Social Networking

Creating massive community involvement: 11,000 Medical Spa comments.

User generated content.

If I hear that phrase one more time... I'll have heard it many, many times.

It seems that it's what guys think you want to hear for some reason when they're pitching a deal that would necessitate the creation of mongo content.

Of course user generated content has been around for a while and it is the foundation on which distributed networks are built upon. Distributed networks that attain market saturation become extremely valuable. (The telephone is a perfect example.)

Now you can go ahead and build some sort of platform, but getting people to generate content for you is not easy. People generally don't want to spend their time helping build out your site. In fact, building out content for your site is just below... we'll, it's below everything.

Usage is king, and evangelists, fanatics are key.

So how do you get users to create content and build value? There are a few tricks and some insight but there's a fair amount of common sense to. You've got to provide value that exceeds the opportunity cost for the end users of staying with their know behavior. See, simple.

Therer are lots of sites that are attempting to build community. I have a site that does pretty well in that it's; generating lots of unique content, has real fanatics and evangelists that extole it's virtues at every chance, provides real value, and is in a niche. Medical Spa MD hosts forums, classified ads, and physician training information for plastic surgeons, dermatologists and medical spas. The forums on the site are by far the most active physician community of any blog on cosmetic medicine. It's received over 100,000 monthly page views and 50,000+ unique monthly visitors with a large majority being not-tech-savvy doctors.

More to the point, there are more than 11,000 comments, many of them are more than 500 works long and are more ariadite than the posts.

Here's a list of some of Medical Spa MDs active comment threads with the comment count:

Notice that last one? 1,151 comments and counting. That's buy-in.

Physicians are generally not technical, have severe time constraints, and are peculairly hesitant to disseminate information that could come back to haunt them at some time in the future. (Malpractice premiums of $100k a year will do that.)

But, it targets a niche that was not represented. Namely, information for doctors that doesn't come from the marketing and PR departments of technology companies. Previously, all the information available to doctors was provided by companies or advertisers whose revenue is paid by companies. Companies don't like any negative press so the information distribution channels were without any criticism or any meaningful content.

There are any number of ways to exploit current systems and take advantage of existing needs to create real communities of fanatics.

Twitter-Spam & Social Climbers


So I've joined Twitter.

While I can see some merit, I'm not yet convinced that it's a killer app and not just a fad. It feels something like a feature looking for an application. Perhaps I'm wrong. I often am. Certainly it looks to be taking off.

Here's Allan Young's take on Twitter: The Twitter Influence Ratio 

With the Twitter Influence Ratio, we’re going to try and get a read on someone’s true influence level. It stands to reason that if you are interesting, have neat thoughts, and add value to the network, people will naturally gravitate to you and “follow you.” Some of the most influential members of Twitter have many more followers than people they follow. So the Twitter Influence Ratio will attempt to express this relationship as;

Followers / Following = Twitter Influence Ratio

Example: 533 / 609 = 0.875

In the above example, one such self-branded “social app guru” has 533 followers and is following 609 others. This gives him a Twitter Influence Ratio of only 0.875 which means this person is not very influential. Intuitively, you ought to have more followers interested in what you have to say than the number of people you’re following. One might say that 533 followers is nothing to sneeze at. I agree, but the fact that this person has so many followers and is following so many more makes it highly probable that he is what is known as a “friend whore” or “follow whore.” Like the desperate high schooler, he’s just trading votes. Someone with a TI Ratio of less than 1 but is only following 30 others is probably not out there actively trading votes or follows. If I were looking for a consultant, I would run away from this guy and find someone more influential.

It's easy to see what Allan's talking about. My own Twitter Influence Ratio is abysmal, roughly two-to-one or .5. I guess I'll have to become more profuse in my twitting about... we'll, there's your problem.

Leaderless: The asymmetrical bootstrapping starfish and the chronically arthritic spider.

As a companion philosophy to The Wisdom of Crowds we now have The Starfish And The Spider; the unstoppable power of leaderless organizations.

Of course guerrilla armies have been using asymmetrical warfare since Moses unleashed boils and other nasty ailments on Pharaoh.  All organizations have a problem when dealing with something that operates as effectively as a virus if you ever seen John Carpenters "The Thing". Of course if it really is 'unstoppable power' that leaderless organizations have, it's not going to be stopped.  (See Distributed Intelligence & Collective Intelligence)

1591841437.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpgEvidently, the U.S. military is studying small companies to unearth ideas that will help the war on terror.

