The role of gratitude in creating communities

Recently, I listened to an interesting podcast interview about gratitude. Something that really resonated with me in terms of community-building was a discussion of how gratitude creates a sense of belonging – a key element in communities. The interviewee mentioned the classic example of a Buddhist giving thanks for an item of food and realising how many different people went into bringing that item from the field to the kitchen table. In a global, interconnected world none of us can say we’re truly independent – we belong to a complex network of many other people.

But aside from making you realise that you didn’t achieve or obtain a certain thing entirely on your own and that you’re part of a wider ecosystem, I think there are two other points relevant to community-building:

  1. Gratitude as a concept for me had gotten somewhat lost in the word “sharing” which perhaps gets overused when talking about online exchanges. Yet if we unpack the action of healthy sharing within a community, it’s both the offering of a skill, piece of information etc and the giving of thanks for it. And if you’re thanked for your offering, you’re more likely to feel appreciated and you’ll probably contribute again in the future. Gratitude also signals that your behaviour was appropriate for the community – which helps to clarify belonging.
  2. The exchange between the donor and the recipient builds a specific, two-way interaction between two community members. i.e. giving thanks makes the interaction bi-directional, and therefore stronger than if it had been a uni-directional gift-giving. You feel like you belong because you have an actual reciprocated tie to another person.

How does this translate into practical actions to take? It could be that you always acknowledge contributions to your community/group – even if that’s just a thank you for leaving a comment. It could be publicly thanking by name members who have contributed content of value in the past week. Or it could be specifically “rewarding” members who contribute more than most with badges, a Q&A with them about their role, or some other way of deliberately increasing their social capital.

What role(s) does gratitude play in the communities that you belong to?

Bigger bytes of multi-media

I put together a weekly round-up of interesting links called URLs of wisdom, but over the past few months, I’ve also enjoyed some podcasts too. Here are some of my favourites:

Startup podcast

Startup was recommended to me by a friend who’s running a startup of his own. The first season of this podcast series traces Alex Blumberg’s path from deciding to set up his own podcast business (yes, meta!) to finding his business partner Matt Lieber, through to naming the business and creating the first of a new set of shows.

I found it extremely compelling listening, bingeing on the entire first season in a matter of days. Part of the appeal, I think, is Blumberg’s use of “radical honesty” as a more personal marketing technique. He builds listener engagement with the narrative by sharing details that you might not expect to normally be revealed (such as how much advertisers are paying, the emotional roller coaster he went through on agreeing an equity split with his new business partner and even the burnout some of his staff faced after several overly busy months).

Favourite episodes

Episode 3: On how to broker the relationship with a new business partner (sort of like a romance!)

Episode 9: We made a mistake – how communications screw ups happen when you’re trying to do a lot with a small team (and the perils of native advertising)

Episode 12: Burnout – really compelling example of the difference between what you think you say and what you actually say in conversations with your colleagues – where they actually recorded the conversations!

Note: Season two of Startup has just finished, and now includes a new co-host, Lisa Chow. The second series follows a different business, online data site “The Dating Ring”. In addition, there’s the whole back catalogue of “Reply All” to try. Reply All is the first of the new shows that Blumberg’s business is producing and focuses on internet culture.

Interview with danah boyd

danah boyd, author of “It’s complicated” is particularly interested in how teens use the internet. In this interview with Krista Tippett of On Being, she reveals how her own teenage years drew her into the internet. She also talks about taking complete breaks from her online life in a pre-planned annual holiday where she goes completely offline. A nice interview revealing more of the personality behind someone whose work I’ve enjoyed reading.

Interview with Maria Popova (BrainPickings)

Maria Popova compiles the website BrainPickings which is the result of Popova’s voracious appetite for reading and self-exploration. In this interview, also with Krista Tippett of On Being, she talks about digital curation, passing on knowledge and the phenomenon of marginalia (scribbling notes in the margins of texts) and how it compares with online annotation.

The State of Community Management 2015

The Community Roundtable produces an annual report called “The State of Community Management”. This year’s report has just been made available (click through to the CR website to download your own copy)

The report’s compiled by surveying a range of community professionals – this year representing over 200 different communities.

