My customers come to me to interact with other customers. Yes they do!

The Dummies’ Guide to Social Interaction Design (SxD)

A few months ago, Adrian Chan of Gravity 7 explain Social Interaction Design in simple terms.  Here it is again. But even simpler.  Gen X and Baby Boomers like to begin with an overview. Once we have got the outline, we can drill down to the finer technical details.  This is for view.

Hopefully, Adrian will correct what I have got wrong.  When you have an outline, head over to Adrian for details.

1.  Who is the user?

Basic Idea: Don’t think about your product or your website, your mission or your purpose: simply describe your user.

Basic Technique: It’s tough to write a persona. You want to say what the user looks like, where they’ve come from, and most importantly, what they are looking for when the arrive with you. Think socially. Who were they hoping to talk to and why?

Advanced Techniques: Each user arrives with skills, social competencies and understandings about the way things will be done (variously called scripts and frames). What are people able to do easily when they first arrive? What do they expect?

We want to be predictable and make it easy for them to find their place on our territory

More Stuff You’ll Add After You Have Answered The Other Questions: Personas for other users: rich descriptions of various users in they many shapes and forms.

2.Who are the other users?

Basic Idea: Your visitor didn’t arrive to be lonely. Or to talk to you! Who else will they meet here? And what will they do together? And what about the reverse -who are they trying to get away from?

Basic Techniques: More personas, concentrating on how different everyone is not how much the same they are. Forget averages and typical. Think diversity and difference.

Advanced Techniques: Now describe how the users interact with each other. What do they say? How do they respond to each other? How do they encourage each other? How do they learn from each other? What scenarios are taken for granted by the locals that are not at all obvious to an outsider? When we are locals describing our own space, it is hard to describe what we take for granted. Ask what annoys people? What makes them contemptuous of other people? That’s a sure-fire indication of a norm being broken.

More Stuff You’ll Add After You Have Answered The Last Question: What is the difference between a gathering of users that is successful and one that is a flop? What is the feeling that people have when they say a gathering is fabulous?

3.   What social outcomes happen because the users are interacting with each other?

Basic Idea: Our actions come together to create something over and above our own wishes and desires, intentions and actions.

Basic Technique: What happens that cannot happen by one person alone? For example, we can sit at home and talk to ourselves about Coca-cola. That’s interesting. It probably prompts us to put Coca-cola on the shopping list. But so too is it interesting when one user talks to another user about Coca-cola. The conversation about a brand, and any downstream effects, becomes possible because of the interaction. If you get stuck, list all the interactions that people fear and turn these on their head.

Advanced Techniques: What are memes, tropes, fashions, fads, myths, and beliefs that seems to prevail among your users when they are together? How do they pick up on these norms? How quickly do the norms change and how do they change?

More Stuff That You Will Add After You Have Answered The Last Question: How many interactions happen before this new sense emerges? How can we prompt people to ask questions and to listen to each other? How can we prompt them to reflect their outside world in our world? How can we encourage an attention to positive processes? How can we learn to interpret the less positive interactions in the positive sense of seasons?

How do we add value to businesses, communities and organizations?

~ Trust, belonging & confidence are the foundation of action & initiative

4.  Beginning with Question 3, we have some understanding of the social outcomes that emerge from interaction. These are phenomena like belonging, trust and confidence. Hard-headed business men and women might scoff at these but the scoffing, the negativity, demonstrates the point. There is something they are looking for in the interaction must happen before the abandon their skepticism and react with trust and enthusiasm. What is it the business people need so badly before they will trust other people? When we can put our finger on that bruise, we may have identified the essence of our business.

~ We love our differences and riff them like mad

5. Question 2. We have some understanding of how people interact with each other in our community, in related communities, and in whichever context is our specialty. We learn fast about interaction because we pay attention to interaction. We are never ‘foreigners’ for long and even if we are marked out as different by our physical characteristics, accent or professional qualifications, we understand how people expect to behave and how they expect others to behave. We mix and match those expectations to help them ‘mod’ and ‘riff’ and have fun with each other.

~ We love our guests and find it easy to be kind

6. Question 1. We understand the diversity of people who arrive and the range of their social competence. What do they find easy to do? How can we help them find their feet in a gathering? How can we help them settle down, yet meet more people, and expand their horizons. How quickly do our wall flowers and the rambling roses become a magical bouquet?

