OCS 2007 – Presidential Campaigns and Online Communities

Description: Every four years the presidential campaigns get way out ahead of everyone else in the use of interactive technologies. What is their experience to date?

Introductory comments: Michael Slaby / Obama for America

Link: Obama social network http://my.barackobama.com 

It helps that the candidate has a lot of youth appeal.  Hundreds of thousands of friends on myspace and facebook. They've been rolling out profiles on just about every social network they could think of.

The point isn't just an effort to pander, it's to reach people where they are. Not everyone will find barackobama.com.  The goal is to give people tools to communicate and share. 

The open question is how they translate online interest into real world activity including, but not limited to voting?

The level of engagement to create a my. profile on barack's site is different than the level of engagement to add him as a friend on myspace.  People that went to the my. site would canvas a neighborhood for the candidate. So the ask in return has to be commensurate with the customer who started the engagement.

You need to speak to people in a context they understand and engage on their level in their homes.

80 thousand active profiles on my.

Big challenge is continuing to make sure the active people have new things to do so that you keep them engaged beyond the initial conversation.

In November of 2008 the site could fall apart so they can experiment.

Question: What is the ratio of staff resources that you put towards external stuff compared to internal?

It's currently a balanced spend.  The people at My. are more active offline so even though the other networks might be bigger the ones at my. are more engaged.

"Just talking to people isn't enough, they want everyone talking to everyone else about the content they push"

Question: How do you bridge the online to the offline specifically?

It's hard to guess the value of 80k myspace friends. Metrics for offline events rely on self identification.  Online advertising is more complete than on-> offline motivation metrics.

Question: How much of this has proven?

Not much. There is no proof that all the myspace friends will vote. The thinking is that they "hope".

Question: What experiment are you most interested in?

Text messaging.

Introductory comments: Stuart Trevelyan / NGP Software

Online has changed money, message, and mechanics.

25% of contributions come from online.

Candidates carry more empowering and participatory messages. In the 90's the goal was message control and you only said ten words. Now you have to change how you communicate depending on the mechanism and audience.

The mechanics have changed looking at things like the "youtube debate"

Some candidates are allowing users to create their on commercial via jumpcut.

There is a huge increase in low dollar contributors.  The long tail is donating money and that changes things.

You can more easily have a scaled engagement hierarchy of engagement with the online tools that are available today.

How do we use participatory models in a way that can be branded and "message managed"?

"Micro-targeting" research is also very popular by running slices against the profiles to send targeted messages, content, and activities at those targets. 

More Discussion

  • Have also done a lot of e-mail campaigns as well.  So what they do is choose a sub-section of the full campaign database. by 10am see the response rate then blast out that reply to the rest of the addresses.
  • Metrics are huge. Organizers want to find and mine all sorts of data. They give local campaign organizers access to data like "who in dayton has donated over 500 dollars and attended one event over the last year" so that the local organizers can mobilize the constituents.

Question: Why do all the campaign web sites look the same? The features are also the same.

There actually aren't a lot of unique companies that do the sites. There is a race to differentiate in features between the web sites. 

There are also a lot of masters to serve so something that's edgy and great might not have the broadest appeal. 

Comment: In the Dean campaign things would break often enough it didn't feel real. Today it feels like the candidates have their online acts together.

Campaigns are doing better at the qualifications of online users and getting a feedback loop from the users about the tools. This way they can figure out the "quality people"  to micro-target activities to.

Question: Pitfalls?

A NYT reporter will write stories about how one campaign bashes another when it might just be a community member on one of the fan or support sites. Comments on the blog have had their ups and downs.  But being willing to put these things out there has been a good risk.

Question: Every campaign has a splash page where they want to gather the e-mail address. Never seen another site or company take that approach.

Part of it is the compressed timeline. There is a lot less time to get users active and build up relationships than there might be with other sites.

Question: What is the strategy among 50+ online participants?

A lot of candidates have embraced ??? which isn't a huge network.  There isn't as much of a match between the demographic and the willingness to collaborate online. 

