Web 2.0 Blog – Discovering Innovation Opportunities using Social Media

The tension between obtaining participation vs collaboration.

Posted on: February 2, 2009

Thinking about KIDFAD, Surowiecki’s requirements for successful collaboration. Also his Ted talk where he questioned whether the blogosphere is a good collaboration environment.

Also thinking about communities and communities structures. Get the influencers on board, make them evangelists and you can get a lot of people participating in your social media campaign or effort.

But they are at cross purposes right? Communities offer us a structure to pass information, change standards and behavior which relies on the relationships in the communities compromising the independence of the majority of the audience. While successful collaboration requires independence of thought, decentralization and diversity of opinion.

The influencers seem entrusted by the community to think for them when it comes to certain things such as what clothes are in fashion, what car to buy, some political opinions etc? And according to the New England Journal of Medicine, how much to each and exercise.

Social media strategists prefer to obtain participation by getting communities on board (it’s easier to get a few influencers on board and let them amplify our efforts than it is to talk to everyone right?) . And its hard to imagine how mass social media efforts could work without relying on this community structure and viral spread.

But then how do we separate participation mechanisms from collaboration mechanisms, so that we can have successful collaborations with members of participating communities?

In the DARPA Grand Challenge which was a highly successful contest to create self-driven vehicles, whose 2005 winner now sites in the American History Museum at the Smithsonian, collaborations were done in small teams, whereas participation of the teams is what DARPA acheived. The mechanisms of collaboration were left up to each team.

In the case of @GeoSteph’s LRO
effort which collected 1.5 million names in 3 months to send to the moon, participation was the final goal, so in this corrupting the independence and diversity wouldn’t matter. (In other words, lets assume that the majority of participants were NASA enthusiasts which is perfectly reasonable but does limit the diversity in the group).

But how about if we want to get the public to way in on how to improve the economy, stop foreclosures, how do we invite individuals to collaborate without inviting groups to participate? Or if we invite groups to participate how do we then create a collaborative environment where they are willing to shed some of their group identity for the sake of a successful collaboration?

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2 Responses to "The tension between obtaining participation vs collaboration."

I’m going to respond to a sliver of this post. This subject, “how do we invite individuals to collaborate without inviting groups to participate?”

A couple years back, I was blogging about some issues, specific to my local community. It was clear that I was leaning toward one side of the conversation, and in that awareness, a “group” with a mission statement, website and whole kit and caboodle. They asked me to join their group in support of the work they were doing. I declined, explaining that I was delighted they had found a way to express themselves and that I was more interested in the Web 2.0, collaborative, knowledge-sharing approach to looking at the problem, as opposed to the Yes-No/Red State-Blue State argument that was raging.

So, I know your post speaks to many more points, but this little tidbit from my own history — wherein I consciously declined group participation over a Web 2.0 approach — came to mind in reading your thoughts.

Mercy. Just reread my comment above. Sloppy writing. I guess that’s what I get for diffusing my activities too much. I was in the middle of vacuuming when I wanted a bit of info on the web. 20 minutes later, here I am, commenting on a blog. Back to the Kirby I go, but what do I do now that the cat has settled peacefully on my lap?

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