Ready now for more details? Head over to Adrian Chan at Gravity 7. He’s the expert!

If you care enough, you can build it, and they will come

I am amazed by what I wrote months and months ago.  You really should keep a blog and write and write.  At the time, your posts may be rough, but they will clarify and when you reread them months late, you will be surprised by your insights.

It seems that some months ago, I jotted down some of my thoughts on using Twitter in classrooms.  In the course of the post, I jotted down three critical features of developing flourishing communities like thriving classrooms.

#1 Conversations

Talk to someone.  Work with someone.  If there is no one else, feel the ground under your feet.  Listen to the birds.  Pay attention!  As we pay attention to the world, we ourselves come alive and the world pays attention to us.

Managers & designers:  Start the conversation. Provide tools and opportunities for people to talk to each other. Watch the range of conversations and help people join in.  Also watch the content of conversations and help people extend their conversations – to more people in and outside the organization.

#2 Community

Be positive. I don’t mean gushy and airy-fairy.  I mean talk to the facts, including your own negative emotions, but don’t exclude other stories.  We should own our negative experience but not think they are the whole story.  Keep a gratitude diary because if you don’t, with the best will in the world, when shit-happens, and it does, you might find you cannot see the good with the bad.

Managers & designers: Set up “positive” procedures – which are procedures that allow us to recognize negative events, which ensure that we never disrespect anyone by ignoring how events impact on them, yet which acknowledge what is good and true and that we want to do more of.  Abandoning the negative art of “gap management” takes thought and disciplined work.  Falling out of love with our own tempers takes practice and like-minded friends.  But unless and until we can achieve positivity : negativity ratios of 5:1 when things are going badly, we will not predictably sustain communities where we will flourish.  The key to flourishing communities begins with us and our loyalty to our members.

#3  Meta-cognition (talking about)

As people settle in, watch out for discussion of the “rules of engagement” and the purpose of our existence.  Everyone will have an idea and they need to be heard. We need to listen to others to allow them to hear themselves and to help them relax sufficiently to hear others.  We need to be patient because this takes time and some people aren’t good at it.  Once advocacy is balanced with curiosity, the group might begin to thrive as a group.  Blogging, of course, as a form of talking-about – of putting our experiences into words and making sense of them.

Managers & designers: Help the group move through the five stages of group formation (forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning) and move as fast or as slow as they do extending the conversations appropriately but listening to the relevant concerns that people have at each stage though, quite rightly, these concerns are very different from yours.  People move on faster when they are allowed to complete each stage to their satisfaction.

Leading takes work. No doubt about that!  It is not as glamorous as it looks.

If you have read this far, you’ll have noticed that I am making little distinction between classrooms, businesses and for that matter, my own life.  I don’t.  I think the three points

  • talk to others
  • keep faith with others (even when it taxes your patience)
  • and put into words what we are thinking and experience

these three simple points are guides to building any community that you care enough to build.


 

Olney, United Kingdom on the internet

Olney Snow Feb 2 2009 Flower Shop pikniked
Image by joolney via Flickr

Have you built a community site before?

I’m working on a project at the moment building a community site for the town of Olney, in the UK, where I live. I’m building it on Ning, which is a read-write platform, like Facebook.

This platform, like so many others, is basically free to use and can also be make completely private so you can use it like an intranet.

There are three interdependent parts to this project

  • People
  • Site
  • Internet presence

Olney’s intriguing art gallery, IceTwice, championed the site from the outset and have contributed hugely to its vibrancy.  On the day of our Pancake Race, they illustrated the proper use of a social network beautifully by offering a discount on recipe books should a customer bring in a receipt for a pancake.

The site itself can be time consuming to maintain.  There are members to greet.  Warnings that Olney may be flooded by the River Ouse to put up and take down.  And the rich format of Ning to be explored.

And we need to build up our internet presence.  Yesterday, I was disconcerted to see that chatter about our site, Olney100, had displaced the site from the number one position when we search for Olney100.  Obviously something I don’t quite understand about SEO and prompting an important decision. Stick with the Olney100 or try to capture the keyword Olney?

So in a month, I’ve suddenly become pretty efficient about Flickr where I am joolney and in partner YouTube where I use the account name joolneyuk. I’ve linked up a Delicious account for Olney100 to the site.  I’ve learned a fair bit of CSS and HTML.  I read up Traffic Estimations and Analyse Keywords with aplomb.

