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

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