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Acting in an Uncertain World: An essay on technical democracy by Michael Callon, Pierre Lascoumes & Yannick Barthe
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Acting in an Uncertain World: An essay on technical democracy by Michael Callon, Pierre Lascoumes & Yannick Barthe

The books focus on the integration of different actors for social problems. The authors argue about how decision making is made by those suppose experts and don’t include those that are affected by the decision being made. They argue that decisions that are called to be technical are truly political and because of that a better decision can be achieve if it includes all the actors. They present multiple examples and develop a framework on how to create a hybrid forum that will include everyone.

The books is a bit difficult to read, it takes more time that other books (in my opinion). It covers more philosophical context while it goes to the main subject. It’s interested and provides a clear understanding on how research is conducted both in labs and in the real world. The framework created for the integration of both, provides a clear understanding on how collaboration should be achieve and the main gains from it.

Next is a brief summary and thought of each chapter of the book

Ch1: Hybrid Forums

Serving as an introductory chapter, it focuses on the importance of having a hybrid forum and how they collaborate to bring experts and layperson to discuss a topic. The chapter argues on the importance of having different point of views to bring better understanding of a topic.

While discussing the difference between risk and uncertainty, the authors slowly brings the audience to understand that there is real line on what is technical and what is social. The line is created to separate layperson from the discussion. With a magnificent amount of examples they authors make their argument.

The chapter concludes by showing how controversies arise and how this brings different level of discussion by the citizens affected by these controversies. The authors argue that controversies enrich democracy, since they create uncertainty and this uncertainty bring new lines of research that finally enrich this forum where experts and laypeople discuss.

Ch2: Secluded Research

Knowledge is secluded because traditionally it has been developed by scientist have decide to extract themselves from the real world by secluding in a laboratory. They run from the real world to create a world that they can control. With a control environment they can try to understand better a phenomenon that occurs in the real world.

A portrayal of 3 translations is shown through to the chapter. The first involve the translation from the real world to the laboratory. Extracting all the uncertainties and creating a control environment to precisely study one phenomenon. The second translation involves the understanding of all the data created in the laboratory and extracting meaning from it. The machines and the observation from the scientist are data that have to be translated into information and then knowledge. The last translation occurs on bringing back from the laboratory to the real world. This is a most crucial aspect and where it will define the success of the knowledge created.

All this has created a culture of seclusion and those not involved in the inner circle of these laboratories are excluded from the decision making of it.

Ch3: There’s Always Someone More Specialist

Collaboration between the secluded research and the research in the wild is a most, since both of them can benefit from each other. Each translation in the secluded research can benefit from collaboration with laypeople. It can provide unique vies and problems occurring to society. The identification of problems, the development of a solution and the implementation of it can be accomplished if experts and laypeople work together.

The chapter start by portraying how laypeople can become experts on any field, given they have interest on it. They can provide unique vies to experts and show them problems that are occurring. Throughout the chapter the authors show different stories on how experts and laypeople have interacted, not always in a collaborative way. The chapter concludes with the authors arguing on the need of more collaboration between both type of research and how they can benefit from it.

Ch4: In Search of a Common World

Even when people want to express themselves they have the problem that they might not be heard. Groups can align over one voice to make themselves be noted. Even in protest one group can be completely ignore. The chapter covers different aspects of collectiveness and joint research.

The discussion created in a secluded research can have significant impact on that of normal people, as a community. The impact that it cause that community can be different than that discussed by the experts. As an example the authors discussed the burial of nuclear waste and how the vinicultures community surrounding the proposed site for nuclear waste burial protested because of concern on how their customers could associated both and maybe have their existence disappear. They were not concerned on possible leaks or any other technical aspect of the burial, but on a possible commercial impact on their wines.

Other example mentions throughout the chapter is about creating alliance to bring awareness to unknown disease. This alliance was created based on needs, the need to join force to be heard. Each disease is different from each other but no one pays attention, together they can push for research on the diseases and make scientist see them as different.

The chapter portraits a model based on the different level of collaboration that can exist between those researches that are secluded and those that are in the wild. It also shows one based on degree that emerging identities are taken into consideration. Finally it portraits a third model that contrast the constitution of the collective and the exploration of possible worlds and of identities.

Ch5: The Organization of Hybrid Forums

Creating hybrid forums is more than just allowing access to layperson to interact with researchers. A hybrid forum is more than creating surveys and/or opinion polls to explore the thoughts of laypersons. Creating measures have to be taken so that hybrid forums can success and to implement those measures a framework most exists.

The first part of the chapter focuses on the development of the framework and the components that form it. It carefully explains each component and the aspects that affect it. The final part of the chapter presents two different cases and examines their success or failure based on the created framework.

The framework first consists on how the dialog will be conducted between the different actors. The criteria to evaluate this dialog is based on intensity (degree of involvement of laypersons & degree of concern for composition of collective), openness (diversity of groups consulted, degree of independence & control of representatives of spokespersons) and quality (seriousness & continuity of voice)

Another aspect of the framework consists on the implementation procedures. This aspect is based on the criteria of equality of conditions of access to debates, transparency & traceability of debate and clarity of rules organizing debates.

Ch6: Measured Actions, or How to Decide without Making a Definitive Decision

All the different possibilities surrounded precautions are debated in the chapter. It covers how different organization handle precautions and how it can affect other. They discuss precaution from the point of view of prevention, abstention, worst case scenarios, zero risk, responsibility and measured action.