Some findings include:

  • 45% of members of best in class communities are actively engaged in those communities (defined as being a collaborator, creator or contributor versus inactive or lurking users). Compare this to the 90:9:1% rule that’s often quoted for lack of active participation online (Page 27 of the report).
  • 90% of best in class communities have community guidelines which encourage good behaviour as well as prohibiting negative behaviour (Page 27).
  • Discussion forums are considered to be the most essential tool for engagement – in both internal and external-facing online communities (Page 35).
  • 88% of best in class communities have at least 1 full-time community manager (Page 43).

URLs of wisdom (30th May 2015)

URLs of wisdom is a weekly round-up of interesting links about topics at the intersection of people, science and technology. There’s been a bit of gap since the last post due to lots of work travel but things should pick up again from here🙂

Social network analysis

Behaviour

  • Online discussion forums good for well-being – “Often we browse forums just hoping to find answers to our questions. In fact, as well as finding answers, our study showed users often discover that forums are a source of great support, especially those seeking information about more stigmatising conditions. Moreover, we found that users of both forum types who engaged more with other forum users showed a greater willingness to get involved in offline activities related to the forum, such as volunteering, donating or campaigning.”
  • Trust erodes over time in the online world – A look at the Couchsurfing website: The findings revealed, the researchers wrote, an interesting mechanism at the root of interpersonal trust: “The accumulation of ratings about users (whether guests or hosts) had a double-edged effect on trust and relationships: it made relationships easier to establish initially but it also weakened them after a certain threshold.”

Academia online 

Social media/networks/data sharing

  • A Facebook for science? Brett Buttliere describes how it might look: “I believe science would benefit from having one online platform for people to do basically all aspects of science in, including review. Such a system would probably involve: a user friendly profile, a feed of (science) stories based upon previous viewing behavior, the ability for users to like, comment, and interact with content (e.g., papers, datasets, materials) within the system, and some sort of impact metrics that quantify the individual’s contribution into the system; basically, something like a Facebook or Twitter for science.”
  • What should a modern scientific infrastructure look like? Bjoern Brembs describes his vision for the future: “As an author, I want my data to be taken care of by my institution: I want to install their client to make sure every piece of data I put on my ‘data’ drive will automatically be placed in a data repository with unique identifiers. The default setting for my repository may be open and a CC0 license, or set manually to any level of secrecy I’m allowed to or intend. The same ought to be a matter of course for the software we write. In today’s day and age, institutions should provide an infrastructure that makes version-controlled software development and publishing seamless and effortless.”
  • Citation boost or bad data? A closer look at a recent claim by Academia.edu that using the site causes a major boost in citations of papers uploaded there. – “Compared to a control group of papers, selected at random from the same journals and same years as the Academia.edu group, their analysis finds a positive association between free access and article citations that grows over time. This association should not be surprising, given a decade and a half of similarly reported results. What IS surprising about their findings was that having one’s paper freely available from other freely accessible locations only boosted a paper’s citations by just 3%.”
  • Which online tools do you use? A new survey to look at scientific workflows.
  • Maintaining relationships with readers as they cross affiliations“Researchers’ multiple and changing institutional affiliations create tangible challenges, both for the researchers themselves and for scholarly publishers as well. While an ideal solution may not be possible, it is worth contemplating a vision that would address these challenges.”

Outreach/public engagement

 Communities 

  • Does your online community feel like Twitter pre-2009? It should.  – “Six years ago, Twitter was a much more intimate place. In explaining it to people, I often used the “dinner party” analogy – “It’s like a dinner party – you go in and you may only know one person, but you talk to them and meet their friends, and your network begins to grow.”

Social media developments

  • Medium is not a publishing tool – Medium introduced shared highlights on posts. Interesting to see annotation as a kind of “social layer” on top of content (framed in this post as features that “create network value”).

Just for fun

Ask the emojis…

URLs of wisdom (31st March)

URLs of wisdom is a weekly round-up of interesting links about topics at the intersection of people, science and technology.

Social network analysis

Behaviour

  • Is email one of the last private spaces online? “This realm of asynchronous communication is akin to our living rooms. They’re private spaces that others are invited into. You select who enters your inbox, whether that’s by opting-in for a newsletter or sharing your email address with a friend or colleague.”
  • The psychology of mass government surveillance“Just how accepting are people of surveillance in the first place? In short, not very. Across all 13 countries, there was no majority support for surveillance – only 26% of people, overall, agreed that the government should monitor the communications and Internet activity of its own citizens, while a similar number (29%) felt their government should monitor overseas citizens.”

