Many sites use a combination of blogging, commenting, voting, tagging, social networking to capture user-generated content and user interest in niche markets/themes. The mix of communication to the community, and communication among and between members (directly to one another or indirectly, “in front of” an audience) drives interest and participation. I’ve been looking at various sites with an interest in how the mix of user contributions, news, blogging, voting, commenting etc achieve the site’s goals. How do sites capture user contributions such that the end result is greater than the sum of the parts? How do sites use votes, tagging, commenting, linking and so on to produce an aggregate view of community member interests? Change.org struck me as a job well done, and in contrast to sites that organize micro-funding, or that just engage users in talking about change, Change.org adds actions and asks members to make commitments. It’s got a bit of 43Thingsand a bit of Yelp.com. Members identify their change interests, and find others they agree with. They compliment each other by voting in agreement with other members’ commitments to change. Those compliments become complementary; like-minded members create momentum for change. But there’s a risk to organizing the site around affirmations. Read on…
- Change.org has done a good job at offering this combination, and might be considered a reference standard among change-oriented sites
- Change.org also asks members to submit an action, and to relate it to a change
- Changes on change.org increase or decrease in value based on their tags velocity (number of users plus recency)
- Yet change.org still asks members to describe what they do
- And the connections that change.org makes among actions members are engaged in, and changes supported by members, are based on member votes on acts as well as member commitments to changes.
- In other words, if members express the same interest in doing something, either in an action, or by committing to a change, they can then easily find each other
- We might assume that in time, it will be possible to find people in one’s neighborhood who are into recycling, planting trees in urban areas, and riding bikes
- It seems that the thrust of change.org is to capture like-mindedness on the basis of shared interests
- What is traded among members is common interests
- What is captured by the site are opinions, perspectives, and to the extent that we can trust the integrity of digg-like votes, momentum
- The risk in this kind of social engine is of course that it intentionally blurs the difference between interest in a change and interest in other members
- Members will commit to changes and will vote on actions for social reasons—to be doing what others are doing, to be visible within the site, and popular within the community, etc.
- If members distinguish themselves on the basis of their change commitment and actions, their proximate motivation (the one that gets us to click) might in fact betray their principles and big picture interests
- Again, it pays to be nice online, and it pays to affirm online
Insofar as this site is user-centric, that is, based on the interests of members and not on, say, fundable overseas development projects, it takes a very local approach. I’ll be interested to see how it does.