The chapter focuses on how precaution is handled by the interaction of attention-vigilance, exploration and choice of measure. The authors argue that non is a precursor of the other, they are more truly interactive, where the development of one can trigger the other one or can affect its current execution.

They relate the subject of precaution with that of hybrid forums in that there is not right way to do it and that the interaction is developed by the creation of knowledge. This knowledge will benefit the most if there is a true interaction between different actors. The precaution measures need the interaction of all actors to fully provide a measure acknowledge by everyone.

Ch7: The Democratization of Democracy

Serving as a conclusion chapter, the authors recap all the mayor points from the book. They also explain the concepts of risk and market and how they are seen in the inclusion for the elaboration of hybrid forums. They authors also argue how the expertise has been democratize.

This final chapter presents all the concepts once again and provides topics for further discussion, they also provide lessons for those that are involved in hybrid forums.

Open Data and App Competitions: the case of NYC BigApp 3.0
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Open Data and App Competitions: the case of NYC BigApp 3.0


The view towards crowds and their involvement in society has changed through time. They were first seen as irrational protest groups looking to create riots. Later the crowds were seen as rational protesters challenging those in powers. Now they are seen as solution provider to problems (Wexler 2011).

The private sector has actively used the crowd for its benefit in broad industries such as security software (Franke & von Hippel 2003), computer games (Prugl & Schreier 2006; Jeppesen & Molin 2003), integrated circuits (von Hippel 1998), athletic shoes (Piller & Walcher, 2006) and construction among many other industries (von Hippel 2005). 

Even though the utilization of crowds for problem solving can be traced back to decades or centuries (Quill 1963; Wexler 2011), it has been with the Web 2.0 that it has become a popular method for those seeking solution to problems. The collaborative aspects of Web 2.0 provides the needed tools for reaching a targeted audience that will foster communities that can develop innovative solutions to problems.
The success in the private sector with the utilization of the crowd has shifted the perception of some government and now they also seek to collaborate with their citizens for problem solving. This shift have allowed governments to open their data to the public and as such behave as platforms (O’Reilly, 2010) fostering entrepreneurship, innovation, value creation and economic growth (Lakhani et al 2010; Noveck 2009; Foutnier-Tombs 2011).

By opening their data, governments create datasets that are accessible in open formats with licenses that allow its utilization in different ways (Davies 2010). This implies that an open government dataset can be mashed with other datasets from any other sources in infinite ways. To exploit these infinite mashups possibilities, governments can create ideation competitions that promote the utilization of the open data (Nam 2012). This competition strategy was lucrative for Washington, DC. They were able to obtained 47 applications in 30 days with an estimated worth of US$2.6 million by just offering US$25,000 as prize for the best application (Lakhani et al 2010). The success of this contest inspired other cities and governments to do the same.

Idea competition has proven to be a successful tool for problem solving (Howe 2006, 2008) and new product development (Piller & Walcher 2006) in the private sector. On the other hand, the public sector has mainly utilized it as a promotional tool to incentive the usage of their open data. However, little is known about the applications developed during the competition once the competition has finished. The aim of this study is to explore the status of these applications once the competitions are completed and discuss their sustainability.

This study continues by first describing the study method and then by presenting the results of the findings. The fourth and final section provides the implications of our findings, a brief discussion and the concluding remarks

Study method

To explore the status of applications that utilize open data after a competition has finished, this study centers on the case of NYC BigApps 3.0. NYC BigApps 3.0 was an application competition sponsored by the city of New York between October 2011 and April 2012 for software developers to create new applications that can help those that live and visit the city, as well as the businesses that operate in it. For an application to participate, it must use at least one dataset of those available in the NYC open data catalog. 

The method utilized in this study involves a two-step approach. First a content analysis of the rules, objectives and prizes of the contest was done. Secondly a thorough analysis of all the applications submitted to the contest was conducted. A list of all submitted applications was kept at the official webpage of the contest (http://2011.nycbigapps.com/submissions). The list includes a text description, a link and a video of the functionalists for each application.

Surveying developers that participated in the competition could provide an insight on motivations that can affect the sustainability of the applications. However, content analysis can provide a thorough understanding of the factors affecting the sustainability of those applications (Fournier-Tombs, 2011).

NYC BigApp 3.0

The contest

The NYC BigApps 3.0 was the third version of the NYC BigApps annual contest. This version provided US$50,000 in prizes plus the opportunity for the winning app to present its application at NY Tech Meetup . Additionally, all the winners were introduced into the BigApps Founder Network, a network that provides support in the way of mentor ship and networking to successfully build a startup.

The contest was jointly created by New York City’s Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications and the Economic Development Corporation with the purpose of fostering the development of applications that would bring access to information for the citizens of New York and transparency for the government of the city. These applications would also enhance the interactions that different actors would have with the city. Secondly the competition looked to encourage innovation and value creation to incentive economic growth by citizens, startups or small organizations.

The competition started accepting submissions on October 11, 2011 and stopped on January 25, 2012. They obtained a total of 96 applications in this period of time. After the submission period ended NYC BigApps 3.0 started a public voting period that was extended from February 9 to March 8, 2012. The public voting consistent on register users from NYC BigApps 3.0 website to vote on their favorite application submitted to the contest. More than 9,000 users registered and were allowed to submit one vote per day for each application they found to be their favorite. The purpose of this public voting was to select the winner for the first and second prize on the “Popular Choice Award” category. 

To select the winners of the other 11 categories judges were appointed by the creators of NYC BigApps 3.0. A total of 15 judges, who all had senior positions in different technology related organizations, judged each application based on the quality of the idea, its implementation and the potential impact it could have in New York City. Each category had a theme and each application was categorized to fit in a category. A list of the different categories for the contest can be seen in Table 1.