And I’ve met a lot of people who’ve rapidly made the site their own integrating it with their blogs, their Twitter accounts, fundraising, and inevitably Facebook.

Will the community site help Olney to flourish?

The ultimate question though, is whether the site helps Olney to flourish and prosper.  We should be able to do more, faster, and more profitably.

Reviews please!

Would love any comments.  You can read the site and if you want to leave a comment, you can login into the guest account using the email olney100 at gmail dot com with password olney100!

Love to see you there.

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Doldrums to OK to fantastic classrooms

Positive communities are important in learning

I’ve taught in colleges and universities for 25 years.  One thing I am reasonably certain about teaching is that a good class has a strong sense of community.  It is common sense that a good social atmosphere will be more attractive than a cold, totally clinical atmosphere.  There is also a clutch of professional ideas explaining the impact of group norms, collective efficacy, belonging, system boundaries, and so on.

Why, though, do we so much prefer a 500 person auditorium to a pod cast?

What I’ve not been able to put my finger on, until today, is a tight model explaining why communities are so important – why for example we prefer to listen to a lecture in an anonymous 500 person auditorium than on a podcast.

Today my Google Alert flashed up this article on Twittering in Education.  A US College Professor set up a class channel on Twitter.  Twittering lead to more discussion between students and ultimately to writing a book “online” with completely voluntary help from students as far afield as China.

The post also describes the mechanism.

Meta-cognition & meaning

Conversations lead to community (And v.v.  We know it is important to seed a social media channel with conversations.)  The conversations lead to ‘meta-cognition’ – talking about the course.  And talking about the course helps us understand why and how the course and the material fits into our lives.  Greater clarity and shared understandings leads to more community, and more community to better conversations.

Do we get phase states?

Though the article does not say, I suspect that at some stage, the energy moving between conversations, community and meta-cognition (talking about) reaches a tipping point and we see greater levels of learning and action.  So we move from the struggling, to the satisfactory, to the spectacular.

I rather suspect that this is a fractal model, such as we see with Happiness.  The three characteristics of the class – conversations, community and ‘talking about’ – interplay.  When this interplay is healthy, it moves through the broad swathe of emotional space.  When we have done well, we celebrate, for example, ultimately ending with someone suggesting we get back to work.  When things do not go well, we grieve, ultimately ending with someone suggesting it is time to start living again.

My thoughts on this glittering sunny day in autumn in rural England are to ask:

  • are these the three critical variables: conversations, community, and meta-cognition?
  • do they interplay with each other in a self-correcting manner going from positive to negative and back again as the need dictates?
  • is it right to use a phase state model where we look for the tipping points which take this energy system from the doldrums to OK and then to fantastic?
  • do the three variables co-affect each other through a set of Lorenz equations, and if not, how do they inter-relate?
  • how can we explore these variables in a field study?

Enough for now.  The sun calls.  I would love to hear from anyone interested in building communities with or without social media like Twitter.

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Dam it! The potential of social media

Kariba Dam wall by acidwashtofu in Flickr

Hat-tip for the picture of Kariba Dam wall: acidwashtofu on Flickr

Metrics, marriages & dams

We had a good session on metrics at Bucks08 Social Media Camp at the weekend, and no sooner than we had got home, Dan Thornton, a community marketing manager with Bauer, and Paul Imre, a web specialist from High Wycombe, had translated our discussions into models.

Dan used the parallel of a marriage, to ask how well our social media functions. Paul asked about how much we should invest in social media. He followed up Toby Moores of Sleepy Dog, who had commented that social media was essential infrastructure, much as electricity in our office – essential and not debatable.

Paul asks

  • Does social media increase our collective potential to act?
  • Can we estimate in advance how much we will increase in our capacity to act collectively?
  • And, consequently, can we judge how much to invest in social media?

He used the metaphor of a dam to capture these ideas.

Collective potential and the amplification factor

As luck would have it, there was a lull in the American elections this week, and several articles on how the Barack Obama campaign used social media.

Look at this profile. One of the factors prompting Barack Obama to run for President was that supporters, not his official campaign, his supporters set up a campaign in My Space with 160K members.

Obama expects ultimately to raise USD1bn online. As online donations tend to be around 10 dollars a pop, there is, by my calculations, an amplification factor of 650.

I like this example because it provides a working example for Paul’s metaphor of a dam. The My Space campaign captures and concentrated the energy of 160K supporters. That reservoir helped provide the energy or impetus for a ‘real-life’ action – Obama throws his hat into the ring.

