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Design for Online Community: Beyond the Hype!. Lynn Cherny, Ph.D., Ghostweather Research & Design. Outline. My Credentials Community in Web 2.0 and 1.0 Why the Hoopla? Some Business Reasons; Innovation in Orgs and Outside; Risks of “Doing It Badly” A Plan of Action

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Design for online community beyond the hype

Design for Online Community:Beyond the Hype!

Lynn Cherny, Ph.D., Ghostweather Research & Design

Ghostweather Research & Design


Outline
Outline

  • My Credentials

  • Community in Web 2.0 and 1.0

  • Why the Hoopla?

    • Some Business Reasons; Innovation in Orgs and Outside; Risks of “Doing It Badly”

  • A Plan of Action

    • What is “Community?” Definitions.

    • A Few Design Principles

    • So Who Designs It?

    • You Might Have Community If…

    • More On Metrics

    • … For More Info

Ghostweather Research & Design


My credentials
My Credentials

  • Author of Conversation and Community: Chat in a Virtual World (1999, Chicago University Press)

  • Co-editor of Wired Women: Gender and New Realities in Cyberspace (1995, Seal Press)

  • Interaction designer and/or manager for 12 years, now consulting in User Experience and Design

Ghostweather Research & Design


Web 2 0 vs 1 0
Web 2.0 vs. 1.0

  • Web 2.0 – it’s a webcentric world today:

    “A phrase coined by O'Reilly Media in 2004 refers to a perceived second-generation of Web based communities and hosted services — such as social networking sites, wikis and folksonomies — that facilitate collaboration and sharing between users.”

  • Pre-2004, we were talking about community too!

    • Howard Rheingold’s The Virtual Community (1993), Hagel and Armstrong’s Net Gain (1997)

    • Chat, email, IM, lists, BBS, USENET, MUDs/MOOs, other games…

Ghostweather Research & Design


Why the hoopla again
Why the Hoopla? (Again)

  • Time = Attention = (More) Money for many sites/businesses (“freemium” business models)

  • Communities create investment in a place/site/product/activity via other people there; a cause of the famous stickiness

  • Open-source lessons/threats

  • Brands are more and more customer-centric

    • Community helps people or helps them help themselves (collective action), which can build brand equity

    • Lifetime value

Ghostweather Research & Design


About alexa traffic rankings
About Alexa Traffic Rankings

Ghostweather Research & Design


Some stats on community business value
Some Stats on Community Business Value

  • Community users remain customers 50% longer than non-community users (AT&T)

  • 43% of support forum visits happen in lieu of opening a support case (Cisco)

  • In customer support, live interaction costs 87% more per transaction than online self-help.

  • Community users spend 54% more than non-community users (eBay HBR article):

    • Lurkers and community enthusiasts bid twice as often as members of the control group, won up to 25% more auctions, paid final prices that were as much as 24% higher, and spent up to 54% more money

      (Bill Johnston, Forum One)

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Social networking and innovation
Social Networking and Innovation

  • Company innovation & organizational studies on SNA

  • Communities can be self-organizing competitors

  • Involvement by customers in the corporate processes (“crowdsourcing”; CrispyIdeas)

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Customer feedback management
“Customer Feedback Management”

  • Salesforce.com, Dell’s Ideastorm… (CrispyIdeas.com)

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Risks of doing it badly
Risks of Doing “It” Badly…

  • “Paid inauthentic discourse” (Rheingold), “Pseudocommunity” (Beniger), “Imagined Communities” (Anderson)

  • Empty places & credibility loss for company hosting

  • Blatant commercialization of existing communities may piss off the target “audience” beyond recovery:

    • e.g., Fanlib.com – boycott, bad word-of-mouth…

  • Financial cost (tools plus people/org support), brand cost

Ghostweather Research & Design


“Reversal of a centuries old trend from organic community based on personal relationships, to impersonal associations integrated by mass means”

Ghostweather Research & Design


Ghost town online
Ghost Town Online based on personal relationships, to impersonal associations integrated by mass means”

Ghostweather Research & Design


A community plan of action
A “Community Plan of Action” based on personal relationships, to impersonal associations integrated by mass means”

  • Learn from serious definitions

  • Follow good design principles

  • Who will build it?