The submitted application had to be an original work from the submitter and was free to mash any data as long as it used at least one dataset from the open data portal of NYC . This provided infinite possibilities of applications. They only constraint was that the application had to be free for the public for the duration of the competition plus at least one year after the completion. Any other dataset used by the developers had to provide this requirement. Additionally the contestant had to submit a link to the application along with a video and a photo of the application working, as well as a text description of it. The contest was open to any type of software application such as mobile, web or SMS. 

Table 1: NYC BigApps 3.0 categories
Best Overall Application - Grand & Second Prize
based on quality, implementation and potential impact
Investor’s Choice Application
based on potential of commercialization
Best Mobility Application
make it easy to move around NYC
Best Green Application
encourage environment sustainability
Best Education Application
include, encourage or bring awareness of educational aspects
Best Health Application
include, encourage or bring awareness of health aspects
Best NYC Mashup
utilize APIs from participating companies with the Open Data of NYC
Best Student Award
applications submitted by students
City Talent Award
for employees of the local government of NYC
Large Organization Recognition Award
for companies with more than 50 employees
Popular Choice Award – Grand & Second Prize
most valid votes

All submitted applications had an opportunity to be selected to participate in the TechStars program , since they were also going to choose two applications from the pool of applications in the contest. This partnership clearly flags the intention of creating applications that will last longer than the contest itself. 

The applications

After one year passed from the competition we could find that from the eleven winning applications in the contest only two were no longer working. However, only five had any update since the competition had completed. From all the applications only 35% of them had been updated at least once after the end of the contest and 28% were no longer available.

The contest was open to any type of software application. However, participants mostly submitted applications for web or mobile platforms. Only one of the applications was submitted that worked based on SMS. Mobile application were the most submitted being 56% of all summations, followed by web applications with 38%. Interestingly 5% of the participants submitted a combination of applications for web and mobile platforms.

From all the mobile applications submitted only 72% of them were still working one year after the contest submission deadline but only 28% of the total had been updated since the submission deadline. In the case of web applications 69% were still working and 47% had signs of an update after the submission deadline had passed. For those that submitted application for both web and mobile, they all had their applications working but only two of those applications had any sign of updates. Table 2 provides further details on working and non-working applications submitted to the contest.

Table 2: working and non-working applications based on type of application

Non-working (total)
Non-working (Percentage)
Working/not updated (total)
Working/not updated (Percentage)
Working/ updated (total)
Working/ updated (Percentage)
Mobile & Web

From the analysis of all the applications we could group applications based on the data source used in each applications. The first group was based on those applications that exclusively used the data located on NYC open data portal. This groups was comprise of 41 applications were only 19.5% of those application were still working and had signed of an update after the competition had finished (see Table 3).

The second group was formed by those applications that had mashed available data from different sources. Some utilized commonly available APIs, such as those from Google Maps, Bing Maps, Twitter or Foursquare along with those from the NYC open data portal. This group was formed by 35 applications and 40% of those applications where still working one year after the competition and had been updated at least once since then.

The third and last group was formed by applications that utilized different available data just like the second group but also generated data by their users. This group was formed by 20 application where 60% of them where still working one year from the contest and had been updated at least once since then.

Table 3: working and non-working applications based on data source

Working/not updated
Working/ updated
First group: exclusive NYC open data
Second group: multiple sources of data
Third group: multiple sources of data plus user generate data

Discussion and conclusion

NYC BigApp 3.0 clearly showed an interest on the development of applications that can bring value to the citizens, business and tourist of New York City. They created partnership with different startups accelerators and provided networking and business development support a long with cash prizes. However, only 35% of all applications had signed of still being working.

Those applications that exclusively used data from the NYC open data portal had the highest possibilities of being left outdated  meaning that their developers had passed to other projects. Those that used multiple sources of data and engaged with new user generated data had the highest survival rate, at least one year after the competition had finished. 

The applications that mashed data from multiple sources along with that of the open data portal can prove to be helpful for different communities. On the other hand, those that also mashed user generated data to their multiple data sources proved to be more sustainable and provided greater value to the communities.

Value can be created in many different ways. Mashing different datasets or providing visualization tools to different datasets can reveal information in ways that can move market (Lakhani et al 2010). In the case of BigApp 3.0 the applications that utilized exclusively with data from the NYC open data catalog didn’t mashed different datasets in unique ways. They mostly utilized one or two datasets and displayed the information that it contained. This can provide certain value to those that don’t know how to use the open data set and help reduce the data dive (Gustein 2011), but no economic value or innovation come from that source. Few applications in the contest utilized different datasets to produce new data, and those who did this prove to keep working on improving those applications.

The success of a contest has to include the impact that the outcome has (Nam 2012). Applications that last longer periods than the contest can have greater impact on the communities. Open data initiatives have to look further than idea competition to support the usage of their open data catalogs. Providing training to citizens on how to use the open data can bring awareness to the open data (Gustein 2011) and help built more sustainable applications that can last longer than the contest.

This study has some limitations. The study focuses exclusively in one contest in New York City, many other cities in the world have implemented similar contest and findings from those contest can show different characteristics of sustainability based on the available sources of data or partnership of the contest sponsors. More research is needed to understand our understanding of application sustainability after an open data contest. A next step for this research is to explore other cases and to conduct survey on motivations of the participants to have a clear view on factors that affect the sustainability of these applications.


