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March 31, 2010

Incentives and Behavior: Consider the Mayor

Are you considering an incentive system for your online community or application? There's been an overwhelming amount of attention paid lately to the ways that providing incentives—points, badges or trophies—to users can influence their behaviors and contributions. If you're already sold, then pay careful attention to NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg's efforts to incentivize positive behaviors amongst the city's poorest residents:

An unusual and much-heralded program that gave poor families cash to encourage good behavior and self-sufficiency has so far had only modest effects on their lives and economic situation, according to an analysis the Bloomberg administration released on Tuesday.
In the book, we caution against intermixing market and social norms (or providing external incentives in lieu of leveraging people's already-present intrinsic motivations) and it would be easy to point to NYC's experience as supporting that stance. Easy, but—perhaps—not entirely fair. As the Times article points out, the program has at least been partially succesful at lifting some citizens out of poverty.

It's interesting to note that one of the program's earliest failings, however, was its complexity. There were also problems of trust, comprehension and user education:

“I think people were confused, and there was some amount of distrust,” Ms. Brandenburg said. “For some people it sounded too good to be true. It took a while to explain to people what the offer was.”

Ms. Gibbs said many families had been perplexed by the guidelines that were laid out for them. Cash payments were eventually eliminated for actions like getting a library card and follow-up visits with a doctor.

“Too many things, too many details, more to manage in the lives of burdened, busy households,” Ms. Gibbs said, standing next to the mayor on Tuesday. “Big lesson for the future? Got to make it a lot more simple.”

These are all classic user experience problems that you, too, will wrestle with should you decide to provide incentives to influence behavior. (Hat-tip to Sam Ladner for the article-pointer.)

March 20, 2010

Thursday 3/25 ship date for BWRS from Amazon

A few of our friends have shared that Amazon.com is shipping Building Web Reputation Systems this week, on Thursday 3/25/10. Bryce and I received our author's copies yesterday...

March 18, 2010

[Updated 3/31] We're presenting at Web2.0 Expo on May 4th

Designing Reputation Systems

F. Randall Farmer (MSB Associates), Bryce Glass (Manta Media, Inc.)
2:35pm Tuesday, 05/04/2010
Location: Room 2001

Designing a reputation system is hard. Do it right, and you’re likely to draw from disciplines as disparate as computer science, sociology, user experience design and behavioral economics. Do it wrong, and you could wreak horrible downstream effects on the morale, motivations and mindset of your community.

We often design web reputation systems by drawing from easily-available examples on the Web, but this is an impoverished approach; it often leads the designer to settle on a design solution before they’ve properly understood the context, and framed the design problem. This is cargo-cult design at its worst, and leads to such “common sense” fallacies as…

  • “It’s The People, Dummy!”

When you think of reputation on the Web, do you just assume that it applies chiefly to people? This is only partially true. Reputation applies to things as well, and—in fact—it’s almost impossible to know a person’s reputation without evaluating the reputation of things.

  • “One Reputation To Rule Them All”

Do you think that someone’s Ebay Seller Reputation should follow them onto Facebook? Should Slashdot karma matter over on Reddit? Some very smart people have fallen victim to this fallacy: the belief that one reputation is enough to accurately convey “the measure of a man.”

  • “All I Need is Five Stars”

Ratings input mechanisms fall into, and out of, vogue. Once it was 5-Stars, then it was Digg-style upvoting, now Facebook’s ‘Like’ holds the crown. If you’re tempted to start with a ratings scheme in mind, and then back-design a system to justify it, proceed with caution. (Includes a bonus fallacy: “Of course I need a down-vote!”)

  • “Competition is Always Good”

Feeling inspired by game-like elements? Levels, points and leaderboards? Just make sure that they influence the right kind of behavior, and don’t assume a level of community competition that may, or may not, be appropriate.

  • “Negative Karma Will Out the Bad Guys”

What’s the best way to identify the bad actors in your community? Why, label them, of course! Wrong—you should employ negative karma sparingly, and display it almost never.

The authors of Building Web Reputation Systems (O’Reilly, 2010) will debunk these fallacies, and a couple of others besides, drawing on real-life examples of actual deployed reputation systems from some of our industry’s biggest names: EA, Google, Yahoo! and Ebay. You might be surprised at how pervasive, and persistent, these fallacies have been through the years. But don’t worry—we’ll also tell you how to avoid falling into the same old traps!

March 14, 2010

The first copies spotted at SWSX


RT @freshelectrons Building Web Reputation Systems prerelease copy driving buzz @OReillyMedia booth #yahoopress #sxsw

March 10, 2010

Electronic Versions of BWRS On Sale Now

Please forgive us if the Reputation Wednesday posts for a few weeks are focused on book-release related information. We're first time authors and find every one of these personal firsts terribly exciting!
The electronic versions of Building Web Reputation Systems are now for sale at O'Reilly.com!

You can read it on Safari and/or you can by a downloadable version as a color PDF, Mobi, Android, or ePub file These versions are great on your computer and can be read on most mobile devices.All of the electronic versions have both the internal references and the web URLs hot-linked, which is great for a book like ours.

There's also a bundle combining the print and ebook editions at a significant savings. Search the digital version to find correct section in the physical book. Save $20.00!


Randy's iPhone [Stanza ePub fmt]

Update:eBooks version now includes Android format.

March 02, 2010

Coming to SxSW: Production Copies of Building Web Reputation Systems!

Bryce and I are happy to announce that Building Web Reputation Systems has gone to the printers! We're absolutely excited to share this news with you all today. It's hard to believe it's been more than a year since we started. Thank you so much to all who've been reading our work as we developed it and providing such helpful feedback—it wouldn't be half as good as it is without you!

The book will hit the retail shelves on 4/1, but if you can't wait that long you have 2 options: (1) early copies will be available from the O'Reilly booth at SxSW!; and (2) there are some eBook codes that will be made available for those willing to review the book and post it online—see the booth or contact us via email (our address is over there → in the sidebar.) I guess it will depend on your blogging karma score. :-)

If Amazon sales rank is any indicator, sales are already picking up, so it seems that, after mobbing the SxSW booth, the fastest way to get a paper copy is to preorder at O'Reilly,
Amazon, Borders, or your favorite book retailer.

For those of you who don't already know what this book is about, here's the back cover copy:

What do Amazon's product reviews, eBay's feedback score system, Slashdot's Karma System, and Xbox Live's Achievements have in common? They're all examples of successful reputation systems that enable consumer websites to manage and present user contributions most effectively. This book shows you how to design and develop reputation systems for your own sites or web applications, written by experts who have designed web communities for Yahoo! and other prominent sites.

Building Web Reputation Systems helps you ask the hard questions about these underlying mechanisms, and why they're critical for any organization that draws from or depends on user-generated content. It's a must-have for system architects, product managers, community support staff, and UI designers.

  • Scale your reputation system to handle an overwhelming inflow of user contributions
  • Determine the quality of contributions, and learn why some are more useful than others
  • Become familiar with different models that encourage first-class contributions
  • Discover tricks of moderation and how to stamp out the worst contributions quickly and efficiently
  • Engage contributors and reward them in a way that gets them to return
  • Examine a case study based on actual reputation deployments at industry-leading social sites, including Yahoo!, Flickr, and eBay