li>Why do event attendees care about community?<br />Hey, I’m a member of the Cupcake Society too!<br />Can I borrow some sugar?<br />Take my recipe, too!<br />Sure!<br />Sure!<br /><ul><li>Community groups enable transitive relationships
  9. 9. Powerfully increase social capital through simple act of joining community
  10. 10. Communities of practice: group of people interested in content domain, shared practices increase effectiveness of members</li></li></ul><li> Designing Pathable: Leveraging Social Media for Face to Face Professional Social Networking<br />Whom do I most want to meet, in the limited time available to me?<br />How do I meet them?<br />How do we become a “social tie”?<br />How do we become a community?<br />
  11. 11. Who is here? Who do I want to meet?<br />
  12. 12. Social Networks<br />Social Scientist<br />Media Startup<br />Research<br />SocialTech<br />Community<br />RealityAllStar<br />BlogHer<br />Blogger<br />startup<br />community<br />social technology<br />blogger<br />
  13. 13. Creating Semantic Layer to Social Space<br />Our Approach: minimal profiles, based on tagging<br />Add tags or keywords to self<br />E.g. “research, social computing, art”<br />Optimize design for converging on terms<br />Across people, important terms emerge<br />Tags used as search and browse pivots<br />Tags used as conversation groups<br />Clustering, abstraction, and match-making based on co-occurrence<br />Tagging provides semantic layer to social space!<br />
  14. 14. Early Exploration at Seattle Mind Camp 3<br />75 people provided tags for self, organization, related people, related events<br />
  15. 15. Pathable<br /> Community and social networking tools for conferences<br />Community Dashboard <br />Profiles<br />Attendee directory<br />Match-making<br />Messaging<br />Feeds (blog, twitter)<br />Wiki<br />Schedule<br />
  16. 16. Attendee Directory<br />
  17. 17. Profile<br />
  18. 18. Edit Profile<br />
  19. 19. Host Manager -- Dashboard<br />
  20. 20. Host Manager -- Attendees<br />
  21. 21. Face to Face Integration<br />Using existing technologies:<br />Mobile<br />Badges<br />Printable calendar<br />Visualization<br />
  22. 22. Personalized Badge<br />
  23. 23. Match-making<br />Best matches possible, with minimal effort in profiles<br />Based on predictors of successful matches:<br />Common interests<br />Same roles<br />Job title<br />Host provided categories<br />Co-location<br />By geography<br />By events<br />Existing shared groups and communities<br />Weighted sum to produce ordered list<br />
  24. 24. Design Themes<br />The event host is a connector and community moderator<br />Coauthor profiles<br />Communication broker, event defining access<br />Social tags are used as pivots of awareness, connection, and communication<br />Professional match matching based on tags for improved people finding <br />Incorporate communication back channels<br />Face to face integration<br />
  25. 25. Related Work<br /><ul><li>Crowdvine, Eventvue
  26. 26. Online networks for events, less emphasis on face to face integration, no recommendations
  27. 27. IntroNetworks
  28. 28. Online network for event, recommendations, extremely heavy weight
  29. 29. Ntag,Spotme
  30. 30. Mobile devices, expensive, no pre- and post- online network
  31. 31. Proactive displays, e.g. Neighborhood Window
  32. 32. Expensive equipment, required proximity to screen
  33. 33. Pathable:
  34. 34. Online directory/community, host as community moderator
  35. 35. Online and face to face integration, for pre- during and post- networking
  36. 36. Practical, inexpensive, using day-to-day technologies</li></li></ul><li>BarCamp Seattle Questionnaire Study<br />Research questions: <br />how important is social networking and community development at events<br />can Pathable help?<br />Procedure:<br />BarCamp Seattle is a free, two-day conference held for people in Web 2.0<br />280 people registered for the event using Pathable<br />78 people total (76% male and 24% female) completed the questionnaire, 18 at the event and 60 afterwards online<br />
  37. 37. Self-report Measurements<br />Networking behaviors<br />Goal in coming to event<br />How many new people met<br />Number of friends and colleagues<br />Perceived professional social support received from people at event<br />Pathable usage<br />Psychological sense of community [Wilkinson, 2007] adapted for events<br />“A feeling of fellowship runs deep between me and others at BarCamp”<br />“I feel loyal to the people at BarCamp”<br />“My friendships and associations with others at BarCamp mean a lot” <br />Event attachment<br />Satisfaction with event<br />
  38. 38. Measurement Cont’d<br />Event attachment<br />Adapted from Rosenbaum et al. study of a suburban diner<br />People who experienced social support and community through diner, developed place attachment – bond between person and place<br />Expected similar transfer of affect for events:<br />Three factors: dependency, commitment, identification<br />Sense of Community<br />Place Attachment<br />Sense of Community<br />Event Attachment<br />