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Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful by Beth Simone Noveck
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Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful by Beth Simone Noveck

In the private sector the concept of crowd sourcing has revolutionized the way the industry think and the concept of open innovation has been widely accepted. The book introduces this concept to the area of government and how they can embrace this to improve their decision making. Democracy has to change as technology evolves but government is not seen as embracing the latest technology to improve their performance. The government believes that a selected group of people (mostly political position) have all the knowledge needed to create all the policies. The author has the goal to show how a collaborative democracy can be implemented and disrupt the way the government operates.

Carefully explain the development of the project Peer-to Patent, Noveck shows the benefits of collaboration in patent approval. With this she provides a foundation on how much a government process can improve if it lets a group of motivated citizens participate. The book constantly shows how the Peer-to-Patent project disrupted a government office and how similar collaboration tools can do the same in different aspect of government. The book shows a lot of different examples on how crowdsourcing has been applied to the government (both federal and local) and the positive outcome that it has had.

Throughout the book we can appreciate the inputs that a community has and the importance of it for a collaborative effort in the government. Even though the author understands the importance of the community it doesn’t carefully explain how the community was built. If briefly mention how when the Peer-to-Patent started they had some problem getting new users because of the broad scope of patents to be revised, it still doesn’t give much reference on how they fix it or how others can work around this. The book is not focus on how to build community, but it would have been nice to see this concept better explained.

The book point to a new future of government and shows how good a government can be if it collaborates more within itself as well as with other actors of society.

Next is a brief summary and thought of each chapter of the book

Part 1: Collaborative Democracy and the Changing Nature of Expertise

Ch1: Peer-to-Patent: A Modest Proposal

With dissatisfaction on the current patent system, the author thought on a collaborative way to enhance the system. Currently the system relies on patent officers that have limited amount of time to decide if an application is patentable or not. The resources and the capacity the officer has is limited, by providing an infrastructure where the officer can receive inputs from others that are expert on the field, patents can be more fairly treated and the system as a hole can be more effective.

From this simple idea of introducing citizen’s participation to the patent office, the author created a pilot system that proved to be more effective. This chapter serves as an introduction on how the idea was developed and the simple mechanism to implement. The purpose of this chapter is to serve as an introduction and briefly explain how government can be more effective is citizens are more involved in the decision making. The chapter argues that government is not capable alone to fulfill all needs, but with the help of collaboration this can be solved. The author makes references on how business are using what is known as open innovation or crowdsourcing to enhance their business and get new ideas for it. The author argues that the government should take a similar approach to enhance the governance.

Ch2: The Single Point of Failure

Collaborative democracy is the future and involves the collaboration of both government officials and citizens. The government has lacked the inclusion of new technologies to its operation. This causes decision making to be bad. With new tools people can be connected even if they are not physically near. These new tools allow for more divers people to join and bring solutions to problems. By having diversity a problem can be tackled from many different views.

The current way that government works is by making decision on their own. Normally those who make the decision do not have all the information needed to make the right one. This cause a point of failure that is too big for countries. The new tools that allow collaboration are being used in almost all aspects outside of government. The software industry has utilized this collaboration concept and has been able to produce great products and/or services. If the government is able to utilize these tools the output can be significantly better by making decision making a collaborative aspect of democracy.

 Part 2: Peer-to-Patent and the Patent Challenge

Ch3: Patent and the Information Deficit

The current patent system is full of flaws, this has allows many low quality patent to be accepted. The main problem of the system is the lack of quality research the patent offices can do to find prior art for submitted patents. The officers are pushed to approve or denied a patent in a limited amount of time, they also have to conduct research in a significantly high number of databases. On the other hand they are not allowed to use commercial search engines to find prior art because of fear that information can be leaked this way. Having limited resources and high pressure, patent officers are accepting patents that are not novel and obvious.

To carefully explain the problem of the patent system, the author briefly explains the history of it and how it has changed through it. One of the biggest issues is how those who create the patents make great effort to confuse the patent officer by using complex language, doubling the amount of information and claims. Other problems have been the scope of patent, now more than 400 areas can be patented and each has other sub-areas.

The amount of low quality patents has created a troll patent problem, and it has incentive not the development of innovation through patent but the litigation through patent. This system has failed it initial purpose and the author goes through it history to explain why.

Ch4: Designing for Collaborative Democracy

Collaboration means the creation of a community that will contribute to each other. Communities are created by a relation to each other and culture is form that will sustain the outcome of the community. For Peer-to-Patent to succeed a strong community must be built around it. Without this community no one will provide the patent officer with prior art.

The chapter focuses on the importance of the community and how to build it. It covers basic concepts as motivation and how to rank users. It also briefly discusses how they initially got new users to contribute. One of the problems they had (at the beginning) was the big scope of the patent being covered (from databases to wind farms). An important topic covered in this chapter is how a comity was form to further develop Peer-to-Patent from a pilot to a full project.

Part 3: Thinking in Wiki

Ch5: Social Life of Information

Collaboration and sharing of information can be accomplished in many different aspects of the government. Access to information can help in cases of disaster, provide public awareness, etc. This chapter focuses on the different ways that information can be share within government and with citizens.

The chapter argues on not only opening information but on also making then more useful, accessible and searchable. The sharing of data can enhance the operation of other branches of the government and involve citizens to provide solution to problems that the government might not even see. This chapter is full of examples on how collaboration between different government agencies and citizens has improve not only the performance of the operation at hand but also the service provided to citizens.

