Friday, 15 February 2008

last fm - friends network visualization

Interesting visualization and interesting to see interconnectivity of clusters. When I have a lot of time someday I would like to better understand how this data was derived ( has a public API that makes their user data available? Huh? Whatever happened to privacy - so old school ? Surely just some anonymous aggregate, no?), the data analysis tool used and what it all means, and how it could be used to look at further questions around friend networks ...

Monday, 22 October 2007


Just came across one of those German compound nouns that cannot be translated 1:1 into English, may seem strange to the non-German speaker but sometimes perhaps capture the essence of a given phenomen or concept so aptly that they find their way into the English language. Like "Zeitgeist" or "Blitzkrieg" etc. - in this case, it was used by the German designer Dieter Rams - according to Manager Magazin a sort of design-grandfather of the iPhone: "Selbsterklaerungsqualitaet", refering to good design and his believe that displays / interaction models should be self-explanatory. It literally translates to "Selfexplenatoryquality" - which just doesn't seem as precise ( or grammatically correct for that matter).

Any mass market user interface should have "Selbsterklaerungsqualitaet" as the main objective. No manual needed. No help section needed.

Friday, 27 July 2007

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Peter Kollock: The Economies of Online Collaboration

Searching Technorati for further information on what makes people share, cooperate, create content on social sites, I came across a reference to Peter Kollock's article "The Economies of Online Collaboration". This article explores this question focussing on forums / sites where users help each other ("What can explain the amount of cooperation that does occur in online communities"). It was published in 1999, which of course pre-dates the entire web 2.0 hype by several years, but just brings to mind that there has been plenty of social user-generated content and cooperation since the beginnings of the web, not just since youtube and myspace.

Kollock sets out by considering the information given in usenet forums etc. (remember, this is the 90ies) as essentially free information, ie. gifts, given to mostly unknown recipients. I like this notion of seeing user's advice as "gifts" without direct reciprocity (giver does not know recipient) - another intrinsic motivation (the joy of "doing good"). Kollock, however, sees this from an economical standpoint, where the extrinsic incentive of giving free advice to a community lies in the perception that by giving to a community one is also entitled to ask back from that community. I think both incentives can be highly energizing motivators.

Perhaps the extrinsic part can be addressed by offering some sort of credit system per created content (at a minimum listing past contributions of a given user) - and e.g. listing the top 10 contributors on a site's homepage, or by expecting that other users will want to e.g. reply to people with high credit scores more easily, in order to give back. Kollock stresses the importance of identity persistence for this "anticipated reciprocity" to work.

Also find it interesting that he distinguishes between egoistic and altruistic motives.

He lists as egoistic motivators:

  • anticipated reciprocity
  • reputation (bragging rights)
  • sense of efficacy ("If a sense of efficacy is what is motivating someone, then contributions are likely to be increased to the extent that people can observe changes in the community attributable to their actions")

And as altruistic motivators:

  • help someone who has a need
  • attachment to a community: help the group with which one identifies to prosper

All of this of course only applies to those sites that enable the sharing of knowledge, but not the sharing of "self".

Usergenerated Content - Motivation

The other day I read a post on the Mobile Monday London mailing list about what is it that makes a lot of people share their knowledge, their experiences, their life and emotions on all those Web 2.0 websites in the form of videos, blogs, answers, comments, votes etc. ... without any monetary rewards / material incentive ... While - at the same time - a lot of other people are perfectly happy to just consume rather than add anything themselves ? This got me thinking - what criteria does a website need to fulfill in order to attract and retain both creators and lurkers ? What do each of those user-segments / clusters have in common?

Furthermore, do different kind of web 2.0 sites provide different incentives for sharing / adding content ?

