Monthly Archives: January 2008

justin khoury interview – exclusive interview with muhammad saleem

if i mentioned the user name ‘msaleem’ out of a pool of over one million registered users to a regular contributor over at digg – or propeller for that matter, chances are they’d know whom I’m referring to. a self professed social media maven, extremely talented writer, creative thinker, and university student, saleem is considered the second most successful and largest contributor on digg – so when the opportunity to conduct an interview came along, best believe i wasn’t going to let this one slip. and now that I’ve ‘obtained’ muhammad until the end of the interview (let me check if his still confined to my dungeon), we better get crackin’ before he finds a way to escape.

i have actually managed to escape from justin, but do check out the interview.

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guest post at techcrunch: 9 reasons why the digg story sells

i’ve written a post on techcrunch on why digg has been embraced by the mainstream media and the blogosphere alike.

so why does the digg story sell so well? here’s a look at 9 elements that make a good story – one that people embrace and propagate through their networks – and how digg has taken those principles to heart.

read on for an exploration of all 9 elements that have made digg successful.

this post is a part of my journey through seth godin’s all marketers are liars.

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guest post at search engine land: 7 tips to win the social news beauty pageant

i’ve written a post on search engine land giving out 7 tips that will help your next social news submission shine above the rest.

how can you increase your chances of appealing to an average digger, stumbler, or other social media user, and actually get them to vote for your content?

read on for all 7 tips.

this post is a part of my journey through james surowiecki’s the wisdom of crowds.

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the easiest way to make your community happy

the simple fact that you have a community around your service or a readership around your blog means that you’re doing at least something right, and that people want to participate. at the same time, however, the participants aren’t always necessarily happy or as happy as they could be. what amazes me about this situation is not only how easy it is to make these people happy/happier, but also how many people fail to do this.

as james surowiecki describes in his book the wisdom of crowds, according to the human-relations movement led by sociologist elton mayo, people are not only happier, but also more productive when they feel their concerns are being listened to. it’s rather simple, really: just listen to what your community has to say and the next time you make a decision, take their thoughts into account. if you end up implementing one of the suggestions, go ahead and give credit where it’s due. but before you do this, you need to have a system in place that easily let’s your community get in touch with you, and create a culture where the community actually believes that their concerns won’t fall on deaf ears.

it seems foolish to me (if not self-sabotaging) that socially driven news and content sites in particular have managed to get millions of people to participate in the process of submitting, voting, commenting, and sharing content, but have failed to institute a system to allow the same community to recommend improvements to the sites and discuss the best way to go about making those improvements. do we honestly think that the 15 people at digg know more than the site’s million-plus users know about where the site needs to be going and what improvements should be next? the same applies to all other social media services. in fact, i find myself wondering if these sites even know the first thing about the very phenomenon they are presumably taking advantage of (the wisdom of crowds). so far, the only site i’ve seen that allows people to participate in the process of site improvement is reddit, where you can submit self-referential posts pertaining to the site (and they’ve usually been implemented fairly speedily).

as for the argument that digg or any other site may not want community input because they want to make decisions which increase the sellability of the site the direction where many claim they are going), i think its impossible to differentiate between features that the community wants and thinks will improve the site, and the features that make a site more sellable. lastly, fevote is a site that allows people to make suggestion boards around communities (for example, here’s one for digg), but ultimately, for any such system to work, it has to be hosted on the site itself, and be instantly available to the entire community.

so help your community get one step closer to nirvana, listen to the very people who are responsible for your success.

this post is a part of my journey through james surowiecki’s the wisdom of crowds.

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what do you do if the rule-breakers aren’t punished?

while reading the wisdom of crowds by james surowiecki, i came across an old (but highly applicable) forbes article titled are you a chump? the article is a commentary on the american tax system, tax avoidance, and whether it makes sense. let’s think about this problem.

the money that the government gets from tax collection goes towards things that benefit everyone. you get public services such as roads, police, firemen, and you get a military that protects you, irrespective of whether you actually contributed to the pool or not. why then do people pay taxes? ultimately what it comes down to is that if you cheat on your taxes, chances are that you will be caught, and the penalties you will have to pay then are high enough to deter most people from playing the numbers.

comparing cheating on your taxes to gaming a social news site may be stretching it a little but bear with me for a minute. the more i participate on these sites, the more it becomes obvious that certain sites and people are participating in a way that isn’t the ‘good citizen’ way of contributing to these sites, even though it might not explicitly violate the terms of service. take the example of digg and propeller. both these sites have systems in place that allow users to share their submissions with other people (shouts versus site-mail). though the systems are in place to allow people to share one-off interesting stories with a few of their friends, they are increasingly being used to mass-spam entire friends lists to rally for votes.

until today i had resisted using these systems simply because it’s not the ‘good citizen’ way to participate. however, now that more and more people are abusing this functionality, at the cost of users in good standing, and aren’t being punished for what they’re doing, i can’t help but wonder why any user shouldn’t similarly abuse them for their own benefit. most of us are contingent consenters, i.e. we are willing to participate and abide by the community rules as long as everyone else also abides by the same rules and those that don’t, are punished. if the system breaks down, the community leaders have no choice but to resort to the same methods. after all, no one likes to be the chump.

what do you think?

this post is a part of my journey through james surowiecki’s the wisdom of crowds.

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