Ch6: History of Citizen Participation

Citizens participation can be traced back to the times of the Greeks, but the change of landscape has also change the way of participation. The author explains the brief history on how citizens have been able to participate through in the US as time has passed. She argues that all the mechanisms have fails even if they try to imitate some that have been successful in industry or academia. They basically failed because they where not taken seriously as a mechanism to bring different opinions to decision making. The Internet hasn’t been that helpful to improve citizen participation because it hasn’t been properly used, so that it can unleash all its potential.

The tools that the internet provides are only being used as an electronic substitute of old paper based tools, such as comment. By creating a system where citizens can communicate with each other as well as with the officer in charge, participation can be more meaningful and provide better decision making. The chapter strongly indicates that a problem with citizen participation is the wrong view from policymakers on what and how can citizens contribute.

Ch7: Citizen Participation in a Collaborative Democracy

The chapter explains different possibility of collaboration with the government. It start by pointing that there is no one solution to all problems of collaboration with the government and what can work in one area might not in another. It is important to understand what type of collaboration is needed and how is best achieved. Using different systems for crowdsourcing can be more effective than just having a generic one. Utilizing the modern tools of collaboration can provide benefits depending on the task at hands. The author introduces the utilization of wikis for policy crafting and civil jury for assuring the performance of certain officials when creating policies.

The chapter also covers the engagement of citizens; it explains different communication opportunities that these new technologies provide to establish a two-way communication between elective officer and citizens. It is important to establish this two-way communication so that more transparency and accountability come to the government.

The final part of the chapter covers the leadership inside of the government to bring these changes. Noveck argues that having strong leadership is important to have a collaborative democracy. The private industry has focus on creating senior positions to introduce technology to enhance their business; the same most apply to the government. Without senior support on these technological changes, the government can’t apply these new technologies for achieving collaboration.

Ch8: Lessons Learned

Serving as a conclusion, this final chapter re-explores concepts covered throughout the book. It explains the principals and action to create a true collaborative democracy within the government and between the government, the private sector, the academia and the citizens.

It starts by reminding the importance of having the right questions, since the response gotten from collaboration will depend on the quality of the question. Also how to attract and motivate a community will be crucial for the survivor of the community that will sustain the collaboration. Communities are more motivated when the work is designed for groups instead of individual, so creating tasks and roles are important. They will also be incentive to contribute if a reputation system is at work.

Important aspect of this chapter is that design of the system to bring collaboration has to be according to the work that wants to be performed. This concept is covered carefully in the previous chapter but re-examine in this one. The author argues that the design not only involves the technology, the policy or people but the involvement of all those elements. This means that when designing the proper way to collaborate the designer have to talk with the lawyers, the technologies, the officers and the citizens that will interact.
Building successful online communities: Evidence-based social design by Kraut & Resnick
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Building successful online communities: Evidence-based social design by Kraut & Resnick

The book covers different aspects of building a community. It explores the importance of the users and how to engage them to contribute and be committed to the community. It also covers how to create a culture in the community and teach new users to adapt to them. Some of the topics can be overlap over different chapter.

I found the book to be easy read and provides a lot of different example to support the authors’ argument. Most of the communities that they use as example repeat themselves to prove different points throughout the book. The last chapter focuses more on economic theories and less empirical studies where the rest of the book shows more empirical studies to set the design claims.

Next is a brief summary and thought on each chapter of the book.


The first chapter serves to explain what the book is about and the method to be used to explain their points. The introduction shows the motivation behind the books and the limitations that it has. It also explains how this book should be use and interpreted.

It starts by defining online community as the interaction between different agents in a way that is controlled by computers. It explains the benefits and drawbacks that online communication has over offline communication and how this impact online communities.

After having a clear understanding of what an online community is, the chapter introduces the different design challenges that will be cover in the book and the design alternatives or options that online community designers have to work around those design challenges. It briefly introduces 9 levers that can be used around the design challenges. Each chapter of the books is focus on a design challenge and uses different levers to provide design alternatives or options.

The chapter then continues by explaining the morality of manipulating the design of an online community to achieve certain goals. The authors point out that any design already manipulates the outcome the online community has, so using certain design to better achieve a goal is not so wrong. They argue that more of a concern is the moral aspect of the goal that wants to be achieved. 

After clearing the morality of using or not certain design claims to improve the output of an online community based on its goals the authors explain the method that they’ll use to make their design claims. They briefly mention different social theories to be used throughout the book to explain how to manage the different design challenges that each chapter will cover. Then they explain how this design claims should be interpreted and used.

Lastly the chapter concludes by explaining once again the boundaries of the book (early stage of an online community). It also explains what is not covered in the book (limitation), this includes how to maintain a community fresh or how to use it to encourage innovation.

Chapter 1: Encouraging contribution to online communities

The chapter focuses on the different ways that collaboration can be enhance in an online community. They section this chapter in 8 sections where the last one is a recap of all the design claims they do in the chapter. They back each claim by carefully explaining different studies that have found findings similar to their claim.

One of the biggest concerns of communities is allocating help, most communities have more help in one are than in others. For this the authors argues that communities have to specify where help is needed so that contributed where they can start to improve the community. The authors also argue that providing useful tools for finding and tracking work needed will also help in this area. Finally this section finish by explaining how members will be more comply to contribute to the community if the task assigned to them is align to their preference. Meaning that the community needs to know and understand the preference or knowledge of each member so that it can assign task accordingly to their interest.

