Here Come 45 Social Propositions

Well, it’s been a fascinating few hours at Disappearing Towers, because I’ve been pondering Andy Gibson’s ‘45 Social by Social Propositions’, where he defines ‘a set of fundamental principles to follow to help make a social technology project successful’, and invites people to engage with / comment on / remix them.

I’ve never been able to resist a good tinker, so I decided to give them a light remix – partially just because fiddling with things always helps me understand them better, and partially because I always have a bit of a problem with unbroken down lists.

I find them a bit hard to take in, because the structure behind them isn’t always easily evident. And, if you’re looking to explain them to people, everything can become a bit repetitive, because you’ve got no other option than talking through list entries one by one. You can’t generalize, because you have no broad areas to generalize about.

Of course, that’s not to say there’s no structure behind Andy’s 45 propositions; in fact, I think he’s structured them around a well though out process of project development and execution – but I only realised that after I’d spend a while pondering them (and I could of course be quite wrong).

Anyway, I’ve also just been reading Clay Shirky’s rather fascinating ‘Here Comes Everybody’, so I decided to crossbreed them with Shirky’s definition of the three core factors that sit behind any social media project – ‘a plausible promise, an effective tool, and an acceptable bargain with the users’.

By promise, Shirky means the ‘why’ of participation; the offer of a benefit or set of benefits that ‘creates the basic desire to participate’. By tools, he means (unsurprisingly) the social media software or formats that will help people buying into the promise get together in the most constructive way. And by bargain, he means the basic culture of the social group; the norms that will be put in place by its creators, or generated by its members.

As I was doing this, I noticed something else. Some of the propositions seemed to me to be thematically very close, so I tried to group them together. Doing this, I began to end up with what were almost mini-haikus; little three or four line proposition sets, where individual propositions started to bounce off each other and create interesting, evocative new meanings.

So, without really meaning to, I created something that began to read a little like a social project / social media poem. Hopefully you’ll find it stimulating; so, without more ado, here’s my Gibson / Shirky / Robertson mash up, which if I were a DJ or similar I would probably call:

Here Come 45 Social Propositions

Why should people be interested?

You can’t force people to volunteer
Build it and they may well not come
The world is a noisy place

Go where people are
Learn to listen before you start talking
Put your energy where their energy is

Content is king
Be realistic about who will create content
Enthusiasts are more important than experts

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

How do they engage?

People make technology work

Design for real people
Don’t jump for the tool
Know your limits

Keep it simple
Start small
Be a pirate

Keep it messy
Don’t centralise, aggregate
Keep your powder dry

Empty rooms are easier to redecorate
Don’t forget the tables and chairs
Throw a good party; be a good host

Planning ahead is hard
No-one knows anything
Expect the unexpected

You can’t learn to fly by watching the pilot
Eat your own dogfood
Failure is useful

Start at the top
Someone has to pay
Don’t confuse money with value

What are the terms of their engagement?

People want control
Your users own the platform
Empowerment is unconditional

Respect how people choose to communicate
Let people solve their own problems
In user-centred design, everyone is right

Never assume, always ask
Say thank you in public
Be consistent

All energy is good energy
Sunlight is the best disinfectant
Give up on the illusion of control

5 thoughts on “Here Come 45 Social Propositions

  1. Thankyou, glad you like it! Looking forward to seeing the second draft.

    Btb, something else has just struck me – the above is accidentally a classic 3 act narrative structure, beginning with motivation (hero wants to do something), moving through a set of obstacles and problems (hero can’t do something) and finally reaching resolution (what does it mean when the hero does something?)

    Here, it’s a three act narrative about generating a particular social group – why should the potential members be interested? (ie what’s their motivation?), what are the (software / hardware) obstacles to them getting involved? (What are the obstacles to building the social group?), and finally how should the social group work once it’s built? (what does success mean?)

    And also – act timing is classically Act 1 20 minutes, Act 2 40 minutes, and Act 3 20 minutes (or that ratio applied to the length of whatever you’re doing!) which fits the above pretty neatly (and quite accidentally)!

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