Aggregate displays and collective intelligence

September 9th, 2007 by Martin

Picture by
(Photo by Azlii Jamil)

In his posting “The Danger of Aggregate Displays in Social Software“, Joshua Porter writes about the influence that aggregate displays like “most popular” or “most viewed” can have on what users consider as good or popular. Aggregate displays are also an important factor concerning the creation and exploitation of what is ususally denoted as “collective intelligence“.

A I’ve presented on some of my slides of my talk “Sharing Digital Resources and Metadata for Open and Flexible Knowledge Management Systems” about ALOE at I-KNOW, it’s not sufficient “just” to attract enough users - left alone that this is difficult enough. In his brillant book “The Wisdom of Crowds“, James Surowiecki has identified four key factors that characterize a “wise crowd”:

  1. Diversity of opinion (each person should have some private information)
  2. Independence (people’s opinions are not determined by the opinions of those around them)
  3. Decentralization (people are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge)
  4. Aggregation (some mechanism exists for turning private judgements into a collective decision)

What does this mean for an application working based on “collective intelligence”? I think it should

  • encourage users to participate (e.g., by using reward mechanisms)
  • ease the flow of information (e.g., offering users the possibility to import and export data such as their profile or their tags)
  • aggregate information (e.g., offering access to all comments and tags concerning a resource in an easy way and showing average ratings)
  • offer access to the application’s data and functionalities in the user’s usual contexts and applications (i.e., providing a proper API to allow other applications to use the data and functionalities, providing widgets, a drop box on the desktop, …)

But as aggregate displays have an influence on user’s opinions, does this mean that we should avoid to show them to users that will contribute data? Or can there also be a positive impact to a certain extent? Any feedback is very much appreciated!

Want to become a World Record Breaker?

March 6th, 2007 by Martin

Via information aesthetics I read about the One Million Masterpiece today, a very nice idea:

“Get together one million ordinary people from all around the world, and get them to work on the picture together in the world’s largest ever artistic collaboration.”


They explicitly say that

“no artistic ability is required, just passion to support international charity work and a favourite doodle or sketch”

Well, I DON’T have artistic ability, and of course I want to support international charity work. So I contributed this masterpiece - please note that it’s NOT a self portrait ;-)


Encouraging Participation in Online Communities

December 5th, 2006 by Martin

This was the title of the very inspiring talk given by Julita Vassileva from the MADMUC Lab yesterday in the DFKI in Saarbrücken.

20061205 SB_Vassileva

If you want to reach a critical mass of participation (thus hoping that the community will become self-sustained), you have to find a way to attract and keep users. The talk focused on rewarding users, e.g., with virtual currency, status or power in the community. There were some nice ideas like presenting users in the shape of a star, whose color, shape and brightness depends on a user’s status in the community and the number and quality of his/her contributions. And to tease my Semantic Web friends and colleagues: I enjoyed the statement “Using a predefined taxonomy or ontology is not a good idea”. Of course it is not ;-)

But reward mechanisms are just one part of the solution: In the Alertbox from October 9th (Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute), Jacob Nielsen is giving some very helpful additional advices:

  • Make it easier to contribute
  • Make participation a side effect (this is a great example)
  • Edit, don’t create
  • Promote quality contributors

And to avoid depressions, one should possibly keep in mind the following quotation from Nielsen:

“How to Overcome Participation Inequality?” - “You Can’t!”

Last but not least, it’s also a good idea to Build Your Critical Mass around Early Adopters.

Let’s see how succesful I will be in my attempts to reach a critical mass of participation in ALOE

Listen to Luis von Ahn.

September 13th, 2006 by Martin

Did you ever ask yourself how to get “good” metadata for your Learning Objects for free? In this great talk available on GoogleVideo, Luis von Ahn is talking about how to motivate users to volunteer for high-quality tagging.

sample tags

To be honest: I’m not sure whether this can be applied to the world of Learning Objects, too. But it’s surely a good thing to start to think about new ways of acquiring metadata…

via computationalculture