  • Look for indicators that suggest you “did it” (community-behavior)

  • Find metrics to measure “it” formally

Ghostweather Research & Design


Definitions
Definitions based on personal relationships, to impersonal associations integrated by mass means”

  • Internet community (the easy ones)

  • The elevator speech to execs

  • The problem with these definitions

  • Serious definitions… take your pick.

Ghostweather Research & Design


Community definitions for internet
Community Definitions for Internet based on personal relationships, to impersonal associations integrated by mass means”

  • In 1993 in The Virtual Community, Howard Rheingold defines virtual communities as

    “Social aggregations that emerge from the [Internet] when enough people carry on those public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace.”

Ghostweather Research & Design


Community definitions for internet1
Community Definitions for Internet based on personal relationships, to impersonal associations integrated by mass means”

  • In 2000 in Community Building on the Web, Amy Jo Kim:

    “A community is a group of people with a shared interest, purpose, or goal, who get to know each other better over time.”

  • In 2002, in a CACM article on “Audience-Specific Online Community Design,” Dorine Andrews:

    “Community is no longer defined as a physical place, but as a set of relationships where people interact socially for mutual benefit. Online community is a social network that uses computer support as the basis of communication among members instead of face-to-face interaction.”

Ghostweather Research & Design


Talking to execs in elevators brief but smart
Talking to Execs in Elevators : Brief but smart! based on personal relationships, to impersonal associations integrated by mass means”

We need to clarify “community” and use it responsibly, or we can’t responsibly design it or measure it.

  • “Community” …

    • requires social interaction over a period of time, and

    • is an emergent property of group behavior.

      Corollaries:

    • Some tools (and content) may support that group behavior better than others.

    • The design challenges are more complex than designing for individuals for fixed tasks – goals may change, tasks are dynamic.

    • Technology ≠ Community!

Ghostweather Research & Design


Aside what the heck is wrong with warm fuzzies anyway
Aside: What the heck is wrong with warm based on personal relationships, to impersonal associations integrated by mass means”fuzzies, anyway…

“Coffee without CAD” has enormous volume and page views compared to other Autodesk forums… it’s explicitly NOT chat about the products!

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Why should we care about any other definitions
Why Should We Care About Any Other Definitions? based on personal relationships, to impersonal associations integrated by mass means”

Wellman et al. (1996) note that press about the Internet (during 1.0!)…

  • tends to describe “community” as if it had been invented yesterday

  • as being either thoroughly good or evil

  • as if life online has no connection to life offline, and

  • as if the past century's research on the nature of community were irrelevant.

    Can we learn from previous work here when building and measuring?

Ghostweather Research & Design


Hillery 1955
Hillery based on personal relationships, to impersonal associations integrated by mass means” (1955)

Compared 94 definitions of community from the sociology/ anthropology literature…

Only social interaction appears in most of them!

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Definitions from pre internet research
Definitions From Pre-Internet Research based on personal relationships, to impersonal associations integrated by mass means”

  • Geographically-Based Definitions

  • Tradition and Practice Definitions

  • Social Network Studies

  • Cooperative Action and the Collective Good

  • Discourse Communities

  • Boundary Definitions

  • Utopian Definitions

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Geography
Geography based on personal relationships, to impersonal associations integrated by mass means”

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Tradition and practice definitions
Tradition and Practice Definitions based on personal relationships, to impersonal associations integrated by mass means”

  • Arendt (1958)

    The sum of the people, transactions, habitats, traditions, and institutions that form a vital aspect of everyday life. …. relationships, experiences, values, and norms that serve to orient our actions and ultimate goals… normative and purposive, suggesting norms of behavior for members and goals for the group as a whole.

  • Communities of Practice (Lave and Wenger 1991)

    Lave and Wenger's "legitimate peripheral participation" is an important process through which community participants learnpractices through peripheral participation and increase their involvement gradually (newbies regulars/experts…)

Ghostweather Research & Design


A community of practice company
A “Community of Practice” Company based on personal relationships, to impersonal associations integrated by mass means”

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Social network related definitions
Social Network Related Definitions based on personal relationships, to impersonal associations integrated by mass means”

  • Strong and Weak Ties (Granovetter, 1973)

    … defined the strength of ties as "a (probably linear) combination of the amount of time, the emotional intensity, the intimacy (mutual confiding), and the reciprocal services which characterize the tie.”