  39. 39. Primary Goal in Coming to Event<br />
  40. 40. Correlations between Event Features and Intention to Return<br />Sense of community and event attachment highly correlation r = .81<br />Bolded items are statistically significant at p &lt; .05.<br />
  41. 41. Pathable Usage<br />Everyone registered through Pathable, about half actively used the system<br />60% actively browsed directory<br />47% actively browsed messages<br />19% actively sent messages<br />43% intended to use directory after event<br />55% intended to use communication features after event<br />If they said they came to event only to learn, less likely to use Pathable(t = 2.6, p &lt; .02)<br />The higher the usage, the more they said it helped them meet people (r = .65, p &lt; .001)<br />No correlation between usage and count of people met <br />Usage correlated with count of professional friends at event (r = .36, p &lt; .01)<br />**percentages for those who indicated at least somewhat or quite a bit<br />
  42. 42. Impact on Professional Network<br />
  43. 43. Impact on Attachment and Sense of Community<br />
  44. 44. Impact of Usage by Feature<br />Pathablehelped attendees meet others <br />the more they browsed the attendee directory <br />(r = .37, p &lt; .005)<br />the more they browsed attendee messages <br />(r = .43, p &lt; .005)<br />the more they sent messages <br />(r =.54, p &lt; .005)<br />the more they used the match-making feature <br />(r = .66, p &lt; .005) <br />
  45. 45. Lessons Learned Across Events<br />Seventeen deployments over five months<br />Evening mixers<br />One to three day conferences<br />Review of what worked, what did not<br />
  46. 46. Figure 9. Life cycle of Pathable activity before, during and after event<br />Life Cycle of a Pathable-enabled Event<br /><ul><li>Gnomedex
  47. 47. Can create an active community with minimal effort
  48. 48. Two emails
  49. 49. Seeded initial profiles
  50. 50. Seeded conversations</li></li></ul><li>Adoption Rates<br />Higher for conferences vs. mixers<br />Higher for smaller events (200-600 vs. 2000)<br />Higher if seamless with registration<br />
  51. 51. Pathable Group Messages<br />
  52. 52. Searching Attendee Directory<br />Average total number of directory searches per event: 6882<br />
  53. 53. Seeding the Community<br />Ensure the community feels full from the start<br />Model the desired behavior<br />Invite the organizers, speakers, volunteers to complete a profile first<br />Author the speaker/high status profiles<br />Seed representative tags<br />Seed type of conversation hoped for<br />Send personal invitations<br />
  54. 54. Leveraging Match-making Features<br />Nurturing tags<br />Use badges<br />Use color coded categories<br />Provides overview<br />Easy point of conversation<br />Examples <br /> Job types: developer, designer, marketer<br /> Interests: blogging, podcasting, and mobile<br /> Person types: creative vs. geek <br /> Personality: introvert, extrovert<br />Integrate with face to face<br />Introductions<br />Birds of a feather meetings<br />
  55. 55. People Loved Badges<br />and blogged about them!<br />
  56. 56. Conclusions<br />Networking and community development primary goal<br />Professional networking and sense of community strong predictors of event satisfaction, event attachment, and intention to return<br />Pathable helped<br />Features helped attendees meet others, especially use of match-making feature<br />Usage had positive impact on sense of community, event attachment<br />It is quality, not quantity, that matters<br />counts of people met had little impact on satisfaction<br />quality of conversation, usage of matching-making tool, and count of professional connections had an impact<br />
  57. 57. Issues<br />Requirements for success of Pathable<br />Event organizers must actively adopt role of community organizers<br />Important to seed community profiles and conversation<br />Important to have seamless integration with registration system<br />Event duration must be long enough, and desire to meet others strong enough to motivate people to complete profiles<br />Study issues<br />Correlation is not causation<br />Perhaps people with stronger sense of community more likely to use Pathable<br />Did find usage is correlated with desire to meet new people, and users reportedit helped them meet new people<br />Generalizability to other types of events<br />Features<br />Tagging still a new idea for many people<br />Profile fatigue<br />
  58. 58. Next Steps<br />Personalized scheduling<br />Twitter integration<br />Matching based on complementary interests<br />Custom profile questions<br />
  59. 59. Twitter<br />