Academia online 

  • What do members want from scholarly societies? A preliminary look at a recent survey of 14, 000 people evenly spread across 3 age ranges. “The top reason for renewing [society membership] (41%) is feeling connected to the community” but there’s more that can be done in terms of marketing: “15% of non-member respondents said they haven’t joined a society because they haven’t been invited! A further 12% (each) responded that “it never occurred to me to join one” or “I don’t know what’s available in my field””

Social media/networks/data sharing

 Communities 

Working with technology

  • Personalizing discovery without sacrificing serendipity – “One approach would be to apply usage data as a mechanism to gauge the importance or notoriety of an individual item, allowing for materials to be discovered from further afield only insofar as they were relatively important….This type of approach underscores the importance of controlling, or at least having access to, data not only about researchers’ interests and practices, but also about research materials and how they are used.”

Social media developments

Just for fun

A taxonomy of Twitter users

The followback Twitter user  - image by Matthew Partridge of ErrantScience.com

The followback Twitter user – image by Matthew Partridge of ErrantScience.com

URLs of wisdom (22nd March)

URLs of wisdom is a weekly round-up of interesting links about topics at the intersection of people, science and technology.

Social network analysis

Behaviour

  • Let’s really be friends – a defence of online intimacy
  • Trollbusters – strategies to preserve constructive online discourse
  • Americans’ privacy strategies post-Snowden – “Those who are more likely to have changed at least one of their behaviors include the people who have heard a lot about government surveillance (38% say they have changed a great deal/somewhat in at least one of these activities), those who are at least somewhat concerned about the programs (41% have changed at least one activity), and those who are concerned about government monitoring of their use of social media, search engines, cell phones, apps, and email.”
  • The ethics of algorithms – Beatrice Martini rounds up some notes and resources from a recent discussion hosted by the Center for Internet and Human Rights.
  • The search engine should not be the arbiter of truth
  • Where do millennials get their news? “Simply put, social media is no longer simply social,” the report says. “It long ago stopped being just a way to stay in touch with friends. It has become a way of being connected to the world generally — to send messages, follow channels of interest, get news, share news, talk about it, be entertained, stay in touch, and to check in and see what’s new in the world.”
  • How many TV sets do you have? And does it matter?

Academia online 

  • End of feed – Cameron Neylon on the closure of Friendfeed: “relying on the largesse of third parties is not a reliable foundation to build on. If we want to take care of our assets as a community, we need to take responsibility for them as well.”
  • Paper Now – Create, edit and display an academic paper entirely in GitHub

Social media/networks/data sharing

  • 4 questions researchers need to ask before using the web to share their research –“what goes on the web, stays on the web and that what you think is a private comment is easily sharable by your contacts”
  • Search is so 2014 – with nods to new tools such as Sparrho and Kudos.
  • Changes at WIRED – more changes to the science blogosphere

Outreach

  • Social media and science – the problems and the challenges – “many anti-scientific or pseudoscientific ideas a promoted by social media. What’s more, these new social media are very effective at promoting messages, especially in areas of social health, so we ignore the media at our peril. Social media are a fact of modern life and if we can’t beat them, perhaps we should use them ourselves. These are the messages I got from a recent study of the way public health misinformation is promoted via social media.”
  • Selfish reasons for researchers to publicize their study findings “Researchers already have a lot of responsibilities: grant-writing, lab work, writing papers, preparing presentations, working with grad students and post-docs, being grad students or post-docs, having a life outside of work, etc. So – why add publicizing research findings to that “to-do” list? There are a lot of reasons.”

Communities 

Working with technology

  • A great overview of product management by Ian Mulvany, Head of Technology at eLife. “The story that gets built up internally about a product can often be very different from the story that the end user has created about that product. Reconciling these world views is only ever a good thing.”
  • Found from Ian’s piece above – Improving bug triage by scoring user pain -“At with many agile techniques, User Pain isn’t all the complicated.
    1. Rank each bug on several criteria
    2. Combine those criteria into a single score called User Pain
    3. Sort all bugs by User Pain into a public list
    4. Start fixing the most painful bugs at the top of the list.

    There is a distinct philosophy at work here. First, empower bug submitters to easily create well formed, well classified bugs. Next, give the team the tools and information necessary to make smart decisions about what to work on first. Finally, encourage practices that make it easy to put quality first. Instead of relying on expert managers, you rely on a well informed, empowered team.”

