Archive for the 'digg' Category

Communities as Games

Social networking sites (Digg, Facebook, and YouTube) can be thought of as games with goals, actions, play, strategies, and rewards. This idea comes from C. Weng’s free e-book, The Web: Hidden Games. On Read/WriteWeb yesterday, Richard MacManus talked about these Social Websites as Games:

The e-book goes on to tell you how to “win” at Digg and notes that “like all games, Digg’s system can be cheated.” It also compares YouTube to chess: “there are an infinite number of ways to win in YouTube but it only occurs under certain conditions. Every single method, strategy, and theory leads back to the essential factor: getting people to view your videos.” And as for Facebook, it is compared to The Sims: “The object of the game is more to monitor or to guide characters in daily life rather than to win at something. There’s no simple goal in sight but it is all about the process of playing.”

(Quoted from by Richard MacManus on Read/WriteWeb)

I think this idea extends past social websites and into communities as well. I recently blogged about using reputation systems in communities with a discussion about people can game community reputation systems. The important thing to recognize is whether people are gaming the system in a productive manner that helps the community or in a destructive way that serves only to clutter the community with worthless chatter that annoys other members.

Thinking about the community as a game where you can accumulate points and status can help the community when members use the points as incentives to post productive content and answer questions from other members. This productive gaming serves to improve the content within the community.

The danger with reputation systems (and social networking sites, like Digg) is when the gaming becomes destructive. In communities, people can post worthless one-line responses to discussions that add nothing to the conversations, but act only to accumulate points. In Digg, people can get together to Digg worthless stories to the home page solely to generate advertising revenue for the owner of the site.

The key, as I’ve mentioned before, is transparency and proactive adjustments. Community reputation systems can be adjusted to help prevent people from accumulating any significant amount of points just for responding to discussions without meaningful content. Digg has continually adjusted their algorithms to help prevent gaming. It is also important to recognize that no technical solution can entirely prevent gaming of reputation systems or social websites. Because you cannot entirely prevent it, transparency is the key to making sure that other people can see which members are gaming the system. As a community member, if I can see that all of Joe’s posts are one line responses of the “great post” or “thanks for the info” variety, I will start to ignore his responses, and if the system lets me block him from my view, I may chose to exclude his responses. On a site like Digg, I may also chose to block stories submitted by a user who always submits stories from a couple of sites (probably his sites).

I like reputation systems and think that they can be used productively in communities if monitored carefully. People are motivated in many different ways. While some community members will contribute freely without any reward for their effort, others will contribute more often if they can see some tangible rewards for their contribution.

Related Fast Wonder Posts:

Digg Acquisition Rumors

Who will acquire Digg? Michael Arrington from TechCrunch claims that Digg has been in acquisition talks with News Corp. and other companies: “However, the company was unable to land an offer in the price range they’re looking for – at least $150 million – and will likely close a Series B round of financing instead.” (TechCrunch Quote)

I am curious who those “other companies” might be. Here are a few random guesses (pure speculation):

  • AOL / Time-Warner: Calacanis might be interested in an attempt to merge Netscape with Digg (bad idea in my opinion).

  • Yahoo: The rumor is that they were in discussions for YouTube and FaceBook, and they have already acquired a number of web 2.0 companies. Digg might be an interesting fit for Yahoo.

Who should acquire Digg? Maybe Google. Due to the recent, and large, YouTube acquisition, I doubt that Google is currently in discussions to acquire Digg. Digg would be a great way for Google to get more involved in the collaborative, user generated content space to expand their web 2.0 offerings, and Google could probably add quite a bit of value in helping to optimize Digg’s promotion algorithms. Digg has sometimes struggled with attempts by users to game the system to promote their own stories using all types of devious mechanisms. Designing creative algorithms to prevent people from artificially inflating search results has been one of Google’s strengths.

Personally, I think that Digg will stay independent for now, but then again, I am frequently wrong about acquisition predictions. (I’m still waiting for Borland to be acquired – I predicted an imminent acquisition back in 2002 / 2003).

New Netvibes Update

Netvibes just released a new update (code named Cinnamon) with new features, new modules, and a better user interface.

I have been using Netvibes for a couple of months, and I use it constantly. I tried more RSS readers than I can count, and I hated all of them. Prior to Netvibes, I could not find any RSS readers that worked better than than the RSS functionality built into Firefox. The beauty of Netvibes is that they manage to cram a bunch of feeds on the screen, but organize it in a way that never seems overwhelming or cluttered. I can see all of the posts from more than a dozen blogs without scrolling, mouse-overs give me the first couple of sentences, and I can chose to read any post within the Netvibes interface or natively as a new tab in Firefox. Almost everything is configurable; I can have multiple tabs; and the content is easily organized by dragging and dropping.

Netvibes has also integrated a number of very useful modules. Michael Arrington uses it daily for one stop access to a variety of web services. I can see my unread Gmail messages, my delicious bookmarks (including sort by tags), the front page stories on Digg, the weather and more from a single page.

The best part is that I rarely have to wait on anything. Quick, configurable, intuitive, and easy to use … everything I want in a web app.

Saturday Sessions at Foo Camp

Some of the morning was spent on the “Cylon Raider” project, but I attended several very interesting sessions. Here are a few of the highlights (these notes are a bit raw … in other words, forgive the typos):

In Democratization / Disintermediation of traditional media led by Jay & Kevin (Digg)

  • Mainstream media excels in areas where you have limited distribution (only so many people can be invited to White House press briefings, for example).

  • Media is changing and has a symbiotic relationship with the new media. Editors might look at sites like Digg to see user behavior trends and use that as an instant feedback mechanism to direct the edited content. Digg relies on traditional media for much of the content.

  • Competition for advertising dollars is really hitting the traditional media. Local newspapers are losing ad revenue to other advertising mediums – classifieds is where it’s starting, but it is involving into other areas. Bloggers who do reporting rather than relying on mainstream reporting will get more attention (TechCrunch) and more advertising dollars.

  • Opinion pieces and magazines are being eroded by new media

  • New media excels for speed of information vs. the accuracy / fact checking of traditional media.

  • Sites like Digg usually have a self-policing mechanism within the community.

In Passionate users – Kathy Sierra

  • People are passionate about the things they kick ass at, and they have a higher resolution experience – they pick up on things that the rest of us would not (jazz musicians, etc.) We want to create this for our users.

  • It’s not about the tools – it’s what you do with them – focus on the end result, not the tool.

  • Decisions are usually based on emotions – we are just not always rational / logical.

  • Keep users engaged.

  • Don’t want to interrupt the flow of what you are doing – if the software interrupts and become aware of the tool, the flow and outcome are disrupted.

  • Learning increases resolution.

  • If you want the user to RTFM, we need to write a better FM.

  • Pictures and surprises get people’s attention.

Doctor Who vs. Snakes on a Plane: Lessons from Fan Culture for Community Builders. Annalee Newitz

  • Fan culture – free collaborative narratives often incorporating elements of commercial culture.

  • Lessons:

  • Not all fans are good producers of fan culture

  • beaing a fan makes you a better creator

  • communities united around collaborative storytelling can last for an extremely long time.

  • Not all fan culture can be turned into commercial culture

  • communities can be quickly united by satire, but satire doesn’t last

  • “buzzers” do not equal “buyers”

Note: The fan culture session relates back to the passionate users session. Fan culture seems to have some of the most passionate users coming together on a topic. We also had an interesting discussion about how more of these fan communities seem to be based around sci-fi. I’m not sure whether this is because we had a really geeky audience or because people who watch sci-fi tend to be a bit more fanatical than the rest of the population.