  • Cliques: A mathematical definition of connectedness.

    … Formally, a clique is the maximum number of actors who have all possible ties present among themselves.

Ghostweather Research & Design


Image by based on personal relationships, to impersonal associations integrated by mass means”

L Cherny

Ghostweather Research & Design


Cooperative action collective good
Cooperative Action / Collective Good based on personal relationships, to impersonal associations integrated by mass means”

  • Kollock and Smith (1996), on communities that successfully defend the common good:

    • Most individual affected by the rules can participate in modifying the rules

    • Right of community members to devise their own rules is respected by external authorities

    • A system for monitoring behavior exists, undertaken by the community members themselves

    • Community members have access to low-cost conflict resolution mechanisms

Ghostweather Research & Design


Aside tragedy of the commons
Aside: “Tragedy of the Commons” based on personal relationships, to impersonal associations integrated by mass means”

Ghostweather Research & Design


Discourse speech community definitions
Discourse / Speech Community Definitions based on personal relationships, to impersonal associations integrated by mass means”

  • Swales (1990) identifies genres:

    • (1) a broadly agreed-upon set of common public goals,

    • (2) mechanisms for communication among the community members

    • (3) participatory mechanisms used primarily for information and feedback

    • (4) one or more genres

    • (5) a specific vocabulary of communication

    • (6) a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and discourse experience

  • Hymes (1972): "speech community" is a group that shares rules for speaking and interpretations of speech performance (e.g., agreement on what is “flaming”)

Ghostweather Research & Design


Aside speech community
Aside: Speech Community based on personal relationships, to impersonal associations integrated by mass means”

Ghostweather Research & Design


Boundary definitions
Boundary Definitions based on personal relationships, to impersonal associations integrated by mass means”

… indicate who is inside and who is outside a community, distinguish the members from those they differ from or wish to be as different from. These boundaries are usually in the minds of members and those excluded from the group, and perception of boundaries may differ among individuals, even those on the inside of a boundary.

  • Concrete: “registered member” vs. “guest” in forum

  • Symbolic: evaluations of friendship, rivalry, jealousy, similarity

Ghostweather Research & Design


“I feel like when I post [on the general woodworking forums] the men don’t think I belong there. They don’t answer, they feel like it’s a man’s thing.”

-- a woman woodworker

Ghostweather Research & Design


Utopian definitions
Utopian Definitions forums] the men don’t think I belong there. They don’t answer, they feel like it’s a man’s thing.”

  • Tonnies (1887), Community and Society: Expounded on the contrast between gemeinschaft (community) and gesellschaft (society).

     Remains common in much marketing literature and research scholarship, particularly in the absence of good metrics; “community” always connotes “a good thing,” an ideal, and suggests emotional warmth and support – not actual human social relationships and interactions over time, which may include many positive and negative factors.

Ghostweather Research & Design


“Incorporates idealism and utopian sentiment into his notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature, arguably causing confusion between the study of community as is (empirical description) and as it should be(normative prescription).”

The fictional village looks idyllic, but the real one has alcoholism, wife beating, vandalism, racism, jealousy, and even murder! Plus a nice knitting club.

Ghostweather Research & Design


Now you ve got some definitions
Now you’ve got some definitions… notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

  • Design Principles:

    • Goals

    • Roles, Places, Times

    • Leadership and Moderation

    • Transparency and Trust

  • Building this is not simple…

Ghostweather Research & Design


Design principles a real goal
Design Principles: A Real Goal notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

  • The goal is for them, not you (even if you have one too)

    • “This is a social experiment.” (uh-oh)

    • “A place to talk about books we love.”

  • The public goal is what they see when they get there

  • Don’t try to compete with what they already use

    • Does a group already exist? Where do they “live” now?

    • Do they have reasons to communicate?

Ghostweather Research & Design


Design principles roles places time
Design Principles: Roles, Places, Time notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

  • Build flexible, extensible gathering places

  • Integrate the rituals of community life; promote cyclic events (e.g. holidays, contests)

  • Encourage appropriate etiquette / norms / traditions

  • Develop a strong leadership program and design for a range of roles

  • Support evolution:

    • Facilitate member-run subgroups (group evolution)

    • Create meaningful and evolving member profiles (“who’s here?”)

