September 21, 2006

Re: social networks, ownership and consistency

Filed under: Uncategorized — Anthony Park @ 12:54 pm

Tim Heuer posted some interesting comments about social networks, ownership and consistency. Tim’s wife currently runs several Yahoo! groups for the benefit of their neighborhood. The question being discussed is whether or not the groups should be moderated. On a personal note, I think some of the things his family is doing with creating a “local” social network are very interesting. My wife and I are looking to see if anything like this exists in our neighborhood. If not, we will probably start doing similar things.

I’m by no means an expert on social networks, but I thought that I could categorize the types of ownership that I have observed into four groups:

Positive Democracy

– Positive democracy is the idea that the consumers of the content will vote for “good” content, and the system is designed to present “good” content to other consumers as a priority. Some sites that come to mind immediately are digg, reddit, youtube, etc. This design tends to work well with large amounts of content, in which the general population would normally be interested in the “best” of that content.

Negative Democracy

– Negative democracy is the idea that the consumers of the content will reject “bad” content. If enough “bad” votes are given for a piece of content, that content may be removed or filtered for other consumers. There are alot of websites that implement this system, but some of the ones that come to mind are myspace, hotornot, and craigslist. The general idea behind this model is that consumers are interested in most of the content, but that some of the content is offensive or distasteful to a large number of the consumers. Hotornot, for example, lets consumers flag pictures as “inappropriate”. If too many “inappropriate” votes are cast, the image will be removed.

Perhaps the most interesting thing behind these democratic models is that the nature of the content and usage has the ability to change over time. Shifts like this might mean that the maintainer of the content misunderstood their target market. Take hotornot for example… The obvious content that hotornot is trying to prevent is pornography. But, what if the primary users of hotornot enjoy pornography and use the democratic system against the website? What if the majority classifies clean pictures as porn and porn pictures as clean? The maintainer has the option to rebrand the website as “goodpornornot” and enjoy their newly-found market. Perhaps there are two clusters of interested consumers? Ones that want to vote on porn, and ones that want to vote on clean pictures? If this is the case, the content could be divided to better serve these two cluster markets.


– Moderation is the idea that the maintainer of the content knows what is best for their consumers, and they moderate the content accordingly. This makes alot of sense when the publishing entity wants to maintain some kind of brand image. A perfect example of this is Every file submission to is thoroughly reviewed for accuracy, scanned for viruses, etc. They probably employ hundreds of people just to perform this analysis. This is because it is in their “best interest” to do so, and they have some control of their brand image.


– This is a category that should not be ignored :) . This means that the maintainers of the content are intentionally ignoring the content and not attempting to classify any of it. An example of this model that comes to mind is the bittorrent protocol. Designed to “distribute large amounts of data widely”, the authors may not have intended for the protocol to be used for distibution of copyrighted material. Although there are things that could probably be done to prevent this from happening, the protocol is intentionally ignorant to classifications like these. This is similar to the democratic models in that the largest cluster of users will probably prevail.

So, back to the question at hand… Which of these models should a social network designed for a local community implement? My vote is for the Negative Democracy model. I would bet that if this model were implemented, Tim’s wife would find that most people simply ignore the $12 costumes and the Tonka trucks.

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