Notes: Tom Coates talks social software

Tom Coates, Yahoo (also worth listening to is the podcast of Tom’s talk from the London event)

  • Working for Yahoo in a rapid prototyping unit in London
  • How people can interact to make something that’s greater than the sum of its parts
  • MySpace– impressive site, eaten a whole generation of people, easy to take potshots at it but it’s pretty amazing…
  • Looking up too close at web statistics and at websites is a mistake, have to look at the big picture to see the utility of the whole thing
  • social software: latest in a long line of cooperative things, goes back to things like the alphabet and writing, justice and government, the invention of money.
  • (he was a classicist, studied things related to rome and greece)
  • What is it? It helps us do more together than we could apart.
  • stated another way: Using software to enhance our social and collaborate abilites through structured mediation
  • Characteristics, in a nutshell:
  1. When an individual conttributes, they get value
  2. these contributions should provide value to their peers as well
  3. the organization that hosts the service should derive value and be able to expose this back to the user
  • two models:
  • 1) Consensus: many contributions make one voice (example: wikipedia): Generates canonical or definitive representations in data

openstreetmap.org: response from the bubble community
musicbrainz: about getting new sources of data about music
clear honorable mission is a necessary thing

  • 2) Polyphony: many voices with emergent order (example: flickr): generating a whole lot of material and then manifesting the order in that data, make it comprehensible
    • works a lot better than the consensus model
  • – youtube
  • – delicious
  • – plazes
  • – hollywood stock exchange
  • – last.fm
  • – amazon.com
  • Infinite communities, supports a lot of communities not just one: that’s why it works better
  • MOTIVES: why do people contribute to these sites at all?

friend said there are only two motivations (ha):
– to get laid
– please jesus

  • Why do people contribute
  • (Peter Kollack, Economies of Online Collaboration)
  • anticipated reciprocity
  • reputation
  • ‘sense of efficacy’
  • identification with a group, community
  • Open Source Motives
  • “Success of Open Source”
  • Learning to code
  • Gaining reputation
  • Scratching an itch
  • Contributing to the commons
  • Sticking it to Microsoft
  • Who and in what context are they contributing…
  • You can share without really knowing it (example: search engine) (purely utilitarian motive)*
  • Saving for personal use, but you save in public (example: delicious) (personal utility motive)
  • Sharing with friends*
  • Sharing with community interests*
  • Self expression / showing off**
  • Altruism / good of the world**
  • (spectrum: more individual* —- more social/public**)
  • be wary of clumsy incentives like money, points & competition –> don’t reward the wrong thing, creates gameable and screwed up systems
  • (points: players who suit MUDs… Richard Bartle, four types of users you have to have to have a MUD. Diamond– achievement, Spades, Hearts:____ ; Clubs: interested in imposition on others, combat with others)
  • – people might move between these motivations during the life of their existence in a game
  • – if one of those types of users isn’t rewarded, then the thing comes unraveled –> need a variety of different types of users to create a culture that will last
  • – example: Digg requires two types of users, one who explores the site and diggs stuff and people who just read pages (and click on ads). If you reward one group but not the other, the sight would come apart.

Building something of collaborative value:
helping people feed back on their own data to build something of lasting value

Last.fm
————————–
Why hasn’t Apple purchased last.fm??

Flickr
————————–
250M photos
all with clear permissions for use
5M of those photos have been geocoded
a vast number of those photos have been tagged
knowledge of which photos are interesting

Open up social value
————————–
expose every axis of data you can
give people place to represent themselves
allow them to associate, connect and form relationships with one another
help them annotate, rate and comment
look for ways to expose this data back onto the site

APIs are cool

Be VERY careful of user expectations around how private or public their contribution is
— Facebook is an example of where someone failed to do this

Be wary of creating monocultures or echo chambers
— digg homepage, don’t make it so that only the same kind of person can use it

Remember: not all of you users ned to participate to generate social value

Business value
————————–
openstreetmap.org (could challenge navteq, mapquest, etc)
flickr.com (making money not by owning data, by 3rd party services)

  • Attention and advertising
  • Premium accounts
  • Building services around the data
  • Using user-generated annotations and contributions to improve your other services

Rise of aggregate data?
————————–

This is an idea, I need your feedback…

  • proprietary data own a space
  • they license their data selectively
  • increasingly fluid and commoditized services emerge with flat rate-card data provisions
  • until finally data services generated by distributed commmunities emerge and take over?

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