      (cf. AJ Kim)

Ghostweather Research & Design


Principles moderation leadership
Principles: Moderation / Leadership notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

  • Interesting content needs encouragement:

    • Seed behavior and content, refresh it, ask provocative questions they care about.

    • Invite interesting people to start you off and get you PR– treat them well! (Howard R and the WELL)

  • Quality over quantity – encourage it and help it surface (use ratings / reputation systems with caution)

  • Models for moderation: What can you afford?

    • Heavy Moderation – read everything

    • Light Moderation - Subject lines and rapidly blossoming thread activity is reviewed.

    • Moderation is labor intensive and can be costly. It's being outsourced in some companies. It's tough to hire for.

    • Recruit your power users (MVPs)

Ghostweather Research & Design


Principles transparency trust
Principles: Transparency, Trust notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

  • What You See is What I See: I can see myself and my posts the way you do.

  • Support private communications (easy, secure) between members

  • Clearly indicate what’s marketing / corporate vs. “real” user content

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  • The concept of the public sphere as discussed by notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature, Habermas and others includes several requirements for authenticity that people who live in democratic societies would recognize: open access, voluntary participation, participation outside institutional roles, the generation of public opinion through assemblies of citizens who engage in rational argument,the freedom to express opinions,and the freedom to discuss matters of the state and criticize the way state power is organized. It is also possible to alter the nature of discourse by inventing a kind of paid fake discourse.

    • -- Howard Rheingold

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Principles support finding things
Principles: Support Finding Things notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

  • Surface current activity – where’s the action here, make it easy to get to it.

    • Current chatters, 44 members logged on now….

  • Help visitors find people, history, content/goods associated. Illustrate there is a history of value and sociability that makes this worth their time.

    • Most recent threads; last several sales; contest winners, profiles, search

  • Help people find the relevant topics, but not “butt in”

    • Support transition of roles from lurker, newbie, to MVP/expert/leader (“community of practice” concept)

    • Make it easy to “pass things on” or bookmark them

Ghostweather Research & Design


Aside finding other people
Aside: Finding Other People notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

Ghostweather Research & Design


Back to the plan who will build it
Back to the Plan: Who Will Build It? notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

  • Community interaction is a “socio-technical” design problem:

    • More than a web information architect (IA) job

    • Design for group behavior and interactivity

    • Design for analytics

  • Who will moderate and manage your group over time?

  • Are you committed in terms of resources? Time to evolve is essential; they don’t grow overnight.

Ghostweather Research & Design


Social design not just software design
Social Design, Not Just Software Design notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

“I feel like the [Company] forum is a mixed bag… it really needs someone to pay attention and post the definitive answer sometimes. This woman [Sally] used to do exactly what I mean – she took no shit, she was authoritative. But she seems to have moved on to another role, I guess [you] didn’t appreciate what she was doing for the readers.”

--Customer interview about support web site forum

Stats collected by L Cherny

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Consider interaction design complexity
Consider: Interaction Design Complexity notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

Simple IxD: Edit, delete, rename, reorder… sort, hide, open, close…

“Publish”

  • More complex IxD:

  • Why would they want your lists?

  • What’s the motivation to share with them?

  • How do they know when you’ve updated yours? How does anyone on the site know?

Ghostweather Research & Design


Tools a continuum of interactivity options
Tools: A Continuum of Interactivity Options notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

Common ways to support online group interaction

Blogging

Content Upload

Social Network links

IM, Chat

Forums Email lists

Real-time

gaming

Commenting on content

Content feeds:

Flickr, bookmarks…

Ghostweather Research & Design


Can you buy a community
Can You Buy a Community? notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

Ghostweather Research & Design


Aside policy decisions are design decisions
Aside: Policy Decisions are Design Decisions notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

Pic

Short Form

Which will be more interesting to visitors?

Which will people prefer to post?

OR

Pic

Full Text

Ghostweather Research & Design


Let s assume you
Let’s Assume You… notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

  • Had a goal that spoke to people…

  • Built something useful and usable

  • With the right tools and design principles

  • Built in some good policies and put reasonable oversight and human support into place

  • ….

