As I explained most important aspects of the site, it’s time to start to look at how they can work together. I’ve made this chart to make the flow visual.
Ok, this will be a long analytical piece, but it needs to be explained. So get a cup of tea, perhaps a piece of paper to doodle on, and let’s dive into this chart:
- (new) UsersVisitors of the website that are active on the website. In this chart an increase of Users means more people will join the website and become active.
- OpennessThe decentralized element, everyone is able to provide and evaluate content. No central control. In this chart an increase of Openness is when more people use this system. More on this at Emergent Quality.
- The Social AspectSocial behaviour on the site, interlinking, commenting on each others posts and other ways of communication between users. More on this at The Social Aspect.
- TrustThe overall trust people have in the working of the site and the people that use the site. In this chart an increase of Trust means, more people will trust that the website works like it should.
- Quality Knowledge in SystemThe total amount of useful information available on the website. You could say that this is a product of the quantity and the quality of the information on the site. Knowledge written down and/or in the minds of the users available for all to use. An increase of Quality Knowledge in System means there is more quality knowledge available.
- Arrows —>stand for a positive signal. For example: If there is an arrow from A to B, the existence of A will bring B to life. If the amount of A grows, more of B will grow.
No negative arrows?
Perhaps you are looking for negative arrows. But you must look at the arrows as adding a real value to the elements. So what you might think of as a negative arrow, would be a shrinking of the arrows adding value. The arrow can dry up and become zero, but it can’t go to a negative value.
For readability/less scrolling here’s the same chart again
The relations between the elements explained
- (New) Users –> The Social Aspect
Every (new) user takes part in the social aspect of the website. You need to connect to (endorse) at least one charity if you set up a profile. This will give you a first chance of getting in contact with others as there are probably more users connected to that charity. The social network will grow with every new user.
- (New) Users –> Openness
Users are the ones that will provide the site with content. The more users, the more content can be made. This is based on the assumption that the majority of the users will want to contribute to the site in a positive way. Assumptions are dangerous, but this is one I need (and I’m willing) to make. The example of Wikipedia has shown that this is probably not an unrealistic assumption. The users will only use the system if there is sufficient trust that the system of the website works correctly. This is the Trust part of the chart.
- Trust –> Openness
If users trust that the system provided by the website is working, they are more likely to add and evaluate content themselves. If there is no trust, it would be wasted energy to contribute to the openness of the system.
- Trust –> (new) Users
The level of trust is related to the number of (new) users, because if there is no trust in the system people don’t want to be a part of the system. Trust in the system also influences the level of activity active users will take in trying to convince new users to join.
- Openness –> Quality of Knowledge in System
The more the openness of the system is used, the more content is provided and evaluated. This is the way the knowledge in the social network gets to be available for all on the website. This knowledge is also available for first time visitors of the site that are no members of the social network.
- Quality Knowledge in System –> TrustThe more quality knowledge is available on the site, the more people will be convinced the system of the site is working. As getting a pool of quality knowledge about charities is one of the main goals, the level of quality knowledge available is a good indicator of how trustworthy a system is.
- Quality Knowledge in System –> (new) UsersThe more quality knowledge is available on the site the more people will use this site as a quick way to find out about charities and their quality. Getting visitors is the first step of getting active users. Also it’s nice to be part of a community that delivers good quality. So more quality will lead to more active users.
- The Social Aspect –> TrustOne way to know if you can trust something is to ask the people you trust. This simple rule is significant for how humans can survive in a world with an overload of information available. The strength of the social network will be the strength of the site. There is a form of social control and status involved in social behaviour that, (if smartly guided,) leads to an increasement of effectiveness and trust in the total system.
- The Social Aspect –> (new) UsersThere will be public pages for users on the site. This means friends of this user can view their blog and information available. As we know from the millions of weblogs, there is a need to express oneself. Most of the times these bloggers, (me included,) will actively reach out to their social network of friends, colleagues and ask them to out the blog. This social aspect will drag social networks on the outside of the site connected to our users inwards towards the site. More visitors increases the chance of active users. Another element of social behaviour is that it’s fun. It’s nice to be a part of a fun community and therefor this will increase the amount of users.
And here’s the same chart again
What can we learn from this chart?
- It’s a ‘perpetuum mobile’, as the arrows are pointing in (different) circles, an increase of an element will (in a few steps) create an increase of this same element. If this flow can be made, an explosive growth is inevitable.
- This project needs a kick-start. We learned from emergence (Emergent Quality), there is a critical size needed before emergence works. I (and you) need to convince others that this site can work. This is obvious when we look at the chart. At a zero state, a user can’t join for the Quality of Knowledge (there is no content yet), nor for the Social Network (you would be the first). The only part that can bring in the first user(s) is in this chart is Trust. Quickly these first users can kick-start the engine.
- The site can survive attacks on all elements. Even those that might look weak. If we set an element to ‘zero’, but keep the flow of the chart, you can work out that the element will grow back really quickly. The system will take a hit, but it will soon be in a positive spin for growth again.
- Some elements must be kept in tact for the flow to continue. That’s why I made a red stroke around the Users and Openness. I’m not sure if Trust needs a red stroke; If it’s fun to use the site (the Social Aspect), but you don’t trust that it works in providing quality Knowledge, you might still use the site, thereby still providing for Quality Knowledge. If we take out The Social Aspect or the Quality knowledge in the system, the flow can still continue.
- With this chart we can see what happens when we start to centralize the site. A centralized content provider and analysis can’t handle all the charities in the world, so the quality will fall behind. This leads to less trust and less users. This decrease will lead to a decrease in social behaviour (as the users are the only providers of social behaviour). Less social behaviour will also decrease the trust. Just to make my point; centralization to increase the trust of the site will bite the system in it’s tail quickly and it will actually decrease the trust. Therefor we need to accept the disadvantages of decentralization. I’ll write on this particular subject in a later post.
The fun thing of this chart is that it’s just an adding numbers game. You could program the flow of the chart. By adding some more depth and using data from the first simple tests (planned to start on June), you might even find the critical size for the project to work, or other valuable information.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the site and I’m trying to make my thoughts available for you in a clear manner. While I’m organising my thoughts, so I can explain them to you, this is also a great help for me. I try to get to the most basic forces that will make or break the project.
The flow will be the starting-point. I’ll build all the other (more detailed) elements based on this solid foundation. If you think I left out a crucial part, made a wrong connection or accidentally made an assumption (other then the assumption that good people will outweigh the bad people), please place a comment or mail me.