Comments are important

Interesting piece on the future of communities blog (Thanks Chris for pointing it out). It talks about what bloggers can do to incentivize more and better participation in communities.

“Given limited time and resources, where do you spend your time to increase participation?”

Here are some approaches:

1. Focus your efforts on the 1% and help them by making it easier to contribute. Compelling argument: Focus on the what you do best, is an approach that many have heard from several experts. Phil Wainewright suggests that you focus on those who are motivated to contribute. Its also easier to help people that want to help you. The real challenge is metrics that matter at times tend to be skewed by this group of enthusiastic participants who might sometimes intimidate the 9 or 90%.

2. Attempt to increase participation among the 9%: Compelling argument: Any incremental uptick will get you a more engaged audience. This is the marketing person’s dream come true. I remember hearing an entrepreneur pitching me his new idea 5 years ago on mobile phone accessories. There are going to be billion phones – even if I get 5% that’s a huge market. The trouble is our experience most of the 9% is of a different mindset and profile than your 1%. Hence getting them to participate is not materially different from the sample size.

3. Get rid of as many of the 90%. Compelling argument: They are not significantly enriching the community, but just parasites, so go forth and look for the next 1% types – or the “alphas” in your user community. The disadvantage of this model is that if your target addressable community is of a low number, the lurkers are really needed to justify the investment in the community.

4. Do a little of everything aka “peanut butter approach”: Compelling argument: Try several things at the same time and keep what works. Trouble is if you have the community being Sue’s night job and David’s “part time assignment” or Anil’s “opportunity to excel”, none of them really want to do everything. Also a “controlled experiment” is a lot harder to run in this case.

5. Do nothing but understand and accept, plan accordingly. Compelling argument: Before you scoff at this consider how little we know about these things just yet and letting “things take their course” may not be a bad option. But for the MBO-driven, metrics oriented, get it done culture we have this may clearly not be acceptable in some companies.

You may ask: What does this have to do with your comments or future of communities: Your comments are valued and I thank you for them!
I have a hunch that unless we get participation to be more encompassing and device good methods and means to make it better, the future — plurality of the masses will just be an empty promise.

Lack of quality participation is a real problem in most online communities. In the blogosphere especially, for the longest time, there was a mindset that if you got something good to say, you blog. But as more and more people are realizing that blogging is pretty hard and takes a lot of time commitment and energy, there is a renewed focus on figuring out, what can be done to get better participation from ad hoc commenters, in order to improve the quality of discussion. I think, the first step in the process is to really recognizing the importance of quality comments and ad-hoc participation.

Once we accept the importance of quality participation in blogs, we gotta look at how we can get more participation. A lot of the lack of participation really has to do with the lack of incentives for users that participate. But how can sites reward their participants…A lot of these rewards can be non-monitory like Amazon.com recognition of a top raters or viral spread of user generated content on YouTube, in contrast, commenters on blogs get nothing…Heck, most people can’t even be sure who the commenters are, so the ego boost angle is hard…This is a tough nut to crack but once we figure out an equitable and just mechanism for rewarding the participants we will be well on our way to solving this tough problem.

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One thought on “Comments are important

  1. Jitendra

    the only challenge I have found on rewarding participants is that you tend to get what you want to hear as opposed to what you should be hearing.

    I like your getting rich… blog post.

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