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You might have it if there is
You Might Have “It” If… There is: notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

  • Communication

    • Gossip about members and events (this is good!)

    • Special vocabulary (discourse) to indicate membership and in/out

    • Multiple communications methods and modes; meeting face-to-face/ phone as well as online interaction, changes of modality over time

    • Trust among members; emotional ties

  • Exchange of goods occurs: social capital, information, physical goods, money, gifts

Ghostweather Research & Design


You might have it if there are
You Might Have “It” if There are: notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

  • Status Indicators

    • Boundary defense: “Us” vs. “Them,” subgroups, cliques (social networking)

    • Rites of passage for membership (rituals)

    • Different roles or status of individuals emerge over time

  • Temporal Markers

    • Participation / activity over time by same people (return, attachment)

    • Telling of historical narratives (especially to newbies); the group remembers (“community of memory”)

    • Rituals (marking time/events)

    • Evolutionary change (people join/leave, disputes, resolution, management roles change…)

Ghostweather Research & Design


More formal metrics
More Formal Metrics notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

Why are you measuring: Strength of community for the participants, or for the business? (“ROI”)

  • Currently simple web-style quantitative metrics are used in absence of better or more creative metrics:

  • Page views, unique memberships, new memberships

    (-Online Community Business Forum Metrics survey, 2007)

  • Don’t confuse the technically “easy” (memberships, page views, friends links…) with the emotional and interactional “truth” (study deeper than system surface level)

Ghostweather Research & Design


More metrics
More Metrics notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

  • Advanced businesses metrics (looking deeper):

    • word-of-mouth, cost reduction, sales conversion, time on site, membership revenue, value of member-contributed content, loyalty, satisfaction, lurker effects on sales (ebay)…

  • Qualitative – there may be groups inside your system that are healthier than others; check in on people and spend some time with them.

Ghostweather Research & Design


Examples word of mouth
Examples: Word-of-Mouth notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

Ghostweather Research & Design


More advanced research metrics
More Advanced Research Metrics notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

Examples:

  • Social network diagrams and calculations

  • qualitative/ethnographic methods – and mix with quantitative for a “full” story

  • text analysis…

Ghostweather Research & Design


An anthropologist in Second Life notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

Ghostweather Research & Design


LiveJournal notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature, in the blogosphere, a self-contained group

Image by Matthew Hurst

Ghostweather Research & Design


Image by L Cherny notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

Ghostweather Research & Design


Types of newsgroup forum members
Types of Newsgroup/Forum Members notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

TiVo Series 3 Forum

Graph by L Cherny, analysis of forum “health”

Ghostweather Research & Design


Super fast recap
Super-Fast Recap… notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

  • Lots of definitions, but you need one

  • You can’t just buy a community (or outsource)

  • Design is more than just putting together the tools, in terms of skills and needs

  • Metrics should be micro and macro, qual and quant; you may need to get creative here too

  • Avoid building expensive ghost towns, they might do you harm.

Ghostweather Research & Design


More research resources
More Research Resources notion of community, as well as reliance on geographic locale, all of which have persisted within the community studies literature,

  • AOIR: Association of Internet Researchers (came out of sociology and linguistics, multidisciplinary) – Lots of resources here.

  • CSCW: Computer Supported Cooperative Work (focus on ethnography, originally about work and now broader)

  • CHI conference of last 10-15 years (see the digital library at ACM.org)

  • Sociology / Social Network Analysis literature

  • Lots of books on Amazon since 1995… my book Conversation and Community reviews definitions and documents one chat /game community’s evolution in the 1.0 era

  • Business sources: Harvard Business Review (ebay article), Bill Johnston (Forum One)…

    • Keywords: online games, MMORG (massively multiplayer online roleplaying games, ethnographic studies, participation, MVPs (a forum term for valuable leaders), customer-centric brands, forums, community…

Ghostweather Research & Design


Thanks feel free to contact me for any specific references
Thanks –Feel free to contact me for any specific references!

Ghostweather Research & Design:

Data-Driven, by Lynn Cherny, Ph.D.

[email protected]

Ghostweather Research & Design


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