Tag Archives: reputation

Online Community Research from Forum One

Forum One is one of the few research companies doing regular quality research on meaty topics in the online community space. I also really like Forum One’s model for releasing research reports. Around 6-9 months after each report is published, they open it up for the public to download.

Here are a few reports that you can download for free right now:

Bill Johnston just posted a little more information about their research agenda on the Online Community Report blog if you are interested in learning more about their other reports. It’s well worth your time to subscribe to his blog to get updates on the latest research and events.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Fast Wonder Podcast: Reputation in Communities

I just released the second Fast Wonder Community podcast today, Reputation Systems in Online Communities. In this episode, we talk about best practices and ideas for using reputation within online communities along with different types of reputation systems and using community reputation for rewards and hiring from within the community.

If you have any suggestions for people you would like to see interviewed on a future podcast, please let me know!

You can also subscribe to the Fast Wonder Community Podcast via RSS or iTunes.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

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:

Hot Topics in Communities: Reputation Systems

This is the first post in what I hope will be a short series of posts about hot topics in community management.

When I talk about reputation systems (or a reputation engine), I am referring to ways to award points or some other status measure to community members as a “reward” for participating. Jive’s Clearspace and Forums products have a reputation system built into the application awarding points for posting discussions, blogs, wiki documents, and correctly answering questions. The points accumulated by users show up on the users’ profiles and in “Top Members” boxes for specific communities throughout the site. I use this only as an example, since it is the reputation system that I have the most experience using.

The Good:

People like getting points and being recognized for their contributions within a community. It encourages participation and keeps people motivated to participate in the community. Community managers can use the reputations to highlight and reward key members with additional access (moderation access, etc.) or with other rewards like t-shirts.

The Bad:

People will figure out how your system works, and they will find creative ways to game it. Maybe they respond to posts with trivial answers or post discussions with content of little value solely to gain points. This is especially true in technical communities where people will game it just for the challenge. This leads many people to claim that reputation systems are worthless and should never be used.

The Practical:

I’m not an “all or nothing” kind of girl. I think that there is a middle ground where carefully configured reputation systems can be useful.

I suggest putting the responsibility on other community members to award points to their peers for quality posts. One way to accomplish this is by configuring your reputation system to put a heavy weight on correct / helpful answers with little or no points awarded for quantity of posts.

Do not be afraid to adjust the weights over time when you see abuses! You can start out with points awarded for starting discussions, but if you see users posting just to get points, reconfigure it and be clear with your community that you reconfigured it and why. Sometimes communities can be good at self-policing members with bad behavior.

Also make sure that people can easily scan the posts of other users. If I see a user with a bunch of points, I should be able to go to the profile and see whether they have good, quality answers or just meaningless quantity. Community members are smart, and they will be able to tell which community members are participating in meaningful ways as long as you give them the tools to do it.

I also advise against automating rewards based on points. I might be willing to do it for something small like a t-shirt, but not for anything meaningful like moderation permissions, commit rights in open source, or anything else of value.

This is just a start. I know that other community managers probably have horror stories or great ideas about how they have made reputation systems work well. I would love to hear them here in the comments. I am also interested in hearing from people who manage different types of communities to how their perspective differs from mine (I have mostly managed developer / open source communities).

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