BBL: Evaporative Cooling and Social Communities

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RJN
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BBL: Evaporative Cooling and Social Communities

Post by RJN » Wed Oct 13, 2010 11:53 pm

http://blog.bumblebeelabs.com/social-so ... ng-effect/

Social Software Sundays #2 – The Evaporative Cooling Effect
by Hang
The Evaporative Cooling Effect is a term I learned from an excellent essay by Eliezer Yudowsky that describes a particular phenomena of group dynamics. It occurs when the most high value contributors to a community realize that the community is no longer serving their needs any more and so therefore, leave.
Openness is a major driver of Evaporative Cooling. If anyone can join your community, then the people most likely to join are those who are below the average quality of your community because they have the most to gain.
Thoughts anyone?

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emc
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Re: BBL: Evaporative Cooling and Social Communities

Post by emc » Thu Oct 14, 2010 12:40 am

Sometimes I tend to overanalyze things… and it makes for a bad day. I suspect your query is directed at Starship Asterisk*'s member comings and goings. I think SA* is a good example of how a community of apparent experts AND apparent novices can interact and enjoy the auspices of each other’s virtual company. Sometimes fun, sometimes strange… at least for me anyway… There are inevitable good days and bad days… And we all are individually choosing our focal point. And what we choose to say is mostly out of anyone else’s control. I think people come and go for several reasons… perhaps sensitivity to another’s comment… perhaps sensitivity to a lack of comments… Please don’t worry too much about the activity or lack of activity… I expect there are a large number of silent participatants that would miss APOD and Starship Asterisk* should they cease. I also expect that most of the contributors to Asterisk would only stop if it was out of their control.
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owlice
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Re: BBL: Evaporative Cooling and Social Communities

Post by owlice » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:52 am

My first thought: the author has read one or more of the Lemony Snicket books.

An interesting piece, as was the comment by Carrie below the piece.

The discussion about Social Gating reminded me of comments in the Handbook about Asterisk's (possible) intimidation factor and of this post in the Handbook: http://asterisk.apod.com/vie ... 25#p129215

My experience in participating in online communities has led me to believe that often, high value contributors in a community are among the friendliest and most encouraging members -- encouraging others who this author refers to as "below the average quality of the community." The high value contributors get something out of helping others, educating and guiding them, and assisting in the eventual increase of the community value of the no-longer-newbie. (This makes participation in a community sound a bit like housing market values -- keep the lawns mowed! plant flowers! -- and I apologize for that.) High value contributors with these motivations (helping people, sharing their knowledge) seem not as prone to evaporative cooling because their needs to educate, guide, and enlighten continue to be met with each new "below the average quality" member. Yes, they want to have peers, those equally knowledgeable/high value, to talk with, too, but that is not all they want. They perhaps remember the thrill of their own lightbulb experiences and want others to have the same experience.
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Chris Peterson
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Re: BBL: Evaporative Cooling and Social Communities

Post by Chris Peterson » Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:32 am

RJN wrote:Thoughts anyone?
Sounds plausible, but I don't know if it can be applied uniformly to any online community.

Communities change with time. This one has (I think the noise level is much higher than it used to be). With a change in style, a change in posters is probably inevitable. "High value" members are more likely to have chosen a forum with care, and are therefore less patient if it changes significantly- particularly if that change comes about because the type of people participating there.
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RJN
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Re: BBL: Evaporative Cooling and Social Communities

Post by RJN » Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:05 pm

Chris Peterson wrote: I think the noise level is much higher than it used to be.
Hi Chris -- I am unsure what you mean by above quote. Perhaps it depends on how "noise" is defined. In my view, many of the speculative discussions about people's pet theories have dropped markedly in the past year, as have the number of frequent posters who would make such claims. Counter intuitively, the number of discussion threads has gone up, though. To my delight, more discussions on the Asterisk now seem much more scientifically grounded, and the number of frequent posters making reasonable comments has gone up. Based on this, I would have said that the "noise level" has gone down.

I really like that above article -- it has caused me to think of social communities in a new way. However, I would not describe the quality of people themselves as high or low as indicated in the article. I would describe as "good posts" as those that focus on the interests of the board, in the case of the Asterisk this includes real astronomy and real curiosity about astronomy, perhaps triggered by an APOD. So yes, the Asterisk has this, but I always wonder how it can be made better -- to get more good posts and more people involved who can and will make good posts. So this article has me re-thinking possible tweaks.

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Chris Peterson
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Re: BBL: Evaporative Cooling and Social Communities

Post by Chris Peterson » Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:28 pm

RJN wrote:Hi Chris -- I am unsure what you mean by above quote. Perhaps it depends on how "noise" is defined.
Certainly. In this case, what I meant is that I think the forum is too busy. It has more subforums than I'd like to see, which makes the community feel fragmented to me. I liked the forum better the way it was a couple of years ago, even with the speculative stuff (not because of it!)

Maybe a better way of looking at things is in terms of signal, not noise. There is a great deal more signal than noise these days, but I find the vast majority of that signal uninteresting. So my own window into the Asterisk doesn't really show a better S/N.
I really like that above article -- it has caused me to think of social communities in a new way. However, I would not describe the quality of people themselves as high or low as indicated in the article. I would describe as "good posts" as those that focus on the interests of the board, in the case of the Asterisk this includes real astronomy and real curiosity about astronomy, perhaps triggered by an APOD.
I didn't much care for the terms used, either. Although they are accurate in a way we probably all understand, they are also pretty judgmental; most people would not like to be considered low quality or low value posters! Focusing on posts, not people, is a better approach.
Chris

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