Social Gestures

So much of what drives social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook basically comes down to social gestures by people who want to connect with others, or add value to something bigger than themselves. From product reviews to wiki edits, millions of people are benefitting from this mass of small social gestures online.

It's interesting for businesses to note that massively complex systems and information empires can be driven by something other than money. Very few social media sites pay people to participate. People use online platforms to build relationships and contribute to communities. Essentially this is a new form of economic production beyond the two classic pillars of economics, the firm and the market. Yochai Benkler calls it "Peer Production".

I’ve noticed that my social gestures over the years - blogging, chatting, uploading, editing - have accumulated into a kind of Social Equity. The result is more exposure, higher trust, more business, and ultimately financial reward.
Thus each social gesture becomes an investment.

Many businesses are already benefitting from the social equity of their employees. I think it’s important for businesses to recognize these people within their ranks and enable them to continue rather than shutting them down.
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AuthorDave Duarte
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Kelele Africa

Kelele, an annual African bloggers’ conference, was announced yesterday at BarCamp Africa at the GooglePlex in San Francisco. This exciting event will be held in a different African city each year and run by an organising committee in that city. Kelele will be held for the first time in August 2009 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Daudi Were is producing the event, along with an organizing committee of bloggers from all over Africa. This includes Ndesanjo Macha, Erik Hersman, Nii Simmonds, Mshairi, Sami Ben Gharbia, and me.

Why Kelele?

Kelele is the Kiswahili word for noise. We are organising a gathering of African bloggers in the tradition of historical African societies where everyone has a voice.

The specific theme of Kelele ’09 Nairobi is Beat Your Drum – which connects the traditional Africa method of getting your message across vast distances – the talking drums – to the 21st century and the tools we use today, blogs and the Internet.

Sponsorship

We are working to make Kelele a world-class conference, but in order to do this we will need Sponsorship to cover costs such as delegate's flights, venue, AV and bandwidth.

We’d like to invite all organizations with an interest in blogging, Africa and citizen media to become a sponsor of the inaugural African Bloggers Conference: Kelele!

There are a variety of ways that you can become involved as a sponsor for Kelele - your contribution doesn’t only need to be financial in nature. If you’d like to find out more about the sponsorship opportunities, please email daudi.were@gmail.com
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AuthorDave Duarte
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nvohk bannerI thought of this concept when my friend Tim emailed me about nvohk  (pronounced "envoke"), a crowdfunding and branding initiative applied to clothing.

In theory it's a great idea - 30 000 people each put forward $50 for a year's membership in nvohk inc. For their $50 they get a "founders t-shirt", get to vote on stuff like logo design and advertising decisions, get discounts on nvohk t-shirts, and split 35% of the profits between them. It works for the company because each t-shirt owner then has a vested interest in helping the brand succeed, and passing on work of its success.

Where I think the company could improve its offering is to start connecting members and create an online space, like a Ning social network, for them to discuss their investment in public with each other and the project founder, Brendan Lynch. This would increase trust and interest, and make it a bit more like the original concept, a proven success model, on which I believe it was based (probably unknowingly) - the South African Stokvel.

Stokvels, according to The Beehive, "...have been around in South Africa for many years. They are a good way for people to help motivate each other to save, and many stokvel or savings clubs are like social clubs where members also help each other in ways other than with money. Regular stokvel meetings have become a social highlight in many communities".

The internet can allow ad-hoc communities to form around virtually anything - the initial social object could be saving money, but then extend as people seek other ways to connect with and help each other. In the business case, such as with nvohk (or to quote a more familiar South African example, Verity), I believe that the investors want the project to succeed, and some of them would have at least enough interest in it to want to chat with other investors with the same interest via a convenient virtual platfrom like the official website of the project.

I think the concept of the digital stokvel has great potential to be applied to brand campaigns. Watch this space for more case studies to come.
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AuthorDave Duarte
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One of the most interesting lessons of Web2.0 is that even the most open communities need a form of hierarchical governance if they are to continue to serve their members well.

As as any web platform becomes very popular, so it becomes more enticing for people to game it to promote their own interests. If this is allowed to continue then the system can become cluttered and the ordinary user's experience suffers. So, regrettably, it's often necessary for someone to decide what is allowed and then kick out people who aren't playing by the rules.

Here's a talk by Jason Calcanis at Le Web which I think pretty much explains the importance of curatorship of web communities (with thanks to Charl for the link):



It is also important to clearly state the Terms of Use for any community site. We learned this lesson when Muti.co.za was criticized for the founder's direct involvement in blocking certain users who were deemed to be spamming the system. Although I believe Neville's actions helped keep the site useful to it's users, not having public guidelines may have made it seem like a personal decision taken against certain users. Muti now has clear Terms of Use, and the community is flourishing.
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AuthorDave Duarte
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A couple of weeks ago Nic and Matt posted pics and commentary about the world first public screenshots of the Wikia Search project (also picked up by Mashable and TechCrunch) that were recently shown in Johannesburg. Well, now I see that iCommons has released the video of his whole talk (here). I've edited it down to a short clip just about the Search project:



In the clip, Jimmy explains that Wikia is developing a freely licensed search engine, using open source software, to compete directly with Yahoo, Google and all the big search players. It Aims to match or exceed the quality of the major search engines

He also makes a strong "political statement" that it's not healthy that so much power is in the hands of a few search companies who are secretive about how the information is ranked (other's think so too).

Lastly, he showed screenshots of the Facebook-like contributor interface, dubbed by others as his "Socialpedia".
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AuthorDave Duarte
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