Thursday, July 26, 2007

When individual interests and the public good intersect

With a new fiscal year upon us, my role is shifting a bit. as a part of that, i've been taking a closer look at community planning, broadly speaking. during this process, i keep on coming back to a best practice of sorts that occurs when individual interests intersect with the public good.

while this can be applied to just about anyplace where individuals and the public intersect, i'd like to call out flickr in this regard. one of the killer features (in my opinion) on flickr is "interestingness." according to flickr, many actions go into determining whether or not a picture is "interesting." these actions include:

  • where the click throughs are coming from
  • who marks it as a favorite
  • it's tags
  • and much more

taking a closer look at those actions, they are all focused on the self. clicking through to a picture is to actually display the full image. favoriting is so you can find it again. tagging it helps you to find it among countless other photos. in short, the individual actions of people then go into surfacing "interesting" photos for everyone.

what is the public benefit? seeing what others on the site find most interesting. other benefits include inspiration for photographers -> better photographers, or the joy from looking at beautiful photos. many of these items are also very individual goals, but overall, the public benefits as a result of these actions.

how this relates back to overall community planning is that i think a rather nice framework, or at least pillars to keep in mind, can be derived from this example.

1 -- know your audience
2 -- what's in it for them? identify the actions and items of highest individual value
3 -- what's in it for everyone else? identify the actions and items of highest collective value
4 -- determine the points of intersection
5 -- focus efforts on making it as easy as possible for the individuals to perform those actions, find those items, etc

note -- this is in part derived from earlier readings on flow, game design and the like. nod to amy jo kim for calling this out initially

"Death and Life..." a promising start

After finishing Richard Florida's The Rise of the Creative Class, I finally got around to starting The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs. For years, I've been wanting to read this classic in urban planning, and community design. I can't believe it's taken me this long.

While it's very easy to read, regardless of one's knowledge of urban planning, I'm only about 100 pages into this book (compared to 200 pages in the latest Harry Potter book). Partly that's because every page or so in Jacobs' book has me thinking about the cities she mentions and how they function (or do not) today. I also find myself taking a closer look at the city in which I live now, in addition to all the communities (online) that I've been a part of over the years. In short, this book has really got my gears spinning when it comes to thinking about community -- and more importantly, designing for community.

Something as simple as looking closely at sidewalks, for example, has me wondering about the parallel in an online community. Where is the proverbial sidewalk in a community of developers? Is it found in a blog? On a forum? In the tags used by others? How do people associate with one another (at different levels of participation) in a way that is meaningful to them, whether they are strong ties, weak ties, or loose ties? How does a community manifested online help people acclimate to the "neighborhood" so to speak?

As I work my way through this, I'll continue to post some reflections on this great read.

getting back on the horse...

this is just an obligatory sorry for not blogging much post for [insert reason here]. [add some future promise] etc etc. it's funny how i feel compelled to provide some sort of transition after a long hiatus...