Great Community Design Talk by Christina Wodtke

Update: Christina has a follow-up to this piece in which she suggests that Facebook is a lot like the next Google.

On Tuesday I had the good fortune to attend an excellent presentation on community design by Christina Wodtke at the DocTrain East Conference in Lowell, MA. Unfortunately, it was the only session I attended (lots of sessions looked good, like Steve Mulder’s talk on Personas), as I got sick Tuesday night and wasn’t able to return.

Here’s the embedded slide deck from Slideshare, but I would recommend downloading the Powerpoint slides as some of the text isn’t legible in the Flash conversion.

Christina’s talk was excellent, and I took a lot of notes. Here are the highlights that really stood out to me. (although, I must say that there was a lot more than I’ve written here)

Update: Christina has a follow-up to this piece in which she suggests that Facebook is a lot like the next Google.

On Tuesday I had the good fortune to attend an excellent presentation on community design by Christina Wodtke at the DocTrain East Conference in Lowell, MA. Unfortunately, it was the only session I attended (lots of sessions looked good, like Steve Mulder’s talk on Personas), as I got sick Tuesday night and wasn’t able to return.

Here’s the embedded slide deck from Slideshare, but I would recommend downloading the Powerpoint slides as some of the text isn’t legible in the Flash conversion.

Christina’s talk was excellent, and I took a lot of notes. Here are the highlights that really stood out to me. (although, I must say that there was a lot more than I’ve written here)

Different views of self: We expose different views of self. Our home self, our work self, and each of the services we use provides a different view into our lives, different relationships, different interests. Our Facebook profile, for example, shows a different window into our social network than our LinkedIn profile does.

Interesting question: if all of our online profiles were added together, would it be representative of the *real* us?

(this is a very pertinent question given the recent claims that Facebook is trying to map *the* social graph…it’s not clear at all that anybody but a single individual knows the extent of their own social network. In my own case, I have many more parts to my life than exists on Facebook. None of my high school friends are there, a couple college friends, mostly professional colleagues. My wife promises she will never join Facebook. It will never consist of my entire social network)

Facebook mapping the social graph is similar to Google mapping the web of documents.

Social software question: “How do you add the human element into software?”

Lots of the talk was leveraging the major axes of social software, starting with Stewart Butterfield’s building blocks. These include Identity, Presence, Relationships, Conversations, and Groups. Gene Smith then took these a step further and created a honeycomb diagram out of them, a useful starting point to introduce the topics. Also includes Reputation and Sharing.

“You no longer own your message” – referring to the idea that your customers/audience will find ways to talk about you even if you’re not listening – GetSatisfaction

Big idea: “by designing the environment thoughtfully, you can get the behavior you want” follows Lewin’s equation: Behavior = a function of personality and environment. (you can’t change people, but you can change the environment they’re in)

As an aside, lots of social psychology research, with Milgram’s Obedience Study being the most famous case, suggests that the notion of “roles” is powerful. When we are placed in roles (environments play a big part of roles) we tend to act the role. We can pretend easily…it’s easy to give up our personal opinions and act the role. To this end, Milgram started his research in part because he wanted to know the answer to the question: “Could it be that (Adolph) Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices?”.

Strategy: “Strategy is knowing what not to do” – Michael Porter

This is probably the most important quote from the entire talk. Instead of trying to build the next MySpace or graft the features of YouTube into a non-video site, it’s important to realize how people’s motivations are affected by the actual interface they’re using. So knowing what not to do, where not to spend a lot of energy, is crucial to success. Christina’s talk was a great overview of the issues involved, and a lot of what not to do.

Published: October 19th, 2007

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