Archive for the 'Ideas' Category

Leaders, Influencers, and Managers in the Online World

I’d like to propose some vocabulary to talk about prominent people in the online world – the influencers, the leaders, and the managers.

Influencers – People that change mindsets of their followers. They can be bloggers reviewing the latest gadget, lifehackers proposing the new approach to time management, or connectors suggesting you link up with some of their online friends.

Leaders – Influencers that also make a call for action. Leaders aren’t satisfied when you change your opinion about a product, they want you to buy it. They’re not satisfied with your interest in the lifehack, they want you to implement it. They want you to get in touch with their other friends and start a business together. And if they are true leaders, you do what they want, as it’s the best thing for you to do.

Managers – People that organize online collaboration. They may not be as visible and popular as leaders or influencers, but without them no complex effort can be undertaken online. Some of them are famous – take for example Linus Torvalds who has designed the Linux operating system in a way that allows thousands of contributors to extend and improve it. Implicitly, he has created a management framework to organize the collaboration of software developers around his product.

Where do you fit on this taxonomy – are you an influencer, a leader, or a manager? Or maybe all of them at the same time?

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Open Source Science

Thanks to Matt Rhodes I became aware of the recent hype around social media’s impact on science. The numerous discussions cover topics like scientific blogging, copyright issues, and open source science, often referred to altogether as Science 2.0.

As this subject is very close to my heart – I’m pursuing research via this blog, even though I don’t have a formal affiliation with any of the scientific institutions – I’d like to delve deeper into what I consider as open source science. Continue reading ‘Open Source Science’

Authentic Leadership

Aspiring leaders very often search for instructions or advice on how to master leadership. The article Discovering Your Authentic Leadership in Harvard Business Review claims that the place to discover leadership lies in our own biography. The authors have conducted a massive study to identify ways of developing leadership skills, and they have come up with the concept of authentic leadership.

Authentic leaders behave naturally, in ways that fit their personality. They nurture long-lasting relationships; they have mastered self-discipline and self-awareness. Striving to achieve desired goals, they stick to their values and principles.

According to the study, becoming an authentic leader requires that we first interpret our life story. It is important to consider the people and experiences that shaped our character in the early life stages. By practicing self-awareness, we should understand the real values and principles that guide our decisions, and the factors – both internal and external – that motivate us. An authentic leader can count on a diverse support group, which may consist of a partner, family, and friends. Authentic leaders prove their integrity when facing difficult choices, even if the correct decision may negatively affect their career.

I would risk the statement that in online communities, it is even more important for a leader to be authentic. Such authenticity is a source of referent power, the biggest influencing force that allows a leader to drive the community effort in desired direction. In each place where you show up online, whether it’s in a blog, a social network, or an online forum, you can build trust via integrity or lose trust via acting against community values. And as always, it’s much easier to lose trust than it is to build it.

What do you do to stay authentic on the web? I’d love to see your point of view in the comments!

Source: William W. George, Peter Sims, Andrew N. McLean, David Mayer, and Diana Mayer: Discovering Your Authentic Leadership; Harvard Business Review; February 2007.

10 Social Psychology Tips for Managing Online Communities

Let’s take a scientific approach to managing online communities. The following tips are based on the science that describes the nature of human interactions – social psychology.

1. Beware the Fundamental Attribution Error

Don’t take for granted that a community would understand the motivation of your actions, especially if they don’t like them. The fundamental attribution error describes the fact that most people will assign you bad will and turn away from you, rather than look for external conditions that shaped your decisions. In order to minimize the effect of this error, you need to put a lot of effort into explaining the situation and your motivation. Continue reading ’10 Social Psychology Tips for Managing Online Communities’

Group Theory and the Online Community

Every online community is a group of people. What can the group theory coming from social psychology teach us about managing online communities?

Social Facilitation. This theory assumes that when we are in company of other people we tend to perform better at simpler or well learned tasks and worse when it comes to complex, difficult or new tasks, as compared to performing the same job without other people present. This tendency in behavior may be linked to an increased level of arousal, as we try harder being observed by other people. Continue reading ‘Group Theory and the Online Community’

Five Types of Power and the Online Community

Leadership is about influence, and influence is about power. What are the attributes that can make you influential in the online community? Social psychology provides insight into such attributes by distinguishing among five types of power.

  1. Coercive power. This means the power to punish. It can typically be used in an online community by a moderator, who can ban an account or certain comments.
  2. Reward power. As there are many kinds of rewards, this power can be used in a variety of ways, ranging from a positive comment to financial reward.
  3. Legitimate power. This is the power granted by some kind of authority. On a social networking site, it normally belongs to the organization operating the site, which can define the rules to be followed and execute them.
  4. Expert power. Extremely relevant in the online world, expert power comes from experience or education. If you are recognized as an expert, people will count with your opinion and are more likely to follow your leadership.
  5. Referent power. This is probably the most important type of power in the online communities. Referent power comes from admiration or respect. In the online world without hierarchies and boundaries people with referent power are the most influential ones. This power comes from character, the values and integrity that a person represents. Continue reading ‘Five Types of Power and the Online Community’

Attraction Theory and the Online Community

In social psychology, the theory of attraction describes why we feel attracted to certain people and how we choose friends. It can help us understand how people connect with others in online communities. It can also provide some insights into the traits of effective community managers.

People tend to assign an “attraction rating” to other people they meet, but also to themselves. This rating is then used as a compass when choosing friends and partners. However, we don’t automatically choose the individuals with highest rating as our friends (most of us don’t connect on Facebook with Scarlett Johannson or George Clooney). Instead, we compare our rating with those of other people, and tend to become friends with people who get similar attraction scores to our own.

How do we measure the “attraction rating”? In the physical world, we give points for physical attractiveness, wealth, intelligence, sense of humor etc. In the online world, we would increase the attraction score for popularity (how many RSS readers do you have?), design, contribution to the community etc.

One easy conclusion from this theory is that the more attractive you become in the online world, the more likely is the chance that you will draw other attractive members to join your community.

There are of course other factors that explain how people choose friends, and all of them can be used to increase our chances of creating a vibrant community: Continue reading ‘Attraction Theory and the Online Community’