They try and think about what someone's native form of participation is.  Someone who is 50 and is on a social network might be thinking more like a 20 year old and need that sort of engagement.

Question: What has worked best for online fundraising?

E-mail is still the biggest driver of actual fundraising. There is also a lot of offline fundraising that pushes people online to donate.  But e-mail is still the primary driver.

Final Comments

One of the hardest thing is asking for the right amount. Need to set the right goals… it's micro-targeting again.

OCS 2007 Breakout – Mobile Communities

Question: What does a mobile community look like? What is the toolset and what are the enablers?

  • Small bursts of activity and information seem to be working best.  Lots of information doesn't translate well.
  • 60% of people with a handset have access to the mobile Internet. 30% of those people use it.
  • Text messaging, games, and cameras are key. "There is a phone 2.0 happening."
  • "Its about me and my presence information that can be updated and read on a mobile device. "
  • There is lots of money going into the location based services.
  • "Not many community opportunities in the mobile space."
  • Multi-user gaming is happening via mobile spaces.  In the next year you'll start seeing some more interesting stuff happening with geopresense.

Question: Where do they intersect with or extend existing communities?

Question: What is the ROI of mobile communities?

  • Tremendous ecommerce opportunities.
  • Twitter and facebook can't monitize it.
  • Status updates make facebook sticky. You can monitize the "passive intimacy".
  • The idea is that it's "I am the news".
  • Commerce and fundraising are extremely restrictive so it would be hard to leverage mobile devices.
  • Text messages from grandchildren and photo-sharing from children.

Question: What if it never had a connection to the web? What is the difference?

  • The mobility is the difference. You don't take your laptop with you. But your phone goes everywhere.
  • The input constraints screen size, keyboard, etc.
  • Some people have mobile phones that don't have a connection elsewhere.
  • Nokia is supposed to call them "Multimedia Computers"
  • Who is to say that screens will be a constraint in 10 years?
  • Designing for each and every browser is a nightmare problem.
  • 128×128 up to 640×480 devices. If you offer a service you have to deal with that.
  • Could a wifi network displace the carriers?
  • If you are in a space where more than 50% of the people are updating presence and twittering.
  • There is a huge potential for apps to leverage the strong ties contained in the address book. What about the weak ties?
  • What are "mobile only" communities? Mobile home users that never connect for real? Dodgeball?
  • There is nothing that is better than the PC experience. It's obvious that there are possibilities, but there is no glue or service that exists soley in the mobile space.
  • "The thing that's coming next from mobile isn't really here. "
  • Location based services could be huge, but it's hard to get the data. Until you get location there is less available than a PC.
  • e911 doesn't know where you really are. But your phone is always broadcasting your location. Any phone that doesn't have geo-location won't be turned on from verizon. The FBI, however, knows where the phone is.

Question: Mobile community and real world geographic communities?

Question: How do you work with or around device constraints? What is a minimal acceptable experience and what would be ideal. What do the curves for technology?

  • Operators are a constraint. They don't open up the devices. Apple is the most recent to lock down. 
  • When will a phone know where I am? The carriers want to charge 25 cents to let your location out to you or other applications. 

Question: Do political campaigns leverage the mobile space?

Some space in "action alert" mobiles to get people to call up their congressmen. They are also used for event organizations like "get out and vote" or campaign rallies. 

Question: What apps or services or sites to people in this room use?

  • Facebook status
  • google maps
  • Google reader
  • Twitter people
  • Flicker to upload flicker
  • Frucall – Sign up to use cell phone to get pricing about objects. Just enter the product number. Local comparison shopping and reviews.
  • Witsets is an RSS aggregator.
  • Use yahoo IM via a blackberry/java application
  • Yahoo go

Question: Is there a service that you can use to manage massive group texting?

There is a free service where people can sign up to make a group where they all share messages. There are some web sites.

Example: http://www.zemble.com/ and www.textmob.com are free services.

Group text message admins.

Question: What would be a geolocation community that you could imagine?

