Sunday, October 21, 2007

Podcast Review: "When Communities Attack!"

As predicted earlier, real life has consumed 100% of my energy for the last month or so, so I haven't made any progress on RefineScript/The Straightstone System/ I have, however, listened to some podcasts that I think are relevant to anyone else in my situation*, so I think I'll start a series of reviews.

"When Communities Attack!" was presented at SXSWi07 by Chris Tolles, marketing director for You can download the MP3 at the SXSW Podcast website.

The talk covered the lessons learned about online communities through running a large-scale current-events message board system. really seemed like it had been a crucible for user-created content, as Danish users argued with Yemenis about the Mohamed cartoons, or neighbors bickered with each other about cleaning up the local trailer park.

These were the points I thought relevant to my comment feature:
  • Give your site a purpose and encourage good behavior. Rather than discourage bad behavior, if your site has a purpose (like wikipedia) users have a metric to use to police themselves. Even debatable behavior can be tested against whether it helps transcribe the manuscript. This also prevents administrators from only acting as nags.
  • Geo-tag posts. Display the physical location where the comment comes from: "The commentary now autotags where the commenter is from. . . . The tone of the entire forum got a little more friendly once you start putting someone's town name next to [a post], because it turns out that no-one wants to bring shame to their town.
  • Anonymity breeds bad behavior. If people think their mother will read what they're writing, they're less likely to fly off the handle.
  • Don't erect time-consuming barriers to posting. It turns out that malevolent users have more free time than constructive users, and are actually more likely to register on the site and jump through hoops.
  • Management needs a presence. Like a beat cop, just making yourself visible encourages good behavior.
  • Expose user information like IP address. This can help the community police itself through shaming posters who use sock-puppet accounts.
[*] that is, any other micro-ISV building on collaboration software for the digital humanities.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Matt Unger in the New York Times

Papa's Diary Project got a nice write up in today's New York Times.

I especially like that it's filed under "Urban Studies | Transcribing".

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Name Update: Renan System pro and con

I've been referring to the software as the "Renan System" for the past few months. The connection to Julia Brumfield's community works well, and Google returns essentially nothing for it. The name is both generic and unique, so I registered

There's just one problem: nobody can pronounce it.

The unincorporated community of Renan, Virginia is pronounced /REE nan/ by the locals, which occasionally gets them some kidding. I now understand why they say it that way - it's just about the only way to anglicize the word. /ray NAW/ is hard to say even if you don't attempt the voiced velar fricative or nasalized vowel. Since the majority of my hypothetical users will encounter the word in print alone, I have no idea how the pronunciation would settle out.

So unless there's some standard for saying "Renan" that I'm just missing, I'll have to start my name search again.