Category Archives: barcamp austin

Community Reputation Systems Session at BarCampAustin3

A lot of people are anti-reputation system taking the position that since they might be gamed, they can’t be useful. Personally, I don’t agree with this approach. I think you have to be careful with reputations, but they can be useful.

Basing it on activity alone can be a good way to build the community, but eventually you need to base the reputation only on helpful or productive participation, not just everything. Cubeless uses a karma system with a heavy weight on whether answers are helpful or not, and they have separate numbers for activity and helpfulness; however, they plan to combine them into one number. They also plan to hide the number in the future and only show categories that are based on the hidden number. I think this helps, but it also helps to make the content very transparent, so that you can see the types of contributions. If you can see the people who have a lot of activity of the “good post” or “nice job” can probably be easily ignored while focusing on contributions from people who have helpful and interesting feedback.

We do something similar in the Clearspace reputation system with a combination of activity and helpful points.  I also like the idea of hiding the overall number. We currently show the number, and it makes it easier to game and compete for points.

When does activity become less important to weight the currently activity more heavily than past activity so that people who leave don’t stay at the top. The really need to gradually drop off as newer contributors become more important.

Twitter Session at BarCampAustin3

Last week was the biggest week ever based on the number of updates. This doesn’t surprise me, since last week, I was finding it really difficult to keep up with Twitter. This week is even worse with sxsw, so I’m guessing that they will beat their record again this week.

Twitter is about simplicity and communication between people. Based on contraints: 140 chars, etc. Focus is on building the services that power all of the other tools, rather than on promoting the additional services.

More than 1/2 of the users are outside of the US (40% US, 39% Japan), and they are working on localizing Twitter. A group in Japan has created a site that skins the Twitter site in Japanese. It’s also interesting to note that Twitter does not work in Japan via SMS, so mobile isn’t driving this adoption.

People use Twitter for shared experiences. They have mapped spikes in Twitter activity based on superbowl events (Giants touchdown, etc.). Blaine compared it to being in a virtual bar seeing a big virtual cheer in the Twitter activity. Super Tuesday had similar effects.

People also use Twitter as a personal diary. One women has a private account for herself where she tweets about things her son said to keep as a record. Very interesting to look a 6-month summary of these kinds of life experiences.

Others use it for promotion, which Ben says may be slightly evil, but on the other hand, you can turn off the people who become obnoxious and solely self promotional. Some news (earthquakes, etc.) hit twitter 20-30 minutes before it hits the mainstream media.

Stability is the big focus (duh). The devs use the service, are passionate about it, and are really motivated to keep it stable. Moved to a new data center and are spending a lot of time now on scalability, more clusters, etc. in addition to adding monitoring tools and other system management and reporting tools. They have more than doubled the number of servers in the last 2 weeks. The problem is really hard to solve: maintaining the privacy context, real time posts to thousands of people, etc. It really is more difficult than what people think – it’s not just an easy sms application. They have occassionally “fucked up”, and are willing to admit it. They are working on capacity issues, database optimization, etc. to keep improving the stability. So far, it’s been up and fast at sxsw, which is a pretty big achievement. They are having a hard time keeping up with all of the api apps that ping twitter every minute, but they aren’t willing to cap it at 5 minutes, since it makes the service so much less valuable.

Trying to encourage people to have rich interactions that stay meaningful and trying not to encourage the people who just want to collect followers. They are also looking at adding some analysis / attention functionality. It would be awesome to know how much your traffic is going to increase when you are looking at adding another follower, for example. Also looking at allowing people to authenticate via OpenID.

A lot of people are working on Twitter bots. One lets you sms an Amazon bot to get back the price of something on Amazon.

Beginnings of a pubsub application for people doing Twitter aggregation and using the Jabber/XMPP protocol really reduces the load and increases stability.

Caveat: The stuff here from Blaine are things he’s thinking about and not necessarily a future feature. Jabber gives them addressability and ability to subscribe to specific things from other applications, like Pounce, to help break down barriers between sites to communicate with friends despite the site that they prefer to use. Lots of people are talking about building their own Twitter, which can be really difficult, but they want to allow these people to integrate with them rather than having just another silo. The focus is on openness.

Note: Blaine hates SMS 🙂

Online Ethnography at BarCampAustinIII

When you have loyal community members, they frequently take a big part in managing the community by policing other members, transmitting the culture, and helping with other management tasks. A community manager for Second Life who manages the Orange community, and they gave some community members management responsibilities within the community and so far has been running very smoothly. They also have 3 full-time managers, but this small community within the larger community to help to police the community.

One person here manages African American and Latino communities, which tends to bring in some people who constantly invoke the free speech card when they are being obnoxious asses. In his case, the community has a social contract and a core community where people help enforce it. In general, censorship is OK to maintain the health of the community.

Talked more about community management instead of ethnography.

Cubeless – Corporate Communities at BarCampAustin

This BarCampAustinIII session was led by some people at Sabre talking about Cubeless, a corporate community platform. You can mark people or content as “shady” to report abuse, and they seem to have a pretty sophisticated reputation system based on a karma number. The karma points are calculated in a complicated way that fluctuates based on what is happening in the community, thus making it difficult to figure out how they work to game them. Also has most of the typical stuff: profiles, tag clouds, post-its (like wall on Facebooks), etc.

Cubeless powers the Sabre Town community. You can pull in your Sabre itinerary and share it with other people at your company and share only the details that your want to share. The platform is internal, corporate focused and travel focused, rather than being a general purpose collaboration platform; however, they are looking at making it work for external communities. They seem to want to keep in travel focused and have been resisting requests to make it more broad.

Cote started an interesting discussion about gaming reputation systems, and the difficulty of tying rewards into reputation systems like this karma point system.  Management likes to have metrics to measure knowledge worker performance, but this can create all sorts of issues. We’ve noticed this internally at Jive, too where certain job types tend to get more points in our internal Clearspace instance based on the amount / type of content. More points doesn’t necessarily mean better performance.

Overall, the product was kind of cool, but this session was a little too pitchy for me. All questions seemed to point back to their product.

BarCamp Austin near sxsw

BarCamp Austin is running in parallel with sxsw today, so I have been spending the afternoon here at BarCamp. The side conversations with really cool people are one of the biggest benefits of a BarCamp. I found another person to help organize BarCamp Portland (Thanks Alex!), talked to Chris Messina and Tara Hunt about coming to kick off BarCamp Portland, hung out with Scott Kveton (is it a bad thing that we both have to travel from PDX to some other city to chat?), and discussions with many other cool people.

Chris and Tara also held a meetup to talk about co-working. We hope to get something like this started in Portland, so it was really interesting to hear about what has / has not worked for them. A few dos / don’ts: don’t hold it in a space where someone lives; do use word of mouth rather than marketing to attract interesting and like-minded people; do have good insurance. I should have taken better notes in this session, but it was just too interesting to open the computer.

They are also doing print on demand T-Shirts, which we should think about for Portland. Pick a size, pick a color, pick a design, give them a little $$, and viola! you have a T-Shirt (they even had small T-shirts!) If you know anyone in Portland who can bring a mobile, on demand printing unit, please drop me an email (geekygirldawn at the gmail).