SxSW 2008: Social Design Strategies

by Luke Wroblewski March 9, 2008

The Social Design Strategies panel at SxSW 2008 discussed design issues within social applications and their solutions.

How do you encourage good behavior on social sites (contributing to activity that makes the site work)?

  • Tie behavior to identity: if people can do anything, they may begin to do bad things. Examples: Amazon’s real names & eBay’s feedback mechanism
  • Give recognition: let people know when they are doing well. Top digg users list was removed from the site. It made sense early on to build up game-like interest but then became too much like a game for a small number of people on the list. This was ultimately a determent to the rest of the community.
  • Show causation: tell people what the outcome of their actions will be. Example: Netflix ratings.
  • Leverage reciprocity: when someone provides value to you, you feel obligated to give value back. Example: LinkedIn enables reciprocal effect by making recommendations public.

Privacy & Community

  • Privacy allows you to join a community in a trusted way.
  • There is a spectrum between public and private –the closer you get to the middle of this spectrum, the more you need to be explicit about which activities are public and which are private.
  • Shouting on digg is named intentionally to let people know it is public. But many people still used this feature to send messages that they thought were private.
  • Tracking site activity publicly can be used to encourage good behavior but could also invade user’s privacy.
  • Consolidating all Web activity in one place is likely to become a hot topic in the coming months. We need controls for people to manage this.
  • Give control to users about public/private but don’t use preferences as crutch. It is much harder to remove preferences once you have added them.

Controlling spam

  • Spam can be quite sophisticated within social sites: all fake content, some fake content, fake identity, in small or large volumes.
  • Magnolia tried many ways to fight spam.
  • Using no-follow standard (way to point out links to Google not to use for search ranking) doesn’t seem to have an effect.
  • Recaptcha had no effect because people are paying low wage employees to break them.
  • What worked: accept there is no 100% win. Set up a form of curators called “gardeners” -trusted members that add or remove people from a white list. By default everyone that joins the site is added to the gray list. This is an altruistic program that helps keep magnolia clean of spam.