It may seem a stretch that within the chaos of capitalism are the secrets to fighting al-Qaeda. But the military and business have long borrowed leadership lessons and competitive tactics from each other...

...How large, traditional companies fare in this fight may prove invaluable in developing a strategy against al-Qaeda. That's why the military is going to school. A book making the rounds at the Pentagon is The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations. It was written for a business audience, but military strategists are saying, "This is the best thing I've read that applies to counterterrorism," says Lt. Col. Rudolph Atallah, a Defense Department director in international affairs.
Via Leaderless Startups, The Starfish and the Spider.

 Linda recommended The Starfish and the Spider, subtitled "The unstoppable power of leaderless organizations." This idea will be familiar to many of us who've been watching open source, wikipedia, and other decentralized online phenomena, but I found that the most interesting parts of this book were about the offline world, and how leaderless organizations have succeeded there.

From the Starfish and the Spider Wiki

The Starfish and the Spider explores what happens when starfish take on spiders (such as the music industry vs. Napster, Kazaa, and the P2P services that followed). It reveals how established companies and institutions, from IBM to Intuit to the US government, are also learning how to incorporate starfish principles to achieve success.


And it's not just a entrepreneurs and terrorists who are latching on to this distributed network stuff:

The Earth Intelligence Network

Earth Intelligence Network (EIN), a non-profit with 501c3 status pending exists to provide social intelligence capital by harnessing the distributed intelligence of the Whole Earth and creating a new integrated global mesh that enables life-long education, decision-support, focused research, and consensus-building.

The Earth Intelligence Network has three driving priorities:

1) To create, structure, and share public intelligence in the public interest with respect to the ten high-level threats, the twelve integrated policies to address all threats, and the eight major players whom we must help avoid the horrendous mistakes associated with immoral capitalism and unilateral militarism.

2) To support, at no cost to them, all developers of serious games and games for change that address any or all of the ten threats, twelve policies, and eight major players.

3) To support, at no cost to them, all developers of online budget simulations that can foster citizen understanding of the near and long-term benefits of reality-based budgeting, and the terrible consequences of special interest budgeting.HmmmHmmm

Hmmm. Distributed network of decision makers that operate on their own but towards a communal interest? Seems just like  Patrick Byrne of is talking about with strategic failure to deliver. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

It's no real stretch of the imagination to see why distributed, unorganized networks of a like mind are so difficult to defeat. Napster was able to be targeted only because they controlled the linchpin of having the network traffic go through their servers. Everyone is wanting to do the 'user generated content' thing.

Omuse: The kinda blog like wiki thingy from

omuse.jpgOvertock has launched their first community building program with Omuse.

I've know about this for a while and have had a number of lunch discussion with 'the Omuse' Judd about Omuse and gaining users and traction.

Omuse grew out of a problem Overstock has with natural SEO, Judd's desire to build everything social, and his propensity to use 'web 2.0' in every sentence. Here's the problem and the premise.

Wikipedia is really run by a cabal of around 1600 heavy users who form a kind of click. New editors often run afoul of these guys and are turned of when their content is reverted or changed. (WikiReview is another startup 'opinion' alternative to  Wikipedia.)

Blogs of course are the prime mover in this type of social interaction space. But blogs actually take some time and effort. Not everyone wants to feel obligated or invest the energy to write a blog, but they have some content they'd like to share.

(My mother leaps to mind. She doesn't really get the whole 'blog thing' but there might be some content she'd like to share on specific topics... How to fire someone and still make them love you... Small town Utah recipes... How to turn your dog into an ankle biting terror... that kind of thing.)

So Omuse handles this by allowing anyone (or collaborative group) to write a 'guide' on any topic, but any other author can go right ahead and write a guide on exactly the same topic. Consumers can read these opinions and guides from different authors that might directly compete with each other. Users can then rate or promote the guides they like the best. If they don't like or agree with a guide, they can get editing permission or write their own guide. Unlike, the content is not dictated and opinion is welcomed alongside fact. The creative commons license lets others freely use this content.

I think Omuse will see that some bloggers use the site to generate SEO links and support other endeavors so they'll have to address that in some fashion. There will be a battle of spam on the site starting directly.

On another note, the site doesn't look that great and isn't intuitively easy to use unless you're already savvy with the wiki platforms. 

Here's the Omuse link to write a guide