Building Reputation Systems Online: Live-blogging from SF Online Community MeetUp

[cross-posted on TechSoup blog]

Guest blogger, Lauren Friedman (@lauren_hannah on Twitter) is a Community Manager, writer, blogger and photographer.

Randy Farmer photoThis month’s Online Community MeetUp featured facilitator, Bill Johnston, Online Community Manager for Dell and longtime online community expert, Randy Farmer, speaking about online reputation systems.

Online Reputations and the Misconceptions to Avoid: With the emergence of social media and the increase in brand participation on such mediums, reputation is just as (if not more) important than ever. While reputation is absolutely important to maintain and should be a focus when determining social media plans, there are several misconceptions of what a “reputation” really is.

1. It’s the People, Dummy: Reputation surrounds us. In everything we do, everything we see, every action we take, we’re surrounded by reputations. And our biggest question: Can we trust them? So, what is reputation? According to Randall Farmer, “Reputation is information used to make a value judgment about an object or a person.” It’s not just about “what is reputation;” we want to put that definition in a structure that we can apply to more than one situation. The structure: A source makes a claim about a topic — making a value judgment about an object or a person, and that value judgment is transferred and influences decisions made by others. Reputation isn’t just about people, it’s any information used to make a value judgment. Determining reputation is not just up to us. We can’t make all of these judgments by ourselves. We have to trust others, trust what they’re saying and how they feel about something in order to assist our decision-making. We just don’t have the time to make verifications of everything every day.

2. One Reputation to Rule Them All: For many users, social media priority number one is to be the best and to build the best reputation possible. There is no universal reputation. So how do you build yours? The ways we instinctually think of objects or brands are actually not quite as reliable on social media. Recommendations are proving to be risky, and FICO scores are not necessarily related to productivity. It takes time, patience, and perseverance to create a positive reputation. It’s more complex than “good guy, bad guy.” It’s even more complex than giving the Internet a “credit score.” All reputation is in context, the narrower the better — each “score” is applicable to only one context.

3. All I Need is Five Stars: Possibly the most common misconception on reputation and social media is that all you need is “likes.” Everything on the Internet has a “like/dislike” or a “thumbs up/thumbs down” creating ample opportunities to allow users to build your reputation for you. While the majority of interactions form a J-curve (starts low and slowly builds up forming a graph that looks like the letter “J”), the most beneficial graph actually looks like the letter “W”. Why? Because it’s the most consistent. When the community evaluates its own content, you can consistently track the negative feedback, add up the positive, and develop a steady rating. We should be making these inferences and only asking the community for what we really need — do we really need a thumbs down button or can you infer that information elsewhere? If no one is saying no, don’t ask them to. By providing the users with the ability to express what kinds of content they’d like to see more or less of, you’re inconspicuously creating incentive for the community to interact and help you build your reputation. And it all goes back to the fact that you can’t make all these inferences on your own.

4. Competition is Always Good: With the new and emerging social media and gaming industries, point systems and leader boards have taken precedence over many other tactics to garner participation. Why? Because competition drives a lot of behavior. In general, we trust high scores and we don’t trust low scores. Therefore, the objective is (obviously) to do whatever you can to raise your score. There are different levels of competition ranging from caring, to collaborative, to cordial, to competitive, to combative. The last thing you want are leader boards and competition between them. Competition is fine, if the context calls for it — World of Warcraft? Competition. But don’t assume there’s competition when there’s none. When Karma is involved, user reputation, it escalates the fastest. These different levels determine the general user experience and affect your overall reputation. But you’re not the only one with a reputation here.

5. “Negative Karma Will Kill Out the Bad Guys”: Assigning a public score to a user that says how good they are in some context is one way to manage and build up your reputation. By giving the users responsibility, you’re increasing interactions and the opportunity to only keep good content on your site. However, this provides some real challenges. There are two sides of this spectrum: we have the “good guys” who do positive things and the “bad guys” who do negative things. And it’s best to keep the tracking of these “good guys” and “bad guys” incognito. Avoid public karma. If you really want to know who your bad guys are, keep them private.

Yahoo! Answers Case Study User content moderation model: People would report a content item, and Yahoo! would hide the answers if enough people said it was bad. The simplest form of this model is a “three strikes, you’re out” mentality. If three users flag content as negative, it would be hidden. Of course, it became more complex than that as Yahoo! wanted the content to be removed within an hour of its publication. It ultimately evolved into a detailed, super-user, system. Yahoo! would track the people who accurately reported the most negative content and they would become “good reporters.” If a “good reporter” flagged content, it could potentially be removed immediately. This content moderation system feeds off the “Broken WIndows Hypothesis” — the community (or community managers” clean up the space, and the trolls leave. And as these trolls leave, your reputation increases.

You can find out more in Randy’s book: Building Web Reputation Systems and hear about upcoming online community speakers at the MeetUp group.

Written by: penguin kuhn

NEWS! Weekly update for 8/9/10 from the Nonprofit Commons

Weekly Update from the Nonprofit Commons

Events this week:
8:30AM Friday meeting at the Plush Nonprofit Commons Amphitheatre will give you a direct teleport to our main gathering area!
We will be doing special tutorials during the month of August during our Friday morning meetings, so come this week for tips and tools on using Flickr for your organization.

There will be no Grant Station webinar in Second Life this week as previously noted in our weekly update – however you can register and attend this webinar through web access.

