Thursday, January 21, 2010

Convergence culture

I've started reading Henry Jenkins' Convergence Culture and even though I'm still just on the introduction the story that he's telling really resonates with me. The convergence, as I understand it, is that a story is its own self and is not beholden to a delivery medium. The story will reveal itself to you in the most appropriate manner to have the biggest impact. Thus, the delivery medium/s of a story converge to become a single ecosystem in which the story unravels. Today, more than ever, this convergence is available to the story-teller.

I'll get back to you with more stuff that I learn from Mr.Jenkins, but for now I'll leave you with some fun convergence you might be familiar with...

... Amazon reviews!

I love comedy, I love it even more when it is set in a context that you just wouldn't expect it. The lampooning of products on Amazon is some of the funniest stuff I've read on teh Interwebs. And what's more, Amazon, with its 'helpfulness' ratings for reviews, is complicit in helping these reviews be just as popular, if not more so, than the products themselves.

Crap Amazon products and comedy, there's convergence for you!

Here's some of the classics, please comment with more if there are!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What's the use of social ratings?

Welcome to 2010! Bad Religion may have been a couple of billion people off predicting 10bn in 2010, but we'll let that one slide.

One of the other things that is upon us in 2010 is the long tail of social media ratings and measurements. My previous post started a list of ways online communities and websites are now managing a measuring reputation and community involvement. Now what I am finding is that, like many ideas on the Web, the long tail of obscure and sometimes half-baked ideas is stretching the usefulness and relevance of community input variables.

I mention this because today Jeremiah Owyang pointed towards the KickApps mood widget (right) on the NBC New York news site. You can now rate how an article on the news site makes you feel. Based on a pre-defined set of moods you can help define how the city of New York is 'feeling'.

This made me recall the Yelp review widget where you can say whether a restaurant review was useful, funny or cool (below). These 'mood' or semantic ratings seem a little odd to me. There are two reasons for this feeling. One, as a reader or community member I do not see value being created by defining articles by semantic terms unrelated for the most part to the actual article. In Yelp's case, would I choose to go to a restaurant because a reviewer the reviewed the restaurant is considered funny? Or will I post more restaurant reviews because people think my reviews are cool? I dunno.

As for the moods on NBC New York, do I get value out of the fact that readers are thrilled about an article on Marijuana and bored about an article on politics? As a rating it does not make one thing more valuable than another because the variables are nominal. Possibly I might want to search for 'thrilling' articles, I probably wouldn't search 'boring' articles.

Which brings me to point two, browse-ability and search-ability. Presumably these ratings/variables have been created to be useful for website/community users. But if you cannot filter any of the variables then how can they be useful? A good rating or social measure in a community should both provide value to the content creator (people think this is great!) and value to the rater (that article is great! I'll rate it 5 stars so more people can see it). Update: Thanks to reader JZ, they've pointed me to the NBC Mood Board where you can filter based on mood.

Both Yelp and NBC/KickApps have gone half way with their semantic ratings, and there is nothing wrong choosing nominal variables to try to define a mood or a feeling, but thats only the half of it. The other half is the usefulness half, ask, "how will other people find this useful?"

Ratings, reputations, rewards, and now feelings, are all ways communities are trying to promote the value community members receive from the community, but for these things to catch on the members need positive and tangible results from their interactions that can further deepen their connection with the community.