Gail Williams (gail) Mon 9 Jun 08 13:55
Well, Bruce was asking about people in different rings "...what have they got in common with one another? And does it make them like the folks in that same category in other online social networks?" Looking at individuals, the story of one person in one or more gatherings is pretty much the "common sense" of it all, right? My small anecdotal contribution is there to suggest that being a wallflower in one place does not mean you won't be in the thick of the hive mind in a other social/community grouping. It could be that you're an outsider everywhere if you participate lightly somewhere, but my theory is that that is not a safe assumption. I'm glad people are doing this research.
poche (vassilio) Mon 9 Jun 08 14:58
(end of illustration. Blue dot is moving away from the yolk, back to his white mascon)
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 9 Jun 08 15:56
I think there's a limit to the granularity of detail in a social network visualization; like any statistical evaluation, looking at the high level can miss much meaningful detail. It's also unclear how "real" is the data without more about the data gathering process. How do you define who's a lurker? Do they always lurk, or is that just a stage in their participation? Could it be that they're not lurking, but ignoring? I.e. they joined the community, took a look around, and wandered off? If it's an open community, there may be no way to tell who's lurking and who's gone. In summary, I think we have to be very critical in our assessment of statistical claims and high-level assumptions about online behavior.
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 10 Jun 08 10:42
Sure! It's like being interested in learnign about a city. Various kinds of maps are good tools for getting information, and so is a sit-down conversation with a hand full of diverse residents. The approaches offer different useful clues.
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 10 Jun 08 10:43
And different "noise" and misleading clues, too.
What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Tue 10 Jun 08 12:22
Jon: Yes! We need comparative data across communities, individual demographic information, and longitudinal data. Then, we'll be much better positioned. It's frustrating to think that there *are* entities who have some such info, but that it's proprietary. And I'm with you, Gail, on the "noise" and misleading clues. Anthropologists have told me they needed to learn to be wary of relying on the information provided by their very first informant in a community. Why? Not because of small sample, but because that person is probably an outlier and not representative of the group.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 10 Jun 08 21:54
I'd really like to see studies of communities of practice that are especially successful, and analyses of the customs and behaviors that make for that success. When organizations are effective, what makes them so? How organized must they be to get work done? Here on the WELL, all we generally require is good conversation. We consider this a community, or community of communities, but we don't have to work toward goals or deliver projects. If you were building a platform that was more goal-oriented, what would you include?
Maria Rosales (rosmar) Wed 11 Jun 08 06:07
How organized they need to be changes over time, I think. It has been a while since I've read organizational theory, but I remember that there was no one-size-fits-all model (except for what works for all relationships, good communication). It depends on goals, dynamics within the system, etc.
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 11 Jun 08 10:31
I agree with Maria on that. I think we see that here within The WELL too. We get goal-directed topics (planning a picnic such as in <party.> for example) and some goal-oriented private conferences too, for private projects, support or business conversations. For me, working here, my big agenda is "let it continue." However, for goals, the agenda is ooften to complete something and tick it off a list. Study for a class and then take the test and scatter. Plan a wedding and marry. Put together a business plan and get investors. The next steps may not happen with the same cast of characters in the room, so the goal is a waypoint, and a transition point. So my first question is always about the imagined duration of a project. Sometimes we find amazing people and we stick way longer than we expected... but when there's a goal, there's usually some kind of time increment. Making that easy to grasp and agree upon may really help. So that could become part of a design pattern for goal-oriented endeavors, in my opinion: "You have X Days or Y Percent of the project allotment remaining" Visibility of who's active might also be useful in that scenario. Jon, saying "analyses of the customs and behaviors" is very astute. It doesn't have to be built in to be what is taking effect, and that takes it out of dseign and back into how we are all trying to collude to make community interactions, often despite designs we encounter.
Clay Shirky (clayshirky) Thu 12 Jun 08 07:11
(Sorry for being away so long -- serial family colds plus bad travel...) Gail, I think the other characteristic in your observation, besides duration, is focus of outcome. Sometimes you want to have divergent work, starting with a few ideas and ending with lots of them, or starting with a few vague intuitions and ending up with serious ans sharp alternatives. Tools like Caucus and mailing lists are great for that sort of divergence, as they always allow for the introduction of new ideas, and because disagreement propels conversation better than agreement. Sometimes you cant convergence -- for people to agree on something, and then do something about it. Tools to arrange face-to-face meetings, and systems that capture a sense of the group, whether in loose ways like Wikipedia, or tight ways, like a source code repository in an Open Source project, can produce that outcome. The critical mistake, in my view, is deploying convergent tools for divergent problems and v-v. If you want to have an open-ended discussion, using a wiki will tend to leave the conversation inert, while if you want to get people to do something, a mailing list will tend to dissipate the "do" energy in the usual back-and-forth of conversation.