Obama’s campaign is using social media formally. He has a media strategy and staff. Certainly, his use of social media has helped his campaign. It is nice to go to You Tube and pick up his latest speech when I want to.

But I doubt that social media has had a large impact on his campaign. His campaign is still led by ideas, policy, rallies, phone calls, etc. etc. What social media has allowed, are additional forms of communication and additional forms of donation. If it is easy to donate USD10 or 5 pounds, you are more likely to do it.

The amplification effect is reciprocal. The social media concentrates loyalty. Loyalty affects the leader. The leader amplifies loyalty. And we see the effect in the social media.

When it comes to investment, these figures illustrate the size of things. If I suspect I can swell my audience from 160K to 100 million, with the corresponding increase in revenue (4 times I believe the last record), then investing in the infrastructure is worth it. It would be nice to know the cents spent on social media per vote. I suspect the money spent on social media is trivial compared to the money spent on conventional advertising, air travel, etc.

A quiver full of questions

I like any idea with heuristic value and the dam metaphor prompts several questions and rules-of-thumb.

1 Community first

We don’t locate a dam anywhere. We need a catchment area where rain falls, dribbles into rivers which flow into a wider river which flows onwards to the sea where we can no longer use it for drinking, etc.

In social media, we need to understand our community and where they hang out in the social media – Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on.

2. We add a new marker for our community

We don’t build the dam wall anywhere. We must capture the water. With a dam, we build the wall in a narrow place with a natural basin behind it to store the water.

The same principle applies in social media. in LinkedIn, asking a question temporarily captures interest. I understand Second Life works around events. We need to understand the topography of the medium to know how to cocoon our community.

3. Engineer in context

We don’t build the dam wall anyhow. The wall must be an effective piece of engineering and it must work in situ.

Most writing about social media is about the engineering. Less is written about engineering in context. We need to know about the context too.

4 Be very, very responsive

We need to maintain the wall. I know that Kariba, the second highest dam in the wall, is constantly maintained by divers who swim with giant crocodiles (trolls?)

We know that we must be very responsive and very honest in our dealings with online communities. We are likely to learn more.

5 Why are we getting together online?

And we need a reason for the dam. We build dam walls to provide us with hydroelectric power, water and irrigation.

We need to know why we are building the ‘container’ of interest in the media space. What is it that many of us can do together that we cannot do alone? Do we understand the power of community in the context of our business? I would begin by asking business clients about their community and how they relate to it.

6. Where does our business stop and where does our community begin?

We need to understand that we are changing the patterns of interaction. With real dams, water upstream and downstream is owned and used. When we build a dam we have to negotiate water rights far afield and it is very likely that our interaction shifts a level from the individual to the collective. We might even shift from the private to the public domain.

I ‘hear’ this as being the biggest mental shift for business people. In ‘dirt-space’, usually a strong community leader emerges who talks about the possibilities of things like dams and mobilizes people to imagine the possibilities.

7 Lest we forget

Some people lose out altogether. When we build a dam, we flood peoples land.

Who will lose out and what do we intend to do about it?

8 Side-effects

Dams also change the pattern of use. If you search for Kariba on Flickr, most pictures are about recreation and tourism. There are very few pictures about hydroelectric power or the people who live alongside the lake.

Every action has a reaction, and a heap of side effects!

9 What is the multiplier effect?

And ultimately, can we imagine the impact of our dam? When we understand electricity, we can imagine the benefit of a national grid – or can we? Massive amounts of reliable electricity transform the potential of the economy. We aren’t talking about more of the same. We are talking about infrastructure that liberates us from drudgery, from limiting our work to daylight hours, from winding up our USD100 laptop, from lugging paraffin to power the fridge for our medicines. If your business is based upon that drudgery, you may not be happy to see electricity on tap, or on switch, rather.

This appears to be the second place where we stumble. I would look for the opportunity precisely at the point we say “I’m alright Jack”.

And is I suspect that ultimately, we are going to have to walk-the-talk. Like Obama, we are going to have to throw our hat into the ring and prove the point. And to do that takes confidence in yourself, your community and a critical mass of believers (or hopefuls – sorry!).

Next social media unconference

If you are interested in social media, the next unconference is in London on July 5.

Sign up social media style on the wiki. It’s free. And present if you would like to.

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