According to Wikipedia motivation can be defined as follows:

Motivation is a temporal and dynamic state that should not be confused with personality or emotion. Motivation is having the desire and willingness to do something. A motivated person can be reaching for a long-term goal such as becoming a professional writer or a more short-term goal like learning how to spell a particular word. Personality invariably refers to more or less permanent characteristics of an individual's state of being (e.g., shy, extrovert, conscientious). As opposed to motivation, emotion refers to temporal states that do not immediately link to behavior (e.g., anger, grief, happiness).

This definition also raises the question whether users who regularly participate and create content share some similar personality and emotional characteristics ? I would argue that the emotional state does not play a major role, as people post content when they are happy, sad, bored, unhappy, angry etc. . Personality might certainly play a role, e.g. one might argue that extroverts are more likely to reach out and share their experiences and opinions. On the other side, one might argue that introverts are more likely to use websites as an easier way to contact others. For the sake of argument, let's assume that personality traits are distributed equally amongst users of web 2.0 sites as they are amongst general Internet users - ie. covering the full range of personality traits, in a bell-shaped curve, with no single trait differentiating participating users from pure consumers.

This leaves motivation, ie. the expectation to fulfill a certain need, to achieve certain goals, as the main causal factor for users to add content. What goals a user might hope to fulfill may further vary based on the proposition / context of a site.

I think sites that attract / are based on user-generated content can be categorized as follows:

1) Blogs

2) Youtube, Flickr and other video- and photosharing sites

3) Knowledge-sharing sites / forums / online reviews, such as Yahoo! Answers, reviews on and

4) Social Communities like MySpace, Facebook - also dating sites like and business networking sites like and

5) Social Bookmarking and Voting, like, digg,

Motives can be intrinsic (for the sheer enjoyment, the activity itself satisfies the need) and extrinsic (as a means to a goal, e.g. praise / trophies).

Likely incentives / objectives for sharing content I could imagine to fall into both the intrinsic and the extrinsic category. The following list is surely non-exhaustive, and of course not based on any empirical data-analysis:

  • To leave a mark / make an impact: the desire to make oneself heard, with the satisfaction being the sense of making a difference. I would argue 1, 2. 3 and 5 above all contribute to fulfilling this need.
  • Social needs: to interact and share with others, enjoying the act of communicating and sense of belonging. All of the categories of sites above will cater to this desire.
  • Creative need: there is an immense intrinsic satisfaction in being creative, in having the sense of creating something new and unique. 1) - 4) do address this, 5) does not.
  • Bragging rights: to see your name / nickname / video rated as highly popular, or listed on a popular sites homepage. On sites of the category 4) above, to show off one's popularity / connectedness might be the incentive to add and interact with as many contacts as possible.
  • Romantic / sexual needs: Certainly, sites from category 4) have this drive as a main motive.
  • Self-PR as expert for a given field: 1), 3) and 5) above

Surely, this list of motives is not exhaustive. But all of those motives are going to be present at some point as well with users who never or seldomly generate content. The potential for web 2.0 sites to fulfill those needs does not explain, why some people choose those sites to fulfill these needs and others choose different means. It does, however, serve as a starting point to nail down which needs different web 2.0 sites need to address and offer to satisfy, in order to attract those users who do tend to choose the internet as one way to fulfill these needs.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Friday, 6 July 2007

Free Hugs Campaign

Just read about this hugs campaign - some guy holding up a "Free Hugs" sign at a street in Sydney with many pedestrians. The cynic in me discarded this immediately as hippie-crap, but the hippie in me watched the video - and I have to say, I was quite moved. Apparently, this quickly spread into a fun-thing to do, random strangers hugging - male, female, old, young - and then became a global phenomenon ... free hugs in Korea, Amsterdam, Hollywood - even though the my inner cynic introvert still produces some condescending comments, I really like the concept. After all, what's wrong with bringing more friendliness into this world - living in London, the standard modus operandi is to ignore others, or look as if one is practicing for a evil-look-contest. But then again - I have tried much less than a hug, namely just smiling at random people and did not find the smile being necessarily returned - ok, those were predominantly attractive females I smiled at, but still. Anyhow, I am all for it - bring on the hugs.