thoughts, shares, links, and the like…

Clark Shirky

A users level of participation on the Internet can help understand how the community is structered or how to approach a multi-faceted audience.

On 28 Feb 2008 Clark Shirky delivered a speech on his book ‘Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations’ (42 minutes).

In the speech he distinguishes between four different modes of interaction through the internet:

– Sharing
– Conversation
– Collaboration
– Collective action

The modes increase in the level of engagement, and the end goal of interaction through the Internet can be seen as collective action.

Clay Shirky believes that 2008 will be a year of more intensified collective action. But what his example shows really well though, is how the Internet may be democratic in its structure, and more importantly how it is a tool for democratic processes.

An example would be microblogging on twitter.com, that helps demonstrations get organized on the fly in Egypt. Or Flash mobsa thing of fun in New York, but a very serious business in Belarus, where ice cream eating people were getting arrested by the secret police for nothing else than assembling and eating ice cream.

Ross Mayfield has another way of modeling the participation on the Internet. The following graph is Ross Mayfields model on the Power Law of Participation:

Power Law of Participation - Ross Mayfield

Ross Mayfield has these words to share on the graph (from Power Law of Participation ):

Digg is the archetype for low threshold participation. Simply Favorite something you find of interest, a one click action. You don’t even have to log in to contribute value, you have Permission to Participate.

Del.icio.us taps both personal and social incentives for participation through the low threshold activity of tagging. Remembering the URL is the hardest part, and you have to establish an identity in the system.

Commenting requires such identity for sake of spam these days and is an under-developed area.

Subscribing requires a commitement of sustained attention which greatly surpasses reading alone.

Sharing is the principal activity in these communities, but much of it occurs out of band (email still lives).

We Network not only to connect, but leverage the social network as a filter to fend off information overload.

Some of us Write, as in blog, and some of us even have conversations. But these are all activities that can remain peripheral to community.

To Refactor, Collaborate, Moderate and Lead requires a different level of engagement — which makes up the core of a community.


The different acts of a community can help understand how to approach an audience wether you want to heighten the level of engagement or fine-tune the communication. But more interesting Ross Mayfields model of a community helps explain the way an open source movement is structured.

As a study suggest, 80 % of the actual production is done by the core, which exists only of very few people in the community. Ross Mayfields model helps explain how the larger – and more inactive – part of the community are nonetheless very important as well, as they provide a collective intelligence to be used by the collaborative intelligence in the core of the community.


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