The next section focuses on how to handle request to optimize contribution by members. They point out that asking specific people for help is more efficient that asking the community as a hole. If the community can manage to point task especially to each member is better than posting all the help need openly. Also request should be kept as simple as possible when the issues at hand are non-important, this is because not everyone cares about all the domains and fully explaining the benefits of contribution should be explain to those who care about the domain. Fear campaign can be effective because it brings a persuasive appeal but at the same time it makes members evaluate the quality of this persuasive appeal.

The section continues by explaining that the person that makes the request is important to incentive contribution by members. If the request is done by an important person of the community, more members are likely to contribute. At the same time the more likeable the requester is the more likely members will comply. The authors also argue that request have a social aspect, meaning that when a member sees that other have comply he is more likely to comply to a request

The last part of this section focus on how the goals requested to members have to be specific and challenging to the level of the member requested. The authors also explain that when goals and deadlines are matched, contribution will increase as the deadline approaches. Finally the goals will have the highest effect when feedback (especially positive feedback) on the performance is given.

The fourth section focuses on enhancing the intrinsic motivation of members in a community. For this the authors explain that by mixing social contact and contribution between members will enhance the contribution of this members, this can be done by creating conferences or meetups where members socialize but at the same time contribute to a certain goal of the community. Also the community has to challenge the skills of each member by creating experience with clear goals and feedback that goes to the limit of their skills but at still give them in control. The feedback most be based on performance and given in a systematic and quantitative way to be more effective on motivating members to perform a task. This feedback will be effective on motivating member if they perceived it as sincere. When the feedback is going to be compared to other, the community should know that members will be motivated when they can find that the comparative performance feedback is desirable and potentially obtainable, the comparative feedback is a delicate issues because if done wrongly it can have a major negative impact on the community.

The fifth section talks about managing extrinsic motivations to attract contribution by members. The authors explain that providing rewards can incentive members to collaborate, the problem of rewards is they can lead members to trick the system and even if they don’t trick the system this type of motivation doesn’t help improving the quality of the contribution. The more the reward is based on quantity and not quality the higher risk the system has of being tricked by other members. This leads the authors to argue that is better for the system to provide rewards based on status and privileges than on a tangible way. Also the less transparent the system is on how it provides the rewards the less likely the system is of being tricked by users.

Extrinsic motivations have to be handle with care since providing extrinsic motivation to task that members have intrinsic motivation towards can be counterproductive, the exception comes if a tangible motivation is significantly higher than the intrinsic motivation the members have towards a certain task.

The next section focuses on the expectancy-value of group outcomes. The authors find that the more committed the members are, the more they will contribute to the community. Also they argue that smaller communities, compared to large ones, incentive members to contribute more. This is possible because these smaller communities can better portray the uniqueness of each member and how this uniqueness benefits the community, members that see this portray of their uniqueness are more willing to contribute to the community. Finally the Authors argues that members of a community will do more contribution if they feel that other member are complementing their work instead of substituting it.

The seventh section explains how different online communities use and match the different design claims that the authors have mention and how they work around some of the issues mention in the chapter.

Chapter 2: Encouraging Commitment in Online Communities

The chapter covers the commitment aspect of users towards online communities. The authors explain the different types of commitment that users can have towards the community and claims to improve those commitments. They categorize the commitments in affective, normative and need based. The affective commitment they subcategorize in identity based and bonds based. Each type of commitment has a purpose and affects the involvement of the users and the community in a different way.

The chapter starts by explaining how identity based commitment impacts the community and how to incentive this type of commitment. Identity based commitment implies that the user identifies with the community as a hole and this makes the user more committed to the community even if other member are no longer part of it. This type of commitment also helps user follow the norms and regulations of the community since they feel as an integrating part of the community.

To enhance the identity based commitment the authors imply that clustering users based on similarities or other functions can help with it. Similar creating subgroups and providing name to it can help them identify more with the group and create their own identity with the community. This subgroups will help with the identity commitment as long as the values of the subgroups are align to that of the community as a hole.

If the community has a name and a slogan that stimulates the interest of the community or the subgroup in the community this will help to develop the identity based commitment of the users. Similarly, making goals and purposes explicit to the users will incentive it as well. This can be accomplish by providing interdependent task to users at the same time this approach can be effective in reducing conflicts that may happen between subgroups of the community.

Promoting competition with other communities can improve the identity based commitment of the user, this competition should be moderated since having threats can make core users more committed to the community but at the same time can lead to less committed users to defect. This issues is discuss further in the need based commitment. 

When a commitment is based on the loyalty to other users it is called bonds based commitment. To incentive this commitment the authors argue that communities should recruit new members based on their social ties to current members. Also creating interaction between the friends of friends will enhance the bonds that exist in the community. The more users interact with each other can increase the bond the form to each other and this increases the bond based commitment to the community; these interaction could be seen as personal communication between members, repeat encounters between them in virtual spaces or the constant display of current information of the users recent activities among other things.

The ability to provide an user profile and allow them to personalize them to show relevant data can also help to increase the bond based commitment to the community.

Communities that actively support the self-disclosure of users can lead to higher bond based commitment, especially if it allows anonymity when sensitive information is shared. Anonymity can also help develop identity based commitments.

Communities have to learn how to manage high traffic since having them can reduce the bond based commitment of users unless they are cluster to the user’s interest. This can happen because users should be able to relate to other to develop this type of commitment, this is why highlighting interpersonal similarity can help increase it.

Diversity can be a problem with commitment to community because having many differences in interest can drive away those users that are committed based on identity. Off topics can cause greater troubles in this area unless the community goes off-topic as a group, if is done this way then it can actually revers the effect of off-topics and incentive both bonds based and identity based commitment. When the community doesn’t go off topic as a group, applying filters can help reduce the negative effect it can have over both subtype of commitment explained before.