Last week at the NPC:
EmmaGNP Seaside from Great Nonprofits shared an opportunity to be featured as part of the Science and Technology Campaign. Eligible nonprofits should visit the website and ask others to vote for their organizations.
Penguin Kuhn from TechSoupGlobal shared changes to the Nonprofit Commons blog and website. The blog is now the front page to our site and tenants are welcome to apply to blog with NPC.
We discussed plans for the new Community Gateway being installed on Aloft Nonprofit Commons.
Layal and Evonne (Ninlil Xentiltat and In Kenzo) shared the Stories of Impact production plan for short machinima videos to feature our tenants, events and partners at NPC. Virtual Helping Hands and the National Service Inclusion Project are our first featured partners and you can look for more videos up this week at and
Glitteractica Cookie will be away for the next two weeks but Kali, InK, Ninlil and Penguin will be around to assist any tenants by emailing

August 12th at 6PM with Builders Brewery:
BEGINNING BUILDING – Learning the basics, lesson 1 with instructor DeAnn Dufaux Builders Brewery – Dockside (Class 1 of 5) – This is the first class of the series. During this series, we’ll go over some of the building tools that, even if you have built something, perhaps you haven’t thought to use or don’t know what they’re for. Instructions will be for both viewer v.1.23 and v. 2.0.

In case you missed:
The Online Community Managers Meetup is hosted monthly at TechSoup Global in San Francisco and at the Plush Nonprofit Commons Amphitheatre on the fourth wednesday of the month and the next live event will take place September 22nd. From last week’s event here are two quick links—
The first link to Ben Rigby’s presentation on SlideShare:
The second link is to the follow-up discussion with The Extraordinaries, prompted by our in-person discussion:

Thank you for your contributions to the Nonprofit Commons! For questions contact for fastest response.

Written by: InKenzo

Extra, Extra!: Ben Rigby talks micro-volunteering and community

Written by guest blogger, MeiMei Fox, @meimeifox and cross-posted to TechSoup blog.




Ben Rigby of the Extraordinaries spoke at the SF Online Community MeetUp and got the conversation rolling on micro-volunteering and building mobile communities.

Update: Ben Rigby’s presentation on SlideShare.

The Opportunity: Why don’t people volunteer?

They don’t have time. Or so we say. Yet we play hundreds of hours of solitaire. We watch 1 billion YouTube videos and spend 270 million hours on Facebook every day. With that time, we could build 40 Empire State Buildings every year. So we have spare time. We have instant internet access thanks to smart phones, and even in the developing world people have mobile phones. And surveys show that we want to help – so there is a desire.

The Solution: Micro-volunteering!

You can volunteer in minute moments, like when you’re standing in line at the post office- you don’t need to go anywhere. You can do it from your mobile phone- you don’t even need to be on a computer or have internet access. Obama raised $500 million, $80 at a time through crowdsourcing micro-donations. The Extraordinaries is doing the same thing for volunteering.

Here are a few examples:

Google image labeler is a technology where you see an image, and you write tags describing what you see. That meta-data makes the image accessible to search engines. So the Extraordinaries built an app whereby, as a volunteer, you could scroll through images and tag them for non-profits like the Smithsonian, which has archives of millions of photos that are untagged and therefore unsearchable.

One day after the Jan 12 earthquake in Haiti, the Extraordinaries turned this technology into a way to find missing persons. They brought images in from news agencies, then put together a survey asking their volunteers to identify what they saw: “Can you see a person in this photo? Age? Gender? Buildings nearby?” People would add meta-data to the photos, and the Extraordinaries created a search engine that allowed you to narrow down images from the news based on this info. You could type in, for example “young, female, pink shirt” and it would narrow down thousands of images to 50 photos. Then they pulled the missing persons feed from Google’s database, and had volunteers sift through one-by-one: Do you see the missing person in the photo on the right in this photo on the left? They found 24 missing persons in this way!

Another example of an Extraordinaries app was when they asked micro-volunteers to find defibrillators, take a picture, and tag them with mapping software. This generated a map of defibrillators everywhere, which is vital because emergency responders only have ten minutes to get to a defibrillator before a person dies from a heart attach.

The Extraordinaries is a for-profit company, in that it wants to generate enough revenue to be self-sustaining. Its original funding came from angel investors, and grants they won from Netsquared and the Knight Foundation. They tried selling their micro-volunteering services to non-profits, but it didn’t work—the non-profits all said no. So now the Extraordinaries offer their services to non-profits free of charge. But they’re selling their services to corporations. 92% of Fortune 500 companies have volunteering efforts, and The Extraordinaries allows them to add an online component to their existing programs.

Unlike VolunteerMatch or Idealist, the Extraodrinaries operates on a networked model. The key is many people doing many, small bits of work that add up to task completion.

The main problem the Extraordinaires is having at the moment is attrition. People register—the iPhone app has over 40,000 downloads—but then they get bored after four days and stop volunteering. So the company’s top priority is to figure out how to build community in order to keep people engaged. How can the Extraordinaries make micro-volunteering as exciting and fun as Farmville?

They know that people don’t like interacting in a vacuum. At first, people had no way of knowing who else was volunteering or, even more importantly, of sharing what they were accomplishing. So now the Extraordinaries has started to add community features, such as being able to Like a piece of advice that someone gives to a non-profit, or being able to share how many hours you’ve volunteered with your friends/team members. But they’re still looking for solutions to this issue – so please share your ideas with!

Written by: penguin kuhn