  • There is real interest in disaster response to find people.
  • Broadcasting your dating preferences and matching you to people near you.
  • Geo-games ala pac-manhatten.

OCS 2007 Breakout – Social Media

Question: Should you break out into other communities like myspace and facebook to get the word out on your community? Is it worth the time?

Question: Should you have to maintain separate views and keep your relationships, reputation, and identities straight?

Question: Is there a central verifiable key for children?

Question: What is the definition and difference between social media and community? 

Online community is a gathering point. Social media is extended loose tie networks?

Facebook has become a key distribution mechanism.  How can thought leaders make a case for a facebook strategy?

How have technical communities used social media tools to do their work together? 

Comment: 5k per year per member is too high for a community.

Comment: It's too hard to train companies and consumers to use tools.

Community Overlap: We create lots of video content. We want to allow it to spread, but also manage the brand where people reuse the content.

Question: Best practices in the corporate world for migrating community tools to the enterprise?

Question: How do you measure the effectiveness of leveraging facebook and myspace?

"Not sure how you would do anything without a facebook strategy right now."

"Don't think OMG I'm not on facebook these days"

If your audience isn't on facebook would you want to go there?

Shouldn't you have a digital distribution strategy across all platforms. I would argue you don't need a facebook strategy, but you need a digital distribution strategy.

Social media implies "social" meaning that your consumers make the media. Another perspective is that social media is a way for me to distribute the information.

Long running community people on The Well that have to pay money and use real identity.  A few years ago people started a flickr area. Then people go back to the well to talk about that they don't want the public "Comment here" on flickr.  There are different relationships from flickr to the well. Smaller feels more connected in the communities.  Public versus private changes people's behavior.

Maybe people view public for shallow relationships and the well for their real friendships. 

Tracking Influencer Relationships

Attach metrics around influencers that participate outside of the 1st party sites.  You need to go where your community influencers are and engage with them there.  It takes manual labor and there are also paid tools that would do this sort of influencer audit. 

Lexis-nexis compares to google alerts for tacking this stuff.

The excel knowledge sharing
Here is a great video MSFT found from a user that teaches people how to create a ghant chart in excel.

What do you do for the guy who made this excel video?

The best thing you can do is say thank you. The worst thing you can do is say "do more" then they will stop doing it.   The currency is the appreciation of attitude.  Pay it forward is the right metaphor for this conference. 

"I answer questions because someone answered me one day"

Once you do visualization of data on community threads you can figure out who the good, bad, and neutral people are.

Anyone could use Netscan to see example visualizations of the data.

Point Systems are Useful because they create some form of competition, but not good if you can convert it to rewards.

Maybe the best point systems can be used to create goals for people that they can achieve instead of the Top 100 type of lists.  Match people with the ones around you.

Respect is the strongest currency you have. They way you demonstrate it is to link to that content. The way to attack the problem is to win emotionally.

"I would have been stunned to find an official Microsoft page that linked to a video on excel"

On facebook groups & Letting your brand extend into other sites.

"haven't gotten the staff time or presence to maintain a real facebook identity for your effort. "

There is no way to merge groups and there is no reason to combine groups.

Facebook groups are like a fan sites that are easy to create.

You don't get to hear about it since it happens without you anyway. You can't shoot them down, but you may not be that excited.

What about copyright violations?

If someone does a less than appropriate mash-up of your videos/cartoons/brand.  Then you have to make a judgement call.

You could spend all your time on lawsuits trying to trace the brand. You have to be nimble by looking at how large the talent pools are in these communities and shift that energy to good things.  You have to "skate where the puck is going".  You need to extend your brand into these other sites.

ACLU has an official facebook cause.  Also hosted a second life event.  In second life there has been an informal ACLU group that's been lobbying the ACLU to be recognized as a member group.  There is a lack of readiness in the non-profit space to think about the implications of having this sort of virtual presence.

The facebook app gives you a notification anytime someone attributes a cause to your name and you have a chance to de-list them.  This was great to help protect your cause and how it's being promoted.