Social media developments

Digital marketing

Resources

Just for fun

URLs of wisdom (mid February – early March 2015)

URLs of wisdom is a weekly round-up of interesting links about topics at the intersection of people, science and technology. This instalment covers mid-February to early March as I’ve been busy with work-related travel.

Social network analysis

Behaviour

  • Is there joy in missing out? – “We’ve focused mainly on how seeing the accomplishments of others can make us feel—the pressure to keep up with the proverbial Joneses, the sense that everyone is hitting the typically accepted life milestones—but we aren’t really talking about how other’s downfalls may make us feel.”

Academia online 

Social media/networks/data sharing

  • Principles for open scholarly infrastructures – “What should a shared infrastructure look like? Infrastructure at its best is invisible. We tend to only notice it when it fails. If successful, it is stable and sustainable. Above all, it is trusted and relied on by the broad community it serves. Trust must run strongly across each of the following areas: running the infrastructure (governance), funding it (sustainability), and preserving community ownership of it (insurance). In this spirit, we have drafted a set of design principles we think could support the creation of successful shared infrastructures.”
  • Why is open data a public good? – “a public good is something that you can’t stop anyone using, and that doesn’t get used up. The examples of public goods that people tend to use are “clean air”, “lighthouses” or “public parks”. Open data also fits this economic definition.”
  • Article sharing on scholarly collaboration networks – draft STM guidelines and a consultation “…there’s no doubt that SCNs are here to stay; so, in hopes of finding a collaborative solution to the challenges and opportunities they present, the International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers (STM) has recently issued a set of voluntary principles that aim to facilitate article sharing on SCNs.”

Outreach

  • The Communicating Science seminars from the AAAS annual meeting were live-streamed and video archives are available online.
  • Storifys from the Investing in Science Communication funding conversations at the AAAS meeting – part 1 and part 2.
  • What do we know about our investment in science communication? – asks Brooke Smith in reflection on the panel she co-organised at the AAAS meeting. “Last year, the United States invested $465 billion (from public and private sources) in scientific research.  Our panelists explored what percentage of this amount we invest in scientists communicating and engaging. But the truth is, no one knows. Turns out it’s a very hard thing to measure. Communications and engagement is not a line item in budgets that we can pull out and add up.”

Communities 

  • Seth Godin’s daily thoughts on his blog are one of my favourite reads. This on the difference between connecting to and connecting particularly nails the difference between treating users as customers or a community.(This is also good on ways not to make customers feel stupid).
  • Jono Bacon on building engagement within an organisation“So, if you want to have a culture of engagement, take the time to actually follow up and make sure people can actually do something. Accepting great ideas, agreeing to them, and not following up will merely spark frustration for those who take the initiative to think holistically about the organization.”
  • 7 questions to ask before attempting to launch another online community – “It’s not a case of build it and they will come. It’s build the community, cultivate a ton of relationships and promote it heavily, then they might come. This takes a lot of hard work and time to get the community up and running. That’s in the early community days. If your community takes off, you then need to consider scaling and moderation concerns.”

Social media developments

  • Twitter updates user safety features and explains why it faves Net Neutrality “Openness promotes free and fair competition and fosters ongoing investment and innovation. We need clear, enforceable, legally sustainable rules to ensure that the Internet remains open and continues to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers. This is the heart of Twitter.”
  • What blogging has become – reflections on changes to Medium “But you can only flirt with being a platform for so long before you just become one. The description of Medium that’s most stuck with me is from Josh Benton again, this time on Twitter: Medium is now “YouTube for prose,” he said. In other words, it’s a platform. And I think with these product changes, it’s embracing that. It feels like a social network now.

    The YouTube model is revealing, too, because it sets up two kinds of Medium readers. Some people go to YouTube to watch a one-off viral video. (Read: an especially popular essay.) But many of them go to watch their favorite YouTube stars, video bloggers with whom they’ve developed long, intimate relationships over time. To run a YouTube, you need well-recognized authors, working over time, with audiences all their own. You need bloggers.”

  • The unbearable lightness of tweeting – “Every good media organization knows that the road to traffic leads through Facebook rather than Twitter. Even so, I thought the sharing economy of the Internet shared a bit more than this.”

Resources

Just for fun

So what colour was that dress?

And what about the Amazon reviews of it…?