Jef Poskanzer (jef) Thu 12 Jun 08 07:55
That is very interesting. Is there just this one dimension of desired outcome, or are there other types of goal and corresponding optimal tools?
Clay Shirky (clayshirky) Fri 13 Jun 08 06:47
There are lots of intersections between tool and goal -- for instance, synchrony, participation, and scale form a "Pick 2" dilemma. If you want everyone to have a shared sense arising from interaction, you can do it with synchronous form like a chat room, but only with a small group, or with a synchronous and large group, but only if most people are in listen-only mode, or with a large group of participants, but only asynchronously. What *hasn't* been done yet is a real decision tree for these kinds of choices. I have a feeling that it hasn't happened b/c its impossible, in that social complexity swamps simple binary forking, so we're left with intuitions abut what will and won't work. A few observations are simple and general (as with the one here) but most are complex and context-dependant.
Jef Poskanzer (jef) Fri 13 Jun 08 08:38
I've never gotten why some people prefer IM over email; perhaps IM is better for some goal that I never care about and don't see.
uber-muso hipster hyperbole (pjm) Fri 13 Jun 08 10:27
I love IM. Email is for an exchange of info. IM is a conversation. There are things that I can write that are hard to express in a normal converasation. I think IM can often be deeper than a regular conversation.
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 13 Jun 08 12:08
There are several components that make IM feel different than email. One is a temporal distinction, again. Rapid response changes the flow. I think another reason people prefer one or the other has to do with the volume of mail one gets. Even if there's little spam per se, the mix of correspondants in a typical mailbox are likely to be less intimate than the list of instant message buddies. Email evolving first and being more exploited for commerce is part of the context for these kinds of preferences. So that makes it partly cultural, even absent other considerations like twitter integration, degree of adoption of a short punchy message writing style, etc.
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 13 Jun 08 12:23
Clay, your previous point is very useful. We see people at The WELL using forum software for a lot of things it was never intended to facilitate. Social roles, with nicknames such as "energy center" have been used to describe behaviors that compensate for the non-wikiesque nature of a simple flowing conversation. Somebody steps in and summarizes, reads back, cultivates the goal. (Typically this is a practice used for something like arranging an event, as i mentioned.) I think that the open mic conversation format does lead to a scattering and drifting of ideas, unless all or most participants are very clear on just what they want to use the tools to do. I'm struck by your statement that: > What *hasn't* been done yet is a real decision tree for these kinds of > choices. I have a feeling that it hasn't happened b/c its impossible, > in that social complexity swamps simple binary forking, so we're left > with intuitions about what will and won't work. So of course I want to know if you know of faux decision trees or half-assed attempts at this stuff that take it any further than the list vs wiki split.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 14 Jun 08 09:15
As part of our consulting methodology, my partner and I are working on something similar to the "decision tree," focused on best strategic uses of specific social technologies. But it wouldn't work to put that in front of someone and expect them to understand it. It's more of a guideline. Of course, you shouldn't consider the tools in isolation. As Nancy White and I discussed long ago, it's more powerful to take a "multimodal" approach. An example that I used to reference in my talks was the "happening" format (Ross Mayfield's term) that Joi Ito et al used to create the "Emergent Democracy" paper in (I think) 2003. We combined conference call with chat room and wiki. There were two levels of converation - the conference call, which was relatively restricted bandwidth (one person talking at a time), and the chat, which was many people having multiple conversations at once, as a backchannel for the call. Some were capturing notes in the wiki, then Joi wrote the summary paper as a Word document that he uploaded to Quicktopic for sharing (similar functionality to Google docs). A later iteration was wikified on Joi's wiki, and there were several changes and comments there. I took that version and edited it for the version that appeared in the book _Extreme Democracy_. The paper itself is just one manifestation of a knowledge process. I think this process would fall into the category of "capturing the sense of the group," and I think we were closer to the real process of producing knowledge, and though Joi was listed as author of the paper, there was more transparency into the group process behind the author (which is usually there, but seldom visible). Clay talks about using social tools to converge on a decision, and I think it's interesting to observe where tools fail. For instance I've used Timebridge to schedule meetings - it's a tool that allows you to offer several meeting times and see which works best for all participants, as each identifies good and best times from among those offered. I've seen groups that absolutely could not converge on a workable time for everyone, so we had to abandon the tool and mandatge a meeting time.
Vassi (vassilio) Sat 14 Jun 08 11:29
<scribbled by vassilio>
Gail Williams (gail) Mon 16 Jun 08 13:38
In regard to #67, I kind of like the "multimodal" approach you mention, though at times it is just too easy to miss something. I think a group still needs an information wrangler or energy center person(s) to make a multimodal collage work smoothly. That person doesn't need systems powers, just insight into the value of summarizing and feeding back, and a sense of permission to behave that way. Honoring, promoting and assisting people who can do centering and recapping is an undervalued communications strategy, seems to me. Most likely I undervalue those who are champions at that myself.
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