There are lots of people out there saying things to raise money for the ACLU.  Some have said "impeach bush" which the ACLU hasn't said.  How do you coral/harness this energy online?

Comcast has had to do a takedown on sites that deface the brand. They haven't seen many neutral sites. It's either strong energy in one direction or another.

Should groups like Motley Fool actively encourage things like Flickr groups?  Maybe groups should set it up and monitor the pull into your sites from these resources.

22 Techniques for Getting a deal on dell. Became a news story since they asked for it to be taken down. Dell owned up and did "22 ways we messed up replying to this" blog post.

You may need to set up a google alert on your brand to find new content across the Internet and have it delivered to you.

Doing an Ecosystem Audit

One consulting project now and the first couple of weeks was an ecosystem audit for other information around the topic.  So they looked for signs of life first. Suggested that the company augment the user content by throwing in links to official information from those to pull the conversation back on message.


Question: Can you shape user activity? Do you try?  What sort of success do you have?

Question: Are there any tools people have employed in achieving persistent identity?

Flock browser is interesting in this area because you do have a lot of your networks there… what&#39
;s going on in all these places.

Question: Is this a problem?

Yes, users are asking for it, but it depends on the pivot in the community. Some customers might not want to be identified as the same person across sites.

Question: What is the thought on OpenID?

Suggesting we need digital identity a long time ago. 

The general public is starting to accept social networks and we may be reaching the boiling point where users want it.

The problem is that there are millions of ID systems that would have to say they agree.

The users managing the log-in and pages that get them all of their information. Is there a tool for managing your personalities between sites.

Users might not want is because they use all different networks for different purposes.

1. Linked in for blasting resumes.

2. Myspace for dating.

3. Facebook for their strong tie friends.

Seems to me that the identity is the most prized part of the community. It's what you use to share ads, interface with your users, etc.

It's about people needing to say "I own my data, give it back to me, and let me share with who and where I want if I carry my information across sites"

There are no standards on a global level for privacy that companies could go for.

OCS 2007 – A Report from Researchers

10:00 – 11:00 Session 4 / What Works? A Report from the Front Edge of Community Research
Description: What does current research tell us about effective strategies in the design and management of online Communities?

Introductory comments: Paul Resnick / University of Michigan

"How do you get participants in online communities to participate more and better?"

www.communitylab.org – Handbook of Social Design

If people can change their names then what is the effect on the community?

  • You can't trust new people
  • People can get away with more

People on Digg game the system partially because of the design choices they made in the system. 

One thing you need to keep a system clean is to have a barier to entry.

Obvious Idea: Have activities anyone can do, but only let the best people at those activities do more important activities.

Getting People to Participate More

Tested Theory: If you assign members of a community a goal then it works. The basic principals of goal setting work except that the more challenging the goal the better it tends to work online… as long as it's doable. The goal also needs to be specific. The optimal goal was at the 90th percentile.. that becomes the most motivating. 

One version of the experiment was done with groups. The theory was that people would participate less if they were in a group.  But the reality is that they participated more knowing they were members of an anonymous group.

More contributions from people that were told they had rated rare movies.

If you tell the low performers how they performed to the mediate they will move up. 

Think about how you can create groups that people can identify with within your community.

Welcoming Newcomers

Natural intuition is that users like to be welcomed.  Users who's first post got a reply were 12% more likely to return.  The tone of the reply didn't matter. Just being noticed made a difference.

Change in a community also improves productivity.

Introductory comments: Neel Sundaresan / eBay Research Labs

Ebay has three communities and the shape of each is very different.

Ebay, Skype, and Paypal

Realized that people, ala stumbleupon, is that if they came in for one reason, but saw something else then they would stick around and buy the something else. 

The surprise factor of random product links actually results in more sales. It has the potential to beat the recommendation engines.

There is a huge difference between what people ask for and what they really want. Like people that search for Jessica Simpson on ebay, but they are looking for shoes.

The community is better at pointing out things that their tools can't.

Community Computing Effort is their big research area now. 

Thinking about there community problems.

Acquisition – Easiest – Marketing to get them there.

