The Idea Dude

CONNECTING THE DOTS ONE AT A TIME

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The culture of participation

There's an article in B2day about how MySpace beat Friendster. I agree with most of what was said there i.e. kids want to build their site their way and it doesn't have to have best content or aesthetically neat...it needs to reflect who they are, which is a collection of their friends, their music, their tastes etc. However, I do think it is more than a communications network. Participation requires two essential ingredients to be sticky, collaboration and contribution. Both of these things create great communities.

Collaboration means interacting with other like-minded individuals who communicate and share something in common. There has to be a context, be it a band, a hobby, an industry or a common interest. It could even be the place where you meet to arrange your golf foursome. It is a common place of habit. It requires other people, it is the interpersonal investment that keeps you coming back.

Contribution means investing time, effort and contributing something tangible to the site. It could be as simple as your profile, your post in a forum or an article. But the more you contribute, the more emotional anchors you put down that make you return there again and again. It's like dogs that dig up bones periodically just to see if they are still there.

I wrote a while ago about whether people really wanted choice. Erick Schonfeld echoes the same sentiment in his B2day blog. He talks about the downside of too much choice. People believe they need choice but ultimately too much choice leads to paralysis and uncertainty. What people really want is a credible source. That's why most info-ads and tv-ads use celebrities to promote their product. That's also why brand works, if I make a bad decision, hopefully I won't stand out in the crowd.

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