Looking At Social Media Ecologies

By SamuelRose, published at 10 May 2007 - 8:12pm, last updated 10 years 40 weeks ago.

Link: Matt McAlister » Challenging why (and how) people tag things.

Matt McAlister writes about Bradley Horowitz’s influencer pyramid:

"...[it] is a great visualization of how tagging can add value for the rest of
us. At the top is the person who makes extra effort to evaluate,
filter, categorize and socialize things. This is the person everyone
who wants something socialized on the Internet needs to talk to.

In my mind, tags are hugely valuable. They expose important meta
data at an abstraction level that was previously hidden in the Internet
user interface. They are connective tissue allowing data sources to
talk to each other in meaningful ways. And human-edited tags can
balance the inaccuracies of machine automation that happens in any
indexing exercise.

What’s missing from the tagging world is automatic learning. People
shouldn’t have to find the ’save’ button, click it, fill in tags, and
hit save. My browser history says a lot about what interests me. The
time I spend on a page says a lot about what I value. Any social
activities I initiate or receive can inform a machine what the world
around me thinks about.

The influencer is clearly willing to work harder to ensure
information flows through the Internet in sensible ways, but everyone
else will need something more personal to happen as a result of tagging
to warrant the amount of effort to do it.

The introduction of tagging into the Internet user interface was a
key step in the evolution of the medium, but the process of adding and
collecting tag information needs to evolve before the effects of the
tags will reach their true potential."

Bradley Horowitz suggests that in Social Media:

  • 1% of people "create"
  • 10% of people "synthesize", or work with what is there, and add to it
  • 100% of people "consume". 90% of the "lurkers" benefit. But the creators are also consumers-Link

This actually seems to confirm Aaron Swartz's findings.   Swartz wondered about whether Jimbo Wales claim was true that "over half the edits are done by less one percent of the contributors".

When you put it all together, the story become clear: an outsider
makes one edit to add a chunk of information, then insiders make
several edits tweaking and reformatting it. In addition, insiders rack
up thousands of edits doing things like changing the name of a category
across the entire site -- the kind of thing only insiders deeply care
about. As a result, insiders account for the vast majority of the
edits. But it's the outsiders who provide nearly all of the content.

And when you think about it, this makes perfect sense.
Writing an encyclopedia is hard. To do anywhere near a decent job, you
have to know a great deal of information about an incredibly wide
variety of subjects. Writing so much text is difficult, but doing all
the background research seems impossible.

On the other hand, everyone has a bunch of obscure things that,
for one reason or another, they've come to know well. So they share
them, clicking the edit link and adding a paragraph or two to
Wikipedia. At the same time, a small number of people have become
particularly involved in Wikipedia itself, learning its policies and
special syntax, and spending their time tweaking the contributions of
everybody else.-Link

In this case, the "creator" is the "outsider". The "synthesizers" are the "insiders", the wikipedia regulars.

The point here is that Social Media efforts can possibly be made more effective by looking at the dynamics through this "pyramid" frame, and thinking about how to improve areas where there are short comings, such as in Wikipedia, where the "outsider/creators" have little voice in the management of the project, yet contribute the most to it.

Look at who are the "creators", who are the "synthesizers", and who are the "consumers". And, think about how to improve conditions for all of them.