Activation – Medium- To get them on the site and perform thier first action.

Activity – Hardest – How do you keep people on the site and being active.

Observation: Stickyness in a lot of categories is based on reselling. People buy from folks with medium reputation and sell to rookies for profit on e-bay.


  • Does a real name mean anything to people's participation?
    • Real names put people complete online reputation at stake, but profiles only effect how you are viewed on that site.

OCS 2007 – On Crowdsourcing

Introduction from Peter Cohen / Amazon.com.

Four years ago turned mechanical turk into a product.

Story about the ancient machine that people thought could play chess when the reality was that there was a chessmaster hidden inside.

Belief that there is power in online communities if you can only bring the people together for a coherent goal if your application is designed this way. 

The internet brings the cost of crowdsourcing down to 0.

"We have data oriented problems that can be solved best by people."

Data needs constant updating and fixing.  At amazon the question was "How do we get people to solve the data update problem?"

Who is Using Mechanical Turk for what today?

Bring tasks together with workers. When tasks get completed they get paid. Last month there were people in 146 countries. 

  • Amazon uses it to de-duplicate items in the catalog.
  • Search oriented companies use the system to process to judge relevance on their search engine… cheap research on the effectiveness of pattern matching.
  • Municipalities using it to get people locally to find lamp posts that need replacing.
  • Transcription services and translation companies.
  • Pricegrabber uses it for catalog building.
  • Daylife uses it to determine tone of an article… is it angry, positive, etc.
  • Quote attribution verification
  • Shoplocal is using it to generate user reviews.

Who are the workers?

Most of the workers are in the US… only recently opened payment in non-US dollars.

Most active workers are people using it to make money either full time or jobs. They aren't the techno elite. 

Characteristic of a Good Task

  • Instructions are clear
  • people can be successful
  • things that are of an ilk
  • pattern matching.
  • Fast with some fun

Story of the missing pilot

  • Have people online look at satalite data companies for a plane.
  • From a couple of blog postings people came
  • Many thousands of people came very quickly for a real world task.

Discussion Notes & Questions

There was a wired article about the Jim Grey search.

  • Could it be a better way to find missing kids than on milk boxes?  "I'd much rather do that than play minesweeper all night. "
  • One group used it to solve captcha's online. 🙂
  • What is the typical cost for information?
    • There is a very wide range. The audio transcription takes longer so they pay a lot more than penny apiece.
  • Tasks can be broken up..
    • Get someone to do the initial transcription and then find other people that want to do the verification work for cheap.
  • Has there been a problem with Child Labor?
    • Not yet, you have to be 18 or over.
  • Surprised to learn that most of the works are in the US. Do you have a projection for the rest of the world?
    • Want to enable a truly wordwide marketplaces.  The desire is to create a democratic marketplace on the web for human intelligence and intellectual capitol.
  • How does community relate to mechanical turk?
    • Build as a mechanism to show the power of aggregate from smaller tasks and this launched without a community in mind.
    • "Turkernation" is around but the growth will be to build the community around the interactions.
    • Building more niche communities within companies or within groups online?
    • Community could help build trust amongst the workers.
  • Is reputation part of this now?
    • Anonymity is built in, but you can enforce a success rate.
    • "love the idea of unmoderated community"
  • Where do you see this going in the next year? Where do you want to see it going?
    • How you get tasks done with the turk is interesting. Human imagination ends at "How can I get a few people behind me".  Most people don't think "How can millions of people do a task?" How can you break things up more? What is the modern equal of the great pyramid problem?
  • How do people import large tasks?
    • Spreadsheets through the API's that are available?
  • Why Community with mechanical turk?
    • It will make it more apealing to a broader set of people and it will also improve the
    • Idea: Why not leverage community to augment reputation and create groups of people that like to do certain tasks to improve their efficiency?
    • Idea: Community could also make the task stickier.
  • Why have 1st party community?
    • Not have two separate user profiles for people. Have one identity.
  • Is there a volunteer side of the mechanical turk?
    • Only a few examples, but nothing really done yet.
    • No firm plans for "mechanical turk for good"
  • What issues have you seen with employment and workforce laws?
    • Turk is simply a venue and not the payer for these things. They just parralel services and physical goods.