The second mayor type of commitment that affects online communities is the normative based commitment. This type of commitment is based on the feeling of obligation that users may have towards the community. This type of commitment can be enhanced by highlighting the community’s purpose and successes. 

Social proof can help the normative commitment to the community in many different ways, such as showing other their normative commitment to the community, highlighting what users have gotten from the community, reminding of helps received by other members and the opportunity to contribute back. Finally portraying positive thinking of normative obligations will increase their commitment to the community.

Finally the third commitment discussed is the need based. This occurs when the users feel a need from the community and this can be enhanced by showing experienced related to the motivation that lead the user to the community. The need based commitment can also be enhanced by creating tied in to the communities, this can be done by creating niche communities that are not being served at all or by making it difficult to export or transfer assets obtained in the community. Making the community unique is a way to incentive the need based commitment. Showing information from competing community can reduce need based commitment since users can jump ships.

Finally the authors claim that by creating it difficult for users to enter the community can create a need based commitment on them, this is by having high entry barriers or by pushing users to invest heavily in the community. 

Chapter 3: The challenges of dealing with newcomers

The chapter focuses on how to properly handle newcomer. The author properly explains how to attract and keep new member, how to make them learn the norms of the group and how to protect the community from them.

When attracting new members a community has to focus not only in getting them but also on making sure that they are the right users to become members. New members are important because they will keep the community in cases where other member deflects and they will also make the community bigger and more powerful. This affects that new members bring to community is what make is so important to choose the right members.

By having an active recruitment policy a community can bring more prospective members. The utilization of word of mouth is an effective tool that will bring more new members than simple advertisement. Simple advertisement is not bad since the utilization of it will bring new members that had no previous knowledge of the community. Having visibility of the community to the outside is a crucial and this is way the authors claims that by letting existing member share content from the community to their friends can easily bring more new members to it. Endorsements and recruiting materials will also help with the visibility of the community and have the same effect, as well as constantly showing the name of the community. All of this will bring visibility of the community and familiarity to prospect members.

One of the most effective ways to bring new prospect is by utilizing the social network of existing member. If the community encourages the known influential members to recruit from their existing social network, this can be more effective than encouraging existing members at random to do this. 

At the same time if the community shows how others are benefiting from the community and how new members can also benefit is more productive in attracting new members than portraying how the community would benefit from the new user. This can be accomplishing by showing pictures (or other formats) of what it is to be a member of the community.

But the recruiting purpose of a community is not gain new members but to gain new members that will be committed to the community and will fit and contribute to it. This is why the community has to create mechanisms to secure that new members want to be part of this. One way to do this is to create waiting time before posting or interacting in the community, this will assure that those who wait really want to be part of the community. Also applying some fee or demanding the completion of certain tasks could replicate similar outcome.

Screening is another way to assure that new members will be important assets to the community. A task competition, mention before, can be an initial screening mechanism implemented to select the right members. Demanding credentials from new members could be a different way. As mention in the previous chapter creating entry barriers can assure that the members that enter the community as committed to it and contribute to it.

Having a referral system can assure that new member are good fit to the community since this implies that someone already knows them and backs them to enter the community. This is good as it controls who come in and someone is responsible for the actions of this new member. At the same time, this can be less effective in communities that attract people from different parts of the world since it would be difficult for older members to know them before they enter the community.

But it is important to create a community that attracts newcomers and secure that they have an environment to grow. This is way it is important to treat new members nicely when they join so that they can contribute to the community. For this policies must be set so that when a new member makes a mistake the older members don’t attack them for it.

Creating an environment for newcomers to grow could include making them introduce themselves so that they can integrate more easily, creating a welcoming committee that will greet newcomers and incentive positive interaction between new members and old ones. Having positive socialization will encourage a positive fit to the new members and encourage them to contribute to the community.

Creating a place where newcomer can learn the process while they adapt to the community can prove to be positive since it wouldn’t disturb the old members but at the same time it would help the new ones develop to what the community expects. Having a sandbox or controlling the level of access of new member can be an optimal solution for this. Older members could help new one develop themselves in those controlled environment before entering to where all the other members are.

Chapter 4: Regulating behavior in online communities

The chapter focuses on how to set normative behaviors in the site and how to manage improper behavior effectively. The authors cover topics as preventing spam, managing conflict between user and setting users to follow norms among other topics covering the culture of the community.

The authors argue that having a moderation system that handle inappropriate messages can limit the damage that those messages can have to the community. To properly handle this messages they also argue that the system should be able to move them to appropriate places instead of just deleting the message. By moving it, the system can create a mechanism of letting users know that this type of behavior is unacceptable in an specific place, but it can be done in another place of the community. This will help users understand the norms and not get angry if they feel the system mismanaged the action of an user.

To reduce misunderstanding between users and a moderation system the criteria for moderation should be clear. This system should rely on member of the community that are impartial, at the same time the power should be limited or rotate over time.

Communities can be affected by trolls or disruptors that hole focus is to disturb the environment in the community. To limit the damage they might cause it is important to be able to roll back to previous version where damaged hadn’t occurred. At the same time providing filters can reduce the damage of post from this trolls as well as setting a recognize police to ignore trolls by not feed them with response to their posts.

There are many ways to reduce the amount of trolls that enrolled to the community or at least to limit them, having activity quotas can be a productive way as well as having mechanism to prevent trolls to game the system. These mechanisms could be by producing some type of gain (it could be currency inside the community or points), also introducing verification like CAPCHA can reduce automatic attacks.

