AOC Chapter 10

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Suggested podcasts:

  • Craig Newmark (Craig’s List)
  • Zack Rosen (CivicSpaceLabs))


Chapter 10: The Impact of Web 2.0 on Communities

Collective intelligence, frequently harnessed in communities of people through user contribution, is the essence of web 2.0. Tim O'Reilly wrote that "Network effects from user contributions are the key to market dominance in the Web 2.0 era."[1] Successful online communities today are ones that have embraced user contributions and made it easy for people to contribute in ways that add value to the community. With more people, you can tap into the wisdom of the crowd that makes up your community. As participants we have come to expect a certain level of contribution on many sites through comments, reviews or other mechanisms. Web 2.0 technologies have changed the way that we participate in online communities. We are no longer limited to mailing lists and static web sites for collaboration. Many sites are now architected in a way that encourages participation based on these web 2.0 technologies.

Note: this chapter should build on many of the ideas that Tim introduced in the "What is Web 2.0" paper.

Architecture of Participation

"Web 2.0 companies set inclusive defaults for aggregating user data and building value as a side-effect of ordinary use of the application."[2] -Tim O'Reilly

Web 2.0 companies build their products with the idea that user contribution will improve the overall solution. As users add content to a web 2.0 site, they make the site even more valuable, and this effect increases as more and more users contribute to the community. The communities that make user contributions a side effect of normal participation in the site are the ones most closely living up to the idea of architecture of participation. Asking people to add content to your site as the primary activity without getting any real benefit out of doing so will make it more difficult to build a real community. This is in contrast to sites where users add content because they get some benefit from contributing while the side effect of this contribution is user generated content. These sites get better as people use them. A good example of this idea is Flickr. People upload their photos with tags and comments to Flickr as a way to easily share an experience with friends and family; however, the side effect of this participation is a large repository of pictures from around the world. This collection of photographs can also be used to make decisions on vacation destinations with hotels, site seeing, and other activities by viewing real pictures from real people along with their comments on the trip.

Communities and contribution form around discussion threads facilitated by feeds and services like Technorati, Feedster, and TechMeme that highlight the topics that others are talking about in addition to tracking links back to content. We can participate in any discussion by jumping in with comments and writing blog entries on our blogs about any current topic that link to other people discussing the topic. (may reference We the Media p 41-42). We may want to mention the Cult of the Amateur.

Wisdom of Crowds

With the emergence of web 2.0, online communities are beginning to morph. More user communities are emerging to create dynamic content via wikis, blogging, podcasts, tagging, etc. This builds on what open source communities have known about the wisdom of crowds and user / developer participation ("given enough eyeballs all bugs are shallow") with a shift from static, passive content to dynamic, user created, collective content. Crowd mentality also takes over to create interesting trends like the cameratoss and whatsinyourbag tags in Flickr that have inspired hundreds of people to toss their cameras and photograph everything in their bags to post them online.


References and Notes

  1. This quote comes from What is Web 2.0 by Tim O'Reilly page 2.
  2. This quote comes from What is Web 2.0 by Tim O'Reilly page 3.
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