Ebay – Neel Sundaresan – Ebay Research


Used to hire PHDs for categorization. At one point they bought shopping.com who had leveraged experts to train a machine and then let the machine categorize the items. Realized they needed to seperate the machine from the humans.

How do you take machines and humans to leverage them together to create better results.  There are two problems.

1. Category Relevance Problem – Titles are used for keywords in the limited space there is in the title. If you include "battery" then everyone searching for other brand batteries find your battery. Same problem with iPod and iPod accessories.  How do you get one or the other?

Buyers and sellers behave a certain way and you can leverage that to improve the search relevance. Most popular sort order is by ending time, then by price, then by best match.

Best match leverages this new relevance engine.

2.  Catalog Problem – Ebay doesn't have catalogs.  How do you tag a grilled cheese sandwich with the face of jesus? The long tail makes it impossible to centrally catalog.

The answer becomes how you enable people to create their own pivots on the catalogs. They also leverage the reputation system to guess how good a catalog might be.

"How do you slide in cataloging into what users are already doing?"

1.3 billion hours spent playing tetris. If you could harness that then what could you do?

All the images in google today could be indexed in weeks via this time spent. 

Online Community Summit 2007 – Intro Questions

At the start of the conference everyone asks the question they'd like to walk away with a better answer for. Here is a sampling of the questions asked.

  • How is social media forcing changes to corporations present themselves online?
  • How do folksonomies change how people find and organize information?
  • How do you stand out from other social networks?
  • How do you balance corporate needs with that of the community?
  • Meta communities – How do things that grow organically get recognized in the larger community so others can learn.
  • How can you build communities for smaller groups in a limited geographic region? Can you do that or leach onto bigger communities?
  • How do you grow a new community?
  • How can you use communities to impact social and government policy?
  • How do you balance the needs of a professional services firm with the needs of the employees of the firm. Use for employees to find meaningful communities.
  • Online community versus online? What's the difference for most people?
  • Want to collect guidelines and best practices for online community managers.
  • How do you grow the size of communities that lead people to action?
  • What is the motivation for online super users?
  • How can communities mobilize people in the real world?
  • How does sharing data with communities change their behavior over time?
  • Best practices for building online communities?
  • How can a social benefit organization connection with people online that could benefit their causes?
  • Crowdsourcing from online communities.
  • As you build multiple communities when do you build new versus expanding existing?
  • How are people using mobile handsets to extend or interact with online communities?
  • What about building online communities in china or other emerging markets?
  • Trying to measure the perceived value in different features online.
  • How do you grow the participation and involvement over time so that the community grows the communities?
  • How can rich social media get embedded into existing communities?
  • At what point do comments turn into a discussion?
  • How can social anthropology methods get applied to online communities?
  • How can research and science information get leveraged in social tools?
  • Once novelty wears off what happens in a community?
  • How can face 2 face and online communities feed each other?
  • How do you make it easy for people in organizations to push why they are and what they want to get out of the community?
  • How can < 500 people create and grow a community online?
  • How do you measure the effectiveness of online collaboration?
  • How can social science tackle design problems?
  • How can you create user evangelists for the community that bring in more people?
  • How can you have an online community that talks about something controversial, but keep it public?
  • Super user knowledge++?
  • Collect stories from community people about their communities that help illustrate best practices.
  • Mobile communities++?
  • Mobile communities++?
  • Intersection between traditional communities and linked in social network?
  • Personal identity systems for use in online communities?
  • Where are we going to be in five years?
  • Off the beaten path ways to measure community health?
  • How can online communities improve an organization?
  • How can people port reputation between communities across the web?
  • Moderation, safety, and health of online communities?
  • Reputation management?
  • Interested in communities that have existed for a long time and they've become insular?

For attendees this has also been posted to the wiki here:


Onto the meat of the show now. Enjoy!