If the system is able to highlight good behaviors, members can better understand what is expected of them by the community. At the same time, the system can portray inappropriate behavior and compare it to proper behavior so that members can have a much better understanding of the community norms. 

Other mechanisms to induce members on proper behavior are by providing positive feedback on their actions as well as displaying statistics of formative behavior. So that users properly know what is expected from them, is important for the community to have explicit rules and guidelines. The trick of rules and guidelines is that if shown too frequently it can indicate to some members that those guidelines are not always followed.

Truly committed members are less possible to break the norms and this is why the system should be built to encourage commitment such as allowing members to correct bad behavior by giving them a chance of face saving. Also building the norms as a community can increase this feeling of commitment and compliance to them.

The best way to prevent inappropriate behavior from members is to allow the system to detect infractions and warn members before they commit one. Also by not allowing search engines to follow links published in them can reduce targeted spam. Member verification can also do this, as explained before. Creating mechanisms to benefit users with long term id or having entry barriers can be effective on preventing id switch in users that have been sanction. These could be seen as creating a cost to enter the community, providing bonds, requesting sponsorship from current members, providing point, access control based on merits, etc.

The most effective way to prevent bd behavior is by providing gradual sanction, allow members to face save them, increase cohesion, having explicit rules, have anti-retaliation measurement. Also having mechanism where other members can report abuse or an automated system to do this can be effective on scaring users to commit bad behavior

Chapter 5: Starting New Online Communities

This chapter focuses on the economics of starting an online community. It discusses the topics of building the community on a niche and how to build critical mass on it. It discusses concepts covered on other chapters but with a view more focus in one of the topics previously mention.

It start by arguing how important is for the community to have a niche to start on how engage users to it. It discusses the cost of interruption that the community might cause to the members and how to handle this properly to both increase users and not annoy them. The authors argues that by utilizing push notifications it is important for the designers to understand that it will produce benefits when the cost of interruption is low, the volume of notification is low and the time sensitivity of interaction is high.

For starting community is important to have a narrow scope. The volume of interaction can be negatively affected if the range of topics is high. Also, a narrow scope can help in focusing in specific task while getting to critical mass. The only time that different topics are effective is if they relate to each other. In this case bridging identity between them can create value to the community. However, not having a clear scope can be helpful in adjusting the community to members needs and on creating a sense of ownership.

It is important for the designer of the community to understand that at first they should let the flow follow its course and then identify what subtopics have traction for then subdividing. If this is done from the beginning the community can suffer from having some subtopics without any traction.

Navigation aids can help for users to identify content that is located in the community, this tools is more effective and important when the community has large amount of topics. This allows the users to loose less time when looking for an specific topic. Recommendation systems can also work in favor just like navigation aids, especially when there is high volume of interaction.

In cases where the space is not active all the time is important for the community to indicate the time they are, so that member can create expectation and contribute to it during the appropriate time.

Competition will arise and when confronted with an incumbent the design elements of the community will have an effect on the success of the community. Having different user interface elements as well as not sharing user IDs and/or profiles increases the cost of new communities and provide advantages to the incumbent community. Content sharing on the other hand can post value to both. In one hand the exporter gains from awareness, meaning that it will create visibility of the community in the other community. The importer in the other hand will gain from being the one where the content is actually consumed.

When using data generated from a third party to fuel the community it is important that the data is used in an innovative way that generate values. If it is used as in other places the community would be doom to fell since users could just use the community where the data came from originally.

Attracting member is an important part of the early stage of a community because it will allow the possibility of archiving critical mass and being successful. Attracting new users can be achieved by having a short and unique selling proposition of the community. Endorsement and advertisement brings awareness and helps the community to become a focal point when competing with others. 

If early members are motivated to generate content this will increase the bootstrap, this must be set to gain more members. The user generate content is the king for bootstrapping. Another way to help with bootstrapping is by showing membership to those that are nor a member yet. Also, by allowing actions of members to be shown to those outside of the community can be an effective way to bootstrap.

If current members send content from the community to the outside they can gain awareness and bootstrap new members. Also providing mechanisms to allow current members to invite outsiders can have similar effect. Different paying referral mechanism can have similar results as invitation mechanism have.

Community features don’t have to be implemented from the starting point of the community; content generated by only a few users can start the traction that could lead to a community. Having professional content can lead to the same result. The trick of using professional content is that it can disincentive user generate content, to limit this effect professional content should be used as a last resort way.

Early adopters are crucial in online communities since they will be the one starting its content. Bots and other automated systems can fill in when interaction between users is critical but there is not enough users to interact with. This is done to discourage early adopters.

The early adopters could be attracted by utilizing different mechanisms such as offering permanent discounts, promoting the benefits of being an early adopter, promoting the community as exclusive and creating claimable resources among other mechanisms. Attracting the new users is not the only thing communities have to do, engaging them is also a crucial part of attracting them. To engage an incentive the contribution from the early adopters the community can create minimal contribution policies so that those users can keep the advantages and benefits they get as early adopter.

Communities have to portray success; to do this is important for the community to have a professional design. Showing that high investment is being allocated to the community can show commitment to it and users can have higher expectation of success. Also displaying the contributions that users have done, indicators of their activity can also increase success expectation.

When the community is small and growing slowly it is good to acknowledge the activities of members. Once the community start to grow at a faster rate but still is small is better to portray percentage growth over real numbers. However, once the community is big is better to present real number over percentage growth.