Social Bargains: Ubiquitous!

The closing section to the final chapter in Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody is a perfect summation to both his book and this course.  In All Groups Have Social Dilemma, Shirky looks at many of the social internet trends and case studies he mentioned throughout his book (and many others mentioned previously in prior blog posts and class readings).  Some examples of successful social platforms on the Internet worth noting and summarizing:

eBay – to insure that both buyers and sellers would commit to their online bidding transactions in real life, eBay instilled a rating system.  The rating system held members accountable and provided a small (yet desirable, in the eyes of the community) reward –a higher rating number/color.

Wikipedia vs. Microsoft Encarta – Wikipedia marked a revolution of the encyclopedia.  In efforts to mimic the success of the wiki, Microsoft added a wiki component to their online multimedia encyclopedia: Encarta.  However, Encarta’s wiki did not take off like Wikipedia did.  The small differences in the platform made Wikipedia more of an asset and benefit to the larger community of users.  Under Encarta’s wiki, users would be unable to directly alter their encyclopedia: everything would come following Microsoft’s approval (not only would users have to pay Microsofts initial fee to gain access to Encarta),  Having direct input, ownership, and accountability (however indirect or removed thanks to anonymity), made the Wiki encyclopedia prevail over Microsoft’s.

Flickr – When flickr began requiring its users to use a yahoo ID following yahoo’s acquisition of the photo uploading site, a small revolt amongst prior members occurred.  However, by the time of this small groups complaint, flickr had built such a large community that these disgruntled few did not disrupt the overall community.

Digg – When a DVD encryption code was released on the Internet, a website aggregator (digg) based on user popularity and ranking systems prevented its users from ranking sites with the illegal encryption information.  Digg, a community based on importance of the user’s voice, soon became bombarded with users relentlessly favoriting sites with the illegal code.  Ultimately, digg decided to allow for the illegal code to be posted on their site, saying: “After seeing hundreds of stories and readings thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear.  You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company.  We hear you, and effective immediately we wont delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.  If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying” (Shirky, 291).  Ultimately the collective action of the community of Digg users were able to make a difference and proved the importance of the community to the existence of the Digg platform.  Also, Digg never received any negative ramifications from the posting of the code on their website.

The following examples show how specific details of the platform and purpose affect social groups.  Since the Internet has allowed for multiple media and platforms presenting multiple options to users, we have seen many shifts in popular online social communities.  For example, just in the past eight years there has been a shift from Livejournal, to Myspace, to Facebook, and now to Twitter.  The shift from dominant social networking medium has occurred as the needs of the community have changed.  The platform best meeting the communities needs during a particular time will be the one to succeed and take off.  With the Internet allowing the rise and fall of social groups more quickly and diversely, we can use these group interactions as metaphors to learn